Next stop: the golden era of train travel! Recently, Christian Sutton, our Director of Product & Contracting for Thailand, had the opportunity to journey aboard Belmond’s luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express. This iconic ride has long been on his Asia travel bucket list…and it certainly did not disappoint!
Evoking a bygone era of sophisticated train travel, the Eastern & Oriental Express has captured travellers’ imaginations since its inaugural journey from Bangkok to Singapore in 1993. With train carriages modelled after Indochina’s colonial aesthetic, superb 5-star service and exquisite cuisine, the train offers one of Southeast Asia’s most luxurious experiences and timeless adventures with multi-day journeys between Bangkok and either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.
Here’s what Christian took away from the experience to share with other discerning travellers tempted to ride the rails.
There are many highlights on board the Eastern & Oriental Express but, in my opinion, the food will be what most sticks out in my memory for years to come. I have no hesitation in saying that the Eastern & Oriental Express’ cuisine and service meet Michelin-star quality. Every meal featured an impressive fusion of Asian and French dishes. The ingredients were, unsurprisingly, all of the highest quality and the bread and pastries were particularly good, all freshly baked and brought onboard at different stops throughout the journey. The experience is excellent for foodies as well as train aficionados!
Fine meals need to be paired with fine drinks. House wines, spirits and local beers are included in the journey price, which means you don’t have to worry about an excessive bar bill at the end. The house wines were all excellent and changed daily, but you also have the option to order premium wines, Champagne and cocktails at an additional cost.
I travelled on my own but it didn’t take long to strike up a conversation and make friends with the other travellers. There is a lovely, intimate atmosphere aboard the train that creates a very sociable environment – everyone is there to enjoy themselves and share a special experience. I had a preconception that there would be a ‘stuffy’ atmosphere but it wasn’t at all and my fellow travellers were an eclectic, down to earth crew who were often making the journeys for a special occasion or as a bucket list trip.
The Eastern & Oriental Express is very much a 5-star hotel on wheels with many of the staff having learned their trade in luxury hotels. Like hotels, there is a general manager on board and the onboard staff are incredibly attentive without ever being intrusive.
Being on my own, I was a little concerned that spending 48 hours unwarranted on a train might become a bit boring but quickly learned that my concerns were completely unnecessary. As well as being thoroughly wined and dined, Belmond ensures that guests enjoy every minute of the experience. Each morning after breakfast there was an off-train excursion lasting 2-3 hours, such as a hill trek in Kuala Kangsar, Malaysia and cycling in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Back on board, you can opt for a relaxing massage and never know what secrets the staff have up their sleeves. Before one of the dinners we were treated to traditional Thai dancing in the bar carriage…where you’re likely to spend a lot of time! The bar carriage has a formal yet fun, jazz club atmosphere (men are required to wear jackets before dinner) with the piano player, Pete, playing throughout the evening.
The train also boasts a less formal observation carriage that is half indoors, half open-air. Here, you can enjoy more drinks and coffee or tea (available 24/7), sipping on your beverage of choice while watching the scenery pass by. For those who need to stay connected, excellent WiFi is available onboard in the observation car and cabins. I could have easily stayed another day on board!
While journeys aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express are typically only available between Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, Diethelm Travel Thailand is offering an exclusive one-time journey this November allowing guests to board the world famous train in Kanchanaburi, Thailand and savour a sumptuous four-course lunch with unlimited house wine, beer and spirits while rolling through the countryside to Bangkok. Learn more here.