If your idea of a dream vacation is traveling by train in absolute luxury, through some of the most romantic, historic and visually exciting cities in Asia, sampling the best local food along the way, then the Eastern & Oriental Express may be just the ticket.
This luxurious train offers the traveling elite lavishly decorated private cabins fitted with comfortable beds, and bathrooms that include your own shower.
While the crew pamper you with morning and afternoon teas, you can relax and unwind by reading a book, enjoying the views from the open observation car at the rear of the train, or just chatting with your fellow travelers.
It’s a trip that evokes memories of Rudyard Kipling, that great Anglo/Indian author, and it was on a trip like this that he wrote that now famous poem, Gunga Din. In 1939 RKO Pictures, enamored by the East, turned it into a film starring Cary Grant.
Day 1—Bangkok, Thailand
The Eastern & Oriental Express departs from Bangkok in the early evening. Dinner is served as the train travels from the city into the Thai countryside, which is speckled with rice-fields and picturesque villages. When you are ready you can retire to your cabin, to find that it has been transformed into a cozy bedroom by your steward while you were having dinner.
Day 2—Wang Po & River Kwai
If you are awake early enough you’ll see sunrise as the train travels through the village of Wang Po along a wooden trestle viaduct beside a towering cliff. It’s quite something.
On arrival at the River Kwai Bridge station you can disembark if you choose to, and take a short cruise on the River Kwai. Here a local historian provides a brief history of the Thai-Burma railway, and the construction of bridge itself.
After the cruise an air-conditioned coach will take you to the Allied cemetery and then on to the Thai-Burma Railway Center museum. This part of the trip tells the story about the men, women, and children who labored to complete the required 258 miles of track, under the watchful eye of their Japanese guards; 356 Americans died during its construction.
Once back on board you can reflect on your first day, while relaxing with other guests on the observation deck. Cocktails are chilled, just the way we like them, and served at 4.00 p.m. sharp.
Day 3—Penang, Malaysia
Brunch is served before arriving in Butterworth where you will disembark for the crossing to Penang Island—via ferry—if you choose, and a guided introductory tour of colonial Georgetown. With churches, mosques, the first British fort in Malaysia, and elaborately roofed temples all dating back to the 1820s, it’s a sight not to be missed.
Once back on board it’s time to…you guessed it…relax and enjoy the scenery. Its spectacular, and as the train slowly, almost silently cruises around coconut encrusted bends, passing paddy fields, rubber plantations, and palm plantations, one gets a feel for what train travel is like in Asia. It’s exotic, it’s relaxing, it’s almost spiritual.
This is your last night on board and you should make the most of it. Dinner is served to a rapacious applause and the Orient’s resident pianist bangs out tunes that would make Cole Porter extremely happy.
You awake as you arrive in Singapore, and after breakfast, it’s time to say goodbye to the friends that you have made…and continue on your travels.
The trip for two costs from $2,176, depending when you book. The Orient Express also conducts longer trips throughout Asia and there is a 14-day trip that takes starts in Singapore and ends in Burma, taking you through Malaysia and Thailand.
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