Ride through mountainous landscapes and wide-open plains on these luxury rail journeys
A TRAIN journey is something akin to the great expeditions of old, providing access to isolated parts of the world through diverse landscapes, cultures and cities.
These epic journeys are sometimes several days long and allow travelers to get a real insider’s view in some of the world’s most special parts. Train journeys can also be a real insight into the traveling habits of other cultures and part of the experience in itself.
For the train aficionado, the following five options are just some of the most lavish, trundling journeys that can be taken in the Asia-Pacific.
Eastern and Oriental Express
The Eastern and Oriental Express (E&O) is Asia’s answer to Europe’s famed Orient Express that was once a long-distance route between Paris and Istanbul (the route did change numerous times). The E&O however was introduced in 1993 and is something of a luxury link between Singapore and Bangkok.
While both cities are fast-paced and modern, the train is something of an old-world experience with teak flooring and rattan furniture that feels somewhat colonial although the carriages once ran on New Zealand’s railways.
The trip is two nights from Singapore to Bangkok and highlights include Kuala Lumpur’s historic railway station, the Bridge on the River Kwai and historic Penang. While there are much cheaper and faster ways of traveling between the cities, there isn’t necessarily such unobstructed views, deluxe bar cars, cocktails or in-house pianists. Make sure you pack dinner wear.
The longest railway line in the world would obviously have to make this list. It comprises of a network of railways that connect Russia, Mongolia, China and North Korea. However, in this list, we’re featuring the Transcontinental Russian line from Moscow to Vladivostok.
This is one of those train journeys that really is a rite of passage. The trip takes seven days, although it can be broken down into sections if staying in local hotels.
And those that are more cashed up also have the option of doing it the five star way on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express. This is an ensuite train with under-floor heating, DVD/CD players and a classy restaurant.
The journey takes 12 days and includes a stop at Lake Baikal. The main attraction of this route is the panoramic views of the Russian landscape complemented by views of the taiga forest and quaint villages The immensity of this is quite mesmerizing.
Other options through Russia include the Moscow to Beijing route via Harbin, Manchuria (8,986km, six nights) and Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia (7,621km, six nights).
Stretching across the Australian continent, this journey takes travelers through diverse landscapes such as deserts, mining towns, mountains and empty plains. This journey is truly transcontinental and includes the world’s longest straight stretch of railway track that covers a 478km section on the Nullarbor Plain. The plains also lend views to a 180,000 square kilometer piece of limestone devoid of trees and some wildlife.
The 65-hour journey is far from just a long, bumpy ride with air-conditioned comfort; ensuites, a restaurant car and lounge are available in platinum service while reclining seats, showers and a cafe are available in red service. Other wonderful train journeys in Australia include The Ghan and The Overland.
Royal Rajasthan on Wheels
New Delhi – Jodhpur – Udaipur – Chittaurgarh – Ranthambore National Park – Jaipur – Khajuraho – Varanasi – Sarnath – Agra – New Delhi
This luxury tourist train run by Indian Railways contains 14 luxury cabins that whisk lucky travelers through some of Rajasthan’s most beautiful tourist, wildlife and heritage sites, along with an extension to the Ganges River and Agra.
As the name suggests, the furnished cabins, bar lounges, dining cars and spa saloon are all lavishly decorated and topped off by round-the -clock service and excellent food. The idea is that passengers get to rediscover the pampered, red carpet life of the Maharajahs and be invoked of some of the romance of that era.
The seven-day, eight-night tour from New Delhi includes stops in Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittaurgarh, Ranthambore National Park, Jaipur, Khajuraho, Varanasi, Sarnath, Agra and Delhi. If those names don’t give you tingles, what may are the wonders you’ll see along the way such as the ageless Taj Mahal, the majestic Agra Fort and the various palaces of Rajasthan.
Palace on Wheels is another luxury train that travels through Rajasthan, but if you’re not on a Maharajah budget much of the itinerary can be done through Indian Railways and other local transport.
Kyushu Seven Stars
800km or 1200km circuits
Throughout Kyushu, Japan
This deluxe train takes just 28 passengers on a circular tour of the southern island of Kyushu in Japan. The itinerary is either two or four days, but whichever length you opt for, it will be a trip to remember.
From the windows, you can can take in evergreen views of rice paddy fields and the beautiful volcanic landscape. There are also plenty of chances to get off the train to bathe in hot springs, walk on the caldera or stay in a local ryokan (inn).
Not only are the settings wonderful with lovely touches everywhere from bamboo blinds to Japanese paper screens, there are also staff on board to cater to every whim like musicians and magicians.