Riding the Rails – Top Five Rail Journeys in Asia

When travelling around Asia, most people have their head in the clouds. Forego that tasteless airline meal and live it up by riding the rails. From bullet trains to ageless steam engines to super-luxe “palaces on wheels”, if you have the time, you can see it all by train.

The whole region can virtually be explored and even on one of the many grandiose luxury rail tours in India, that carbon footprint treads very lightly indeed.  You get to see a slice of Asian life that air travel cannot hope to offer and an ever-changing view 24/7. Best of all is the shared experience and social interaction of an epic overland rail journey brings and it all seems so much more refined and civilized when you go by train… Check out the top 5 rail journeys in Asia.

Maharajas’ Express

This is possibly the very last word in Indian luxury rail travel. It features opulent two-bed Presidential suites, with marble bathtubs, flowing silk drapes, fine dining and evening cocktails. Calling at Delhi, Agra and Varanasi.

Maharaja’s Express 1-week ‘Royal India’ tours. Prices from £5,600 per person

Royal Rajasthan

This is a landlubber’s equivalent of a super-luxury ocean cruise. Over-the-top opulence is the order of the day with decadent saloon cabins in fine silk and velvet. There is even a luxury spa onboard. It is the perfect way to visit regal sights such as Jaipur and the Taj Mahal.

Royal Rajasthan 8 day Rajasthan tour. Prices from £590 per person   

Eastern & Oriental Express

Agatha Christie goes Asia. The golden age of luxury is still very much alive in Southeast Asia, thanks to the colonial era decadence of the E & O. This is a mammoth 2,000km journey through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand with royal standard cabin accommodation and gourmet fine dining. It offers tasteful 5-star nostalgia where dressing up for dinner is de rigour.

Eastern & Oriental Express 3 days Singapore-Bangkok. Prices from £2,400 per person      

The Jungle Line

This is arguably Southeast Asia’s most scenic rail trip, an epic 500 km journey crawling its way through dense rainforest from southern Malaysia up to the Thai border.  Thick jungle and craggy limestone cliffs virtually engulf the train on both sides as it inches its way slowly northwards and the cacophony of noise coming from the depths of the rainforest is a quite deafening soundtrack that even the ancient diesel engine car cannot drown out.

The Jungle Line, Malaysia Railways 1st class seats from £22

 Lhasa Express Skytrain

The all new Sky Train offers the rail traveller a taste of the “mile high club.”  It reaches a dizzy altitude of three miles above sea level, complete with personal oxygen supply for the 14 hour journey from Xining, China to the ancient Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Passengers with a head for heights get sublime views of towering snow-covered peaks and icy tundra.

Info at China Tibet Train 2 day journey Xining-Lhasa. Fares from £126     

By Ray Montgomery

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