Step back in time into a world of elegance and glamour on board the Eastern & Oriental Express by Ong Chin Huat
Embarking on a journey from Bangkok to Singapore via River Kwai then down the entire length of Peninsula Malaysia must be one of the most nostalgic and romantic trips any world weary traveller can hope to take.
Stepping on board the distinctive green and gold Eastern & Oriental Express train carriage at Hua Lamphong train station in downtown Bangkok, you are transported to a bygone era, one which evokes leisurely cocktails served in an elegant brocade and silk trimmed Piano BAR while dining on starched white linen with gleaming crystal and silverware.
All this of course comes to reality the moment this luxury train whistles off and departs the station, but not before a traditional send off with several Thai dancers performing the Khon dance as a bon voyage gesture of good luck.
Gathering for cocktails while watching the sun sink behind you with the silhouette of the City of Angels at the Observation Car prior to dinner is only one of the many highlights of this four days, three nights’ train journey. Located at the rear of the train, the Observation Car is a popular spot of the train as it is the only public area on the train with complimentary Wi-Fi, apart from your cabin. With its own bar and comfy seating area, most guests wander out to the teakwood-panelled veranda or outdoor area to feel the breeze in their hair and take in the whizzing scenery.
For those of you who have either seen the movie or read Agatha Christie’s mystery murder which takes place on board the Venice-Simplon Oriental Express will know how the cabins look like as a pivotal scene takes place inside one. By no means spacious (it’s a train after all) what it lacks in square footage, it certainly makes up for in luxurious finishing. Intricate wood marquetry and plush furnishings make the cabins – four categories in total – a cosy place to retire to after an excursion at one of the stops or after a satiating chef-prepared meal. A cabin steward specially assigned to you during this trip ensures your bed is made and turned down twice a day and wakes you up with a breakfast tray and a good morning smile.
With specially curated journeys consisting of different length of stays and embarkation cities, the one I went on had two stops, the first being at Kanchanaburi, just west of Bangkok to see the famous bridge over River Kwai on a river cruise and the second at royal
town of Kuala Kangsar to visit Labu Kubong, a local Malaysian village set
among rice fields in the state of Perak.
Dining in the Restaurant Car is always an anticipated event, not least because of the delectable food on offer. Guests from hail from all corners of the globe make a special effort to dress up and turn up the glamour quotient. With occasional guest chefs making an appearance on certain journeys, dining on board the Eastern & oriental Express is not to be taken lightly. The most recent Guest Chef Culinary Series saw internationally acclaimed chefs like Luke Mangan, Janice Wong, Didier Corlou and Ian Kittichai work alongside the train’s executive chef Yannis Martineau to create mouth-watering and stomach-craving creations worth writing home about.
Adjourning to the Piano BAR is de rigueur on most nights as that is where all the fun and frivolities take place. Decorated in pale ash-wood panelling and embellished with etched mirrors and embroidered pelmets, this is the liveliest section of the train come nightfall where exotic cocktails inspired by the landscapes and towns the train passes – such as the Hills of Perlis or the Royal Nightcap – flow as smoothly as the tracks the Eastern & Oriental Express roll on.
But the star of this social hub must be Peter Consigliere, the resident pianist who has tinkled the ivories to the delight of guests for the past 25 years. With a repertoire of tunes to rival the length of this 15-carriage luxury train, Peter’s vocals are only matched by his often elaborate and eye-catching outfits all which add up to a memorable night and stay on board this most enchanting train.
For further information on the Eastern & Oriental Express as well as details on their various journeys, please visit www.belmond.com/easternand- oriental-express