6 incredible train journeys in Asia for food, scenery and culture

(CNN) – The Covid-19 pandemic has derailed many long-awaited family reunions, destination weddings and trips. And while some would-be globetrotters miss the hyper-pace of travel to 2019, others plan to completely adjust their travel style.

According to the 2021 Global Travel Trends survey of 3,000 travelers worldwide by American Express, 68% expressed interest in more sustainable travel; 78% said they were looking for travel experiences that relieve stress; and 61% said they wanted slower and longer trips than in the past.

A train trip could be the ticket for those with their eyes on Asia for a trip in 2022.

From zigzags through the rugged mountains of central Taiwan to a Maharaja-worthy Rajasthan train journey, these scenic train routes showcase some of Asia’s most beautiful scenery and provide a well-deserved opportunity to rest and reconnect with his relatives.

Belmond Eastern and Oriental Express, Bangkok to Singapore

Passengers on the Belmond Eastern and Oriental Express are entitled to gastronomic experiences.

Belmond

You’ve probably heard of the Orient Express – an often romantic long-distance train journey between Paris and Istanbul (though the route varied) that lasted from 1883 to 2009.

After the train service stopped, the Belmond hotel group bought the train cars and created their own collection of romantic train adventures that channel the grace and splendor of the namesake.

In Asia, travelers can enjoy old-world charm aboard Belmond’s Eastern and Oriental Express, which makes a four-day trip between Bangkok and Singapore with stops at the River Kwai (a poignant WWII landmark ), Kanchanaburi and Kuala Lumpur.

The train looks like a traveling hotel thanks to its dining experiences, panoramic windows, beautiful cherry wood paneling and Malaysian silk embroidery.

Another highlight is the observation cart at the back of the train. On this teak patio, guests can enjoy a cocktail on a rattan chair while the scenery scrolls on this teak patio.

Day by day, the journey is also woven into many cultural experiences. One day, passengers might admire the Peranakan architecture in George Town; the next, banana plantations or cycling through Thai rice fields.

Back on board, breakfast in bed starts the day off right. Afternoon tea, cocktail hour with live piano music, and four-course dinners evoke the romance and luxury of the original Oriental Express.

Seven stars, Kyushu, Japan

Japan’s high-speed trains may be famous for their speed, but a ride aboard the Seven Stars Cruise Train in Kyushu, a luxury sleeper car, is a more exclusive experience.

There are several contenders for the best train travel in Japan. But if it’s the scenery and the comfort that travelers seek, the Seven Stars is hard to beat.

Unlike Japan’s famous bullet trains, Seven Stars takes a much slower pace, gracefully traversing Kyushu’s Seven Prefectures so passengers can take in the spectacular mountain and ocean views in peace.

The island lies just south of the Japanese mainland and is a treasure trove of natural beauty.

During the four-day trip, guests will be able to warm up in an onsen (hot spring bath) in Beppu, experience a five-star ryokan (Japanese inn), experience local crafts in Oita town and much more. .

Designed to be an intimate experience, the Bordeaux train can accommodate up to 26 people per trip, spread across 12 suites in five train cars.

Some find the suites delightfully retro; others would call them dated. But there’s no arguing with the panoramic views from every cabin.

The other cars are home to the “Blue Moon” lounge bar and the “Jupiter” restaurant car, where chefs celebrate Kyushu’s bounty of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

In Japanese fashion, the train serves as a living museum of arts and crafts. Guests will be surrounded by beauty and detail, from elaborate kumiko woodwork to aritayaki, the art of Japanese porcelain.

Main line of Sri Lanka, from Kandy to Ella

Sri Lanka’s hilly interior is best explored by charming trains that climb through the tea plantation-covered countryside.

The link between the ancient kingdom of Kandy and Ella, a mountain village to the south, lives up to its reputation as a staple in Sri Lanka. And it’s perfect for travelers who don’t mind a bit of chaos.

The bright blue first-class train carriage has air conditioning and panoramic windows so passengers can enjoy panoramic views of hills, stone bridges, cliffs, jungles, and great estates.

Second and third class cabins will be more crowded without assigned seats. But it is in these cabins that travelers let their legs hang from an open train door or stick their heads out the window to feel the mountain breeze in their hair.

Throughout the trip, vendors weave their way between the crowds, offering a range of samosas, pastries, and tea.

