Perhaps thanks to their intimately-sized quarters, ties to a slower, more romantic yesteryear, and the compelling thought of going to sleep in one part of the world and waking up in another, luxury train journeys are undergoing a renaissance of sorts, if the number of new lines opening up across the world are any indication.
Of course, their mystique is helped in no small part by many a titillating tale such as Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and more recently, Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited.
Yet this form of transportation is embracing the creature comforts of modernity in ways both surprising and unexpected. In lieu of this new crop of luxury rail journeys, we’ve picked out these regional favourites that celebrate the pomp, circumstance, and romance of the locomotive, while rewriting what’s possible on the train track.
Eastern & Oriental Express
Wending its way through the lush jungles and tea plantations of Southeast Asia, Belmond’s Eastern & Oriental Express covers the distance between Bangkok and Singapore over a leisurely four-day, three-night itinerary. The E&O’s cream and green livery blends into the subtropical landscape, while its inside cabins – ranging between Pullman, State and Presidential suite configurations – boast colonial and Southeast Asian influences as conveyed through intricate marquetry and plush upholstery.
Meanwhile, two restaurant cars and one bar car serve the gastronomic needs of the train’s 82 guests, and this is where executive chef Yannis Martineau flexes his culinary know-how. Additionally, celebrity chefs Janice Wong, Luke Mangan, Didier Corlou, and Ian Kittichai are set to craft culinary experiences onboard the 2019 journeys. More information on booking and fares here.
Borrowing its name from the Afghan cameleers hired to ferry goods via camel train across the Outback during Australia’s early colonial days, The Ghan has been ploughing through this vast desert heartland since its maiden voyage in 1929. Today, The Ghan’s ambitious north-south voyage takes it through 2,979km of South Australian plains, past the parched MacDonnell Ranges, before making it to the tropical climes of Katherine and Darwin on the north Australian coast, traversing the breadth of a continent four days and three nights in the process.
Onboard, guests can dine in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant car or grab a drink at the Outback Explorer Lounge. The Ghan’s exclusive Platinum Club recently underwent an extensive makeover by renowned Australian architecture firm Woods Bagot, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Australian Interior Design Awards. At each stopover, a range of activities makes full use of the spectacular surrounding landscape, from cruising down the Katherine Gorge and flying over Uluru, to dining beneath the stars at an outback barbeque by the side of the train. More information on booking and fares here.
A version of this article originally appeared in our December 2017 issue and has been updated to reflect new information.