Saturday, November 17, 2007

Singapore's 1st Organised Club Expedition by Train in EUROPE, 1978

Besides the love of good food, for most people, setting aside time and money for travelling is high up on their list of priorities. Unlike food ,where one can still expect to get a good satisfying meal for a reasonable price...travelling abroad, especially in the 60's and 70's, will burn a big hole in one's pocket. There were few tour agencies then and most that existed catered mainly to the nearby region of S-E-Asia and Hong Kong. Other agencies may book overseas tours for clients, with their foreign counterparts. Plane fares were very expensive as there were not that many planes and airlines in service then. But the yearning to travel, to leave our little see the world at large, has always remained an unquenchable attraction for many. The main obstacle to seeing to their dreams has always been ....time and money.
For some of these reasons, COMEX CLUB, Singapore came into existence. The setting up of this travel and adventure club began as an extension of the Commonwealth Expedition Club of UK, with Hqrs in London. The expeditions to various parts of the world ..India, South-America, Middle East, Africa etc..generally required participants to travel overland for many months, something that most working people can ill afford.
Thus, we at COMEX Singapore began to plan and organise trips of different durations of our own making. A few days, a week, 10 days , a fortnight, a month and even longer to provide choice and variety to our members numbering more than 600. All kinds of outdoor and indoor activities were organised by our various sub-committees. But the main attraction, for most members ,was joining our overseas trips and expeditions which were truly affordable.
As we were a non-profit club, all savings were passed back to members, resulting in attractive discounted group airfares, land and accomodation packages etc.
In 1977, as then President of the club, I began to research the railway transportation system of Europe. Many people aspired to visit and explore Europe which comprises so many countries. But
the cost of such packages, covering so many countries, was beyond most members.
I found a much cheaper way to see much, much more for much, much less....very much less in the final analysis! That was to buy the Eurailpass train ticket...a 1st Class trainpass pre-paid upfront ,that provided unlimited train journeys covering most of Europe.
In June 1978, the 1st COMEX European Expedition was launched. I organised, planned and led the entire group of 22 members for that 6 week historic journey.....for all involved, a dream of a lifetime fulfilled remarkably, never to be forgotten. The furthest point north we reached was beyond The ARCTIC CIRCLE....Narvik,Norway. South was Italy. And all the main countries of Europe and the UK.
In Europe, we travelled on the Eurail Pass, which came with some fringe benefits in certain major ferry, some free city bus, sleeping berths, all 1st class coaches! I have yet to blog in detail about this historic journey...Singapore's 1st organised group expedition by train travel in Europe June-July 1978.
1. Club asst treasurer V Yap and me, near COMEX Hqrs
2. Buckingham Palace
3. Hyde Park...Speakers' Corner
4. Statue of Winston Churchill
National Library Memo:
Unk Dicko was invited, as President of COMEX Singapore, to give a Talk cum Slideshow showcasing the adventure we had at the old " National Library, Stamford Road ".
The slides, numbering over 300, are still with me today. It cost me a small fortune back then.
But ....they are still BEAUTIFUL !!!

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