The trip takes seven to nine hours and tickets range from $ 0.80 to $ 20, depending on the fare class – in short, an unforgettable way to spend a day.

Palace on Wheels, Rajasthan, India

India's Palace on Wheels offers eight-day tours of northern India.

India’s Palace on Wheels offers eight-day tours of northern India.

Palace on Wheels / Indian Royal Trains

Few rail experiences can compare to the Palace on Wheels, which runs through the former princely states of northern India.

Let’s start with the train itself: Launched in 1982, it includes cars used privately by the royalty of Rajasthan before independence which were renovated in 2009.

Channeling the opulence of the Raj, guests can expect silk and gleaming wood upholstery, ornate furnishings, and silver tableware.

Two dedicated dining cars, a royal spa and a bar and lounge complete the luxurious experience in the common areas.

The 14 guest coaches, each named after a former princely state of Rajputana, give five-star hotels a run for their money in accommodation.

The Palace on Wheels is expected to start rolling again at the end of 2022.

The Palace on Wheels is expected to start rolling again at the end of 2022.

Palace on Wheels / Indian Royal Trains

Each is chock-full of royal details like chandeliers, oil paintings, crafts, intricate silver embroidery, and plush rugs with enough space to include a mini pantry, library, and living room.

The majority of cabins have twin beds, with the exception of Super Deluxe cabins, which are equipped with queen-size beds.

Operating between September and April each year, the eight-day itinerary begins in the capital city of Delhi before heading to northwest India, where historic forts, palaces, bazaars, and sites await you. UNESCO world heritage and extensive national parks.

Stops in Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and many more give passengers time to explore the history and heritage of the region.

These are slow journeys and immersive experiences, offering travelers the chance to spot tigers in Ranthambore National Park, enjoy the Royal Palace in Udaipur City, sip appetizers in the dunes at outside Jaisalmer and explore Keoladeo National Park.

Before returning to the capital, the train makes a final stop at Agra, home to the Taj Mahal.

The train has been on standby since March 2020 due to Covid-19, but a major renovation is scheduled for May 2022, followed by regular operations by September 2022.

Alishan Forest Railway, Central Taiwan

Alishan Railway

Taiwan’s Alishan Forest Historic Railway goes to the highest station on the island.

courtesy of Liao Yuan-chiao

Rail travel has long been a calling card in Taiwan, which is home to an astonishing mix of forest, mountain and ocean landscapes.

One of the most beautiful routes is the Alishan Forest Railway, a century-old line initially used by the logging industry but relaunched as a tourist experience in 1933.

Historic diesel locomotives travel 70 km from Chiayi City in central Taiwan to the Alishan Mountains, zigzagging to Chushan Station, Taiwan’s highest station.

During the three-hour journey, passengers will pass through more than 50 tunnels, 75 bridges and various natural gems, from rivers and waterfalls to dense cypress forests and misty mountain peaks.

It’s also a favorite among train enthusiasts, who praise the line’s impressive track, which basically goes up the mountain to climb steep slopes.

Unlike some train trips, passengers can hop on and off independently for detours – think short hikes to an observatory, a visit to an oolong tea plantation, or a picnic by a lake.

Vietage, Vietnam

The Vietage only carries 12 passengers for a six-hour journey through central Vietnam.

The Vietage only carries 12 passengers for a six-hour journey through central Vietnam.

Vietage

What the 30-hour trip lacks in amenities and luxuries, it makes up for in the scenery, passing through the Hai Van Pass, Lang Co beaches and the almost ubiquitous rice fields.

But this simple ride is not for everyone. For travelers looking for a more comfortable experience, The Vietage offers a stark contrast – and priced at $ 350 per person one-way.

Launched by Anantara Hotels in 2020, the six-hour train ride carries no more than 12 passengers through central Vietnam between Da Nang and Quy Nhon, formerly the seat of the Cham kingdom.

The landscape is as peaceful as it is lush: water buffaloes graze in the large fields, humble villages pass by and incredibly green fields beg to be photographed.

On board, marble tables, rattan screens and private cabins evoke the romance of vintage rail travel.

Tickets also include a free three-course French meal with Vietnamese influences, unlimited wine and beer, and a head and shoulder massage.

Top image: Belmond’s Eastern and Oriental Express passes through Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

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