Modern-day conveniences have killed the joys of the journey, as travelling becomes a means to an end devoid of a leisurely experience. Air travel used to be a luxury, but the rise of budget airlines have made it the most convenient mode of commute to one’s destination. There is the occasional breath-taking bird’s-eye view of a natural landscape, but that disappears as quickly as it appears.
In order to truly experience nature’s gifts at a leisurely pace, one should eschew the skies and board the most trusted mode of transportation before airliners – trains. For starters, one has to get out of the one-track mind about public trains that we dread during peak hours as the selection below could not be any more different. Luxurious and contemporary, these are the trains that will make one feel like royalty. Due to recent rail development, one is able to travel further distances up to as far as Moscow.
Rail travel allows one to take things at a laid-back pace. So ease into the first class cabin, which offers more than just extended legroom, as you rediscover your love for the journey and not just the destination with these luxury trains in Asia.
Seven Stars in Kyushu
Seven Stars in Kyushu offers an excellent experience for travellers wanting to experience Japan beyond its modern cityscapes. Taking travellers through the region’s expanse of alluring landscapes, the four-day train ride covers five out of seven prefectures of Kyushu and includes a one-night ryokan stay in Yufuin.
The Seven Stars’ red-and-gold exterior alludes to the elegant journey ahead while the interior boasts an exquisite blend of Japanese and Western traditions, both old and new, with the varied use of timbre and printed upholstery fabrics. It is as luxurious as it is intimate, receiving only 14 pairs of guests across 14 cabins for each trip.
The most exquisite cabin, Deluxe Suite A, is 21 sqm with a wall-to-wall window to offer the most panoramic vista onboard. The Blue Moon lounge car allows fellow travellers to mingle under the starry skies as live piano music serenades in the background. The dining car, Jupiter, serves dishes specific to each journey and employs seasonal ingredients used by Kyushu’s master chefs.
At the time of writing, Seven Stars in Kyushu is fully booked till September, so be ready to reserve a trip between October 2019 to February 2020 when bookings open in this April.
Eastern & Oriental Express
The Eastern & Oriental Express travels through Southeast Asia’s lush greenery, from Singapore through Malaysia, across central and southern Thailand to Bangkok. The elegant 82-guest colonial train has air-conditioned cabins with two dining cars, a bar car, and an outdoor observation car for travellers to take in the scenic landscapes. Relax with tipples in hand within the nostalgic Indochina interiors or the observation car as the handsome green-and-gold carriages meander through the region’s lush jungles and quaint villages.
The Eastern & Oriental Express offers four types of accommodation with the Presidential Suite offering 11.6 sqm of space to hold a small soirée. With three restaurant cars, of which only two joins the Eastern & Oriental Express for every journey, travellers can look forward to the most scrumptious dining options onboard. Internationally renowned chefs create Asian-rooted fare such as Roast Duck Breast accompanied by Tian Vegetables in black pepper sauce. Complimentary tea and coffee are available at all times, and the bar car stays open throughout the journey.
Travellers can extend their trip to Bali, Koh Samui, Cambodia, and Laos through prior arrangements made with the company.
Imagine staying at the Taj Mahal while sightseeing in India. The Maharajas’ Express offers just that. Having been awarded the World’s Leading Luxury Train award for seven consecutive years since 2012, it might be the most extravagant train journey one can have.
Onboard, guests are treated to a regal experience as it recreates the lavish lifestyle of Indian royalty. The train offers four types of accommodation, each named after precious stones. The Presidential Suite spans an entire train carriage, housing its own living room, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. All of which are beautifully decorated to the theme of lotuses, from hand-painted ceilings and drapery to paintings. To complete the grand experience, travellers who stay at the Presidential Suite have access to a 24-hour personal butler service that attends to one’s needs.
The train has two thematic restaurants that seat 42 people each, allowing travellers to choose their desired dining setting in their private palace. The Rang Mahal, which means the “Palace of Colours”, has a hand-painted fresco ceiling depicting the vibrancy of India, while The Mayur Mahal is inspired by the peacock, the national bird of India. The charm of the Maharajas’ Express extends beyond its carriages, with the tour showcasing the culture and deep history of India, giving this precious gem of train travels its sparkle.
Golden Eagle Luxury Trains
The Golden Eagle retraces the steps of Marco Polo via the Silk Road to Moscow. The 21-day journey starts from Beijing on the Shangri-La Express and switches to the luxurious Golden Eagle train at Almaty that travels through eight different central Asia locations and before reaching Moscow. The rewarding tour also allows guests to explore multiple UNESCO heritage sites such as the Great Wall of China and Lake Baikal.
When guests are not staying at five-star hotels, which is part of the tour, they retreat into one of three categories of accommodation, with the top-tier Imperial Suites offering 11.1 sqm of luxurious space. The experience is accented by a complimentary bottle of Dom Perignon, which one can enjoy while perusing the suites’ mini library.
When not exploring the sights of the Silk Road, guests can participate in a wide variety of activities ranging from Russian Lessons to local folk songs. The voracious appetite that comes with the flurry of activities on and off the royal blue train is satiated by Golden Eagle’s tempting dining options. From Borscht to Omul (a fish unique to Lake Baikal), the Golden Eagle dishes out plates of the very essence of Russia.
By Marcus Li