Holidays are meant to be relaxing. A time to unwind and take in the joys of an exciting new travel experience. But in today's harried mix of crowded airports and cramped planes, massive cruise ships with their hordes of passengers and flashy resorts that wall you away from the outside world, it's not always easy to rekindle the romance that travel once held.
Fear not, for refinement, glamour and charm are all still very much alive - and in demand. The great rail journeys of the world are the perfect way to fulfill your need for five star opulence, all the while enjoying spectacular scenery. The Eastern and Oriental Express is one of the most iconic rail journeys in the world and Travel Associates' Social Media guru Sheryll Latham was lucky enough to experience it on a wide-ranging trip through Thailand and Malaysia as she journeyed to Singapore. Sheryll reported back on on her magnificent journey and recounted the details in this fascinating trip report.
All aboard in Bangkok
The adventure began in exotic Bangkok, Thailand, a bustling city with throngs of people, and, some crazy humidity. Ice water and cool, wet towels quickly became our best friends. Luckily, our pre-departure hotel was at the beautiful five-star Pathumwan Princess Hotel. With my love of shopping, I also enjoyed the MBK Center which is an 8-storey shopping mall attached to the hotel. Filled with stores, markets, massage parlours and food courts, we never had to leave the air-conditioned comfort of the two Bangkok landmarks.
Of course we fit in plenty of sightseeing during our stay in this iconic Asian city. Ornate temples, bustling markets and some great Thai food restaurants were all fascinating attractions which reflected the city's dynamic personality.
Soon though, it was time to check-in for the famous train trip that was to be the highlight of our Asian journey. After a pleasant welcome at the check-in desk, we soon arrived at the train. At first glance, it reminded me of a scene from a Harry Potter movie. The carpet was rolled out along the elegantly decorated rail cars which were painted in deep green hues while the handsome interior, decorated in wood and light scarlet hues was illuminated with glowing of lovely glass light fixtures. The end of the train wasn’t even in sight, it was so long! But here it was…in all its glory, and it felt as though we were about to embark on a magical trip to Hogwarts!
Luxury on the rails
The Eastern and Oriental Express offers three types of cabins - the entry level Pullman cabin, the mid- range State Cabin and the Presidential. The State Cabin was my home during the three day journey. It was cosy and comfortable with a small but adequate bathroom that came complete with Bvlgari toiletries and fresh scented flowers.
The personalized service even featured a steward who was on hand 24/7. Each evening he turned my day room into a bedroom. Every night I would find a different little gift on my bed. The next morning my breakfast was conveniently delivered to my cabin. This is definitely a spot for peace and solitude – no TV or Wi-Fi, but the perfect place to read a book, listen to music, take an afternoon nap or just watch the world and all its beautiful scenery go by.
Day excursions allowed us to get off the train for a few hours each day to explore the fascinating places along the way. Our first stop was at the Bridge on the River Kwai where we took a short river cruise which featured very interesting commentary on the area's history. It’s hard to imagine all the things that happened on this very spot.
We also paid a visit to the prisoner of war cemetery in Kanchanaburi, Thailand where plenty of Australian, American and Dutch men were laid to rest. We were given fresh flowers to pay our respects and I decided to give my flowers to one of the medics.
Attention to every detail
When we weren't off exploring the many interesting landscapes on fun filled day trips, we took full advantage of the train and its many features. Whether it was relaxing in our cabins while watching the scenery go by, taking pictures from the observation car, socializing in the lounge and bar carriage or enjoying the services of the on-board foot masseuse, the time passed in relaxing contentment.
The nightly dinners were yet another example of how the Eastern and Oriental Express distinguishes itself. The attention to detail was remarkable, from the place settings and service elements to the presentation of each dish, dinner service was like watching a carefully choreographed ballet. The food itself was the main attraction, and each dish was served to perfection. As we enjoyed our delicious meals during the day, we had the beautiful scenery take in. At night, the fashions dazzled. Guests dressed up, and I mean really dress up, so guys…be prepared to look sharp with your suit and ties. The ladies too dressed up in their evening wear.
With a great group of people and flawless service, this was definitely a memorable trip. We were well looked after throughout and I’m very grateful to Eastern and Oriental Express for the experience. Also, a big thanks to Destination Asia for being our tour guides as well as Pathumwan Princess Hotel Bangkok and Marina Mandarin Hotel in Singapore for the wonderful accommodation.
Some tips to keep in mind
- Pack dressy evening wear for dinners each night, it’s customary
- The power plugs are the same as the UK power plugs, so be sure to pack the appropriate adaptor
- It’s a good idea to pack your stuff away during the day and night, or they may end up on the floor while the train’s moving – I always found some of my belongings on the floor when I woke up in the morning or during the day
- Cabins are quite cosy in order to fit in the compact train carriages, and the corridors are very narrow – just something to keep in mind if you suffer from claustrophobia
- Pack comfortable light-weight clothes for day excursions, as we all know the climate in Asia is very warm and humid so you’ll want to be cool and comfortable
- Don’t forget to pack some sun block and insect repellent
- Stretchy pants might come in handy, they feed you 3, 4 and 5 course meals full of amazing food.