By Carlos Melia
Through rainforest and paddy fields, past golden temples and misty mountains, travel straight to the heart of Asia. A unique and unusual way to experience ever-changing scenes and to discover a new and thrilling world – both on board and alongside the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express train. The first ever train to transport passengers directly from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. It’s an experience highly regarded as providing one of the most adventurous and exciting rail journeys in the world.
Orient-Express calls it a “Journey Like No Other” onboard the iconic Eastern & Oriental Express. Travel along South East Asia, living unique experiences and rediscovering the meaning of true luxury and old school flawless service. The golden age of travel lives on aboard the luxury train. Winding through some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic landscapes, it voyages through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
I have been lucky enough to try, over the last few years, several of the Orient-Express services and products, but I must say their signature trains are beyond any possible expectations. The occasion was indeed very special, my 38th birthday, and what more intimate and romantic way to celebrate it, than onboard the Eastern & Oriental Express.
A 4 day, 3 night journey on a 22 car formation. Enjoy gourmet dining, cocktails in the open-air observation car and special local entertainment as your adventure unfolds. Also on board are two main restaurants, a Piano Bar, Observatory Bar, library and a trademark Orient-Express Shop.
This luxury train was first built in Japan in 1972 and operated as the Silver Star train in New Zealand. Its carriages were then remodeled and designed by Gérard Gallet. The inspiration for the interiors is derived from the East. Wooden marquetry with Eastern designs. Chinese and Thai lacquer using Malaysian motifs with Thai wall carvings and engraved mirrors. The atmosphere harkens back to a ‘colonial’ age of rattan chairs on the verandah, linen suits and tea dances.
My initial concerns about this journey were about: whether the rooms were going to be spacious enough, will I have my own private bathroom, is the food going to be good, am I going to get bored on the train after four days? Well let me tell you, if it had been up to me, I would have taken the train right back to Bangkok upon arrival to Singapore, just to experience another 3 extra nights of high class and impeccable experience mixing the best of traditional old-school British service, and the warmth and attention to detail of the Asian style.
Our cabin was an intermediate type called a State Cabin, which had interior walls of cherry wood and elm burr paneled, adorned with decorative marquetry and intricate inlays. Configured as a private lounge during the day, with a banquette style sofa. Fixed daytime seating, while you were enjoying drinks at the piano bar or having a fabulous dinner, were turned up into two comfortable single beds by your own personal butler. Each cabin was fully air-conditioned with an en suite shower and fully equipped bathroom and amenities by Bulgary. Cabins featured large picture windows for an excellent view of the passing scenery.
During the day, the dress code was rather casual, but formal attire was always welcomed to match the exclusive atmosphere of the train, especially for lunch. Same with day tours that usually took place before or after lunch. But as the sun went down, the train transformed itself into one of the most enchanting experiences and luxurious soirees I had ever been part of. Men full on in their suits, black ties and tuxedos. Women in full gowns and, despite the swing of the train, rocking their high heels. Definitely a true Agatha Christie experience.
On the second day of our journey, somewhere in between Thailand and Malaysia, I celebrated my 38th birthday, an experience that will, without a doubt, always remain in my mind. Such an incredible and unique experience that not many travelers have the chance to live. I would strongly suggest that you take the Eastern & Oriental Express on any of their routes around the world, to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, honeymoon or other special occasion. I would even risk to say, that due to the social environment of the whole journey, I would even feel very comfortable doing the train on my own.
Chefs on board the Eastern & Oriental Express are internationally renowned for their ability to create a tantalizing variety of Eastern and European dishes, using the finest fresh seasonal ingredients. Service equals the world’s finest gourmet restaurants. Lunch and dinner are served in the two Restaurant Cars, Rosaline and Malaya, each lavishly decorated with rosewood and elm panelling.
Tip: The train offers two seatings for each meal. Always choose the latest seating. Especially at night, this will allow you to enjoy the Piano Bar Car in the evening before your meal and the Observatory Car to close your night, before retiring back to your room.
During the morning, after breakfast in the intimacy of your own cabin contemplating the stunning images that South East Asia has to offer, get ready to explore Kwai River in Thailand and Penang in Malaysia. In the meantime, the train gets restocked to provide you with yet another sophisticated evening experience. You have the chance to become part of this journey – interacting with locals, visiting historic sites and learning about culture and traditions.
As the sun begins to set and an allure of a promising lavish evening unfolds, visit the Library, where you can relax and enjoy a traditional South East Asian style foot massage, or explore your future by the expertly trained Astrologist and Palm reader. Maybe you’ll get lucky and she will tell you that you will be able to soon take another brilliant Orient-Express Train – truly a journey like no other!
Till next week’s adventure, where I will take you to Botswana to explore some of the most exciting camps along Chobe and the Okavango Delta. Have a great week. Carlos Melia
Carlos Melia is a Travel Expert, Blogger, Niche Marketing Consultant, Jetsetter, and Bon Vivant, who travels around the world discovering what’s new and cool in Luxury Travel and Hospitality. His reviews on hotels, restaurants, destinations, and attractions, based on his own experiences as an OUT Gay Traveler can be found at www.carlosmeliablog.com