21 May 2018 by Claire Benktander
Effortlessly combining Asia’s ancient wonders with the cutting edge of its cities, a trip aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express is the ultimate Far East rail experience. Created by Belmond, the people behind the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, these are journeys that delight at every turn. whether it’s the exotic landscapes and golden coastlines of the Malay Peninsula, or the silk furnishings and exquisite marquetry of the train’s lavish interiors.
Routes, lasting from two- and three-day dashes to week-long explorations, begin or end in the great Asian cities of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, and include a range of immersive excursions depending on your chosen route; there’s everything from guided cruises to traditional village visits, cooking classes and rice paddy treks.
Perhaps you’ll start in rural Thailand, contrasting the urban buzz and gilded palaces of the capital with the verdant delights of Kanchanaburi and the stark World War II heritage of the River Kwai bridge and its Thai-Burma Railway Museum. Or, set off from 21st-century Singapore or colonial Kuala Lumpur before traversing through dense jungles and cultivated highlands to call into the royal town of Kuala Kangsar and the golden domes of the Ubudiah Mosque. For the ultimate experience, the all-encompassing Fables of the Peninsula route takes in the lot, with included five-star stays in Singapore and the Cameron Highlands, a choice of tours in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and an exclusive boat ride and lunch at beautiful Hat Wanakon Beach, all making for a truly remarkable adventure.
Whichever journey you choose, you’ll be treated to included fine dining, open-bar indulgences and the very best in white-glove service. As you step on board, the carriages’ iconic green-and-gold livery gives way to wood-panelled corridors, Asian-inspired furnishings and rich Thai silks. Indeed, the attention to detail is extraordinary, not least in the accommodation, which ranges from opulent Presidential Cabins, decked out in red and green with a choice of twin and double beds, complimentary minibar and a plush seating area, to the light and airy State Cabins, where reclining sofas are transformed into two single beds come nighttime. The entry-level Pullman Cabins, whose daytime seating cleverly converts into upper and lower berths, delight with vintage charm, while the small-but-perfectly-formed Pullman Singles make for an intimate hideaway, complete with baroque detailing and seating that converts into a single, floor-level bed. All cabins feature large, drape-framed picture windows, so when you’re not out exploring, or enjoying the pleasures of the bar and restaurant cars, there’s the chance to sit back and take in the scenery as it drifts slowly by.
Life on board
You’ll not be surprised to learn that the onboard luxuries don’t end with the cabins, and that throughout the rest of the train there’s plenty to enjoy, from open-air observation carriages to a whole host of culinary experiences. In the elegant restaurant car, days begin in suitable style with champagne breakfasts where fresh fruit and pastries share the menu with regional delicacies including Thai prawns, wontons and miso soup. Then, come the evening, after a signature cocktail in the jazz-club-ambience of the bar car, the likes of hoisin-glazed mackerel, barramundi fillet and roast duck among the glittering crystal and white-glove service of the resplendent dining car. And, for those with a keen interest in food and drink, there are even special departures accompanied by acclaimed chef Ian Kittichai, whose exotic take on Thai cuisine takes over the train’s menu – expect the likes of beef medallions and ayam biryani washed down with specially selected wines and the soothing melodies of the train’s resident pianist.