The famed Eastern & Oriental Express, a train steeped in literature, romance, and adventure, is returning to Southeast Asia, and Malaysia is a prominent part of its new routes.
Luxury rail enthusiasts and trainspotters alike have reason to rejoice as one of the world’s most iconic trains, The Eastern & Oriental Express, A Belmond Train, is making a comeback in Southeast Asia. After a hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the train will return in February 2024, offering two seasonal journeys starting from Singapore and exploring the captivating landscapes of Malaysia, its northern neighbour.
For well-heeled passengers unfamiliar with Malaysia, we can think of few better ways to be introduced to the scenic wonders of the country, along with its famous culinary offerings and rich cultural heritage.
The Eastern & Oriental Express will embark on round-trip journeys from Singapore’s Woodlands station, traversing Malaysia and stopping at popular destinations like Penang, Langkawi, and Taman Negara National Park. (Wait… Langkawi? Read on for a full explanation.)
Belmond, the operator of the train, has restyled the 15 signature green- and cream-colored carriages to enhance the travel experience. The train boasts eight sleeper cars, two restaurant cars, a piano bar, and an open-air observation car at the back, allowing passengers to soak in the picturesque views.
Each carriage has been tastefully adorned with Malaysian embroidery, silks, and cherry wood paneling, creating an atmosphere of elegance and warmth. The train offers three cabin categories: Pullman, State, and Presidential, all equipped with private bathrooms. The Pullman cabins draw inspiration from the heyday of Kuala Lumpur’s radiance, featuring vibrant red sofas juxtaposed with blue cushions and drapery reflecting the city’s dramatic skies. The State cabins, on the other hand, embrace Penang’s marine locale, employing a bright blue and green color palette. Finally, the Presidential cabins exude regional opulence with gold hues and intricate embroidered décor elements.
Culinary delights await passengers in the onboard restaurant, where contemporary Peranakan dishes take center stage. Peranakan cuisine is renowned for its fusion of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian influences, resulting in a unique gastronomic experience that reflects the rich cultural heritage of the region.
SPOTLIGHT ON MALAYSIA
The Eastern & Oriental Express offers two captivating itineraries for travellers to choose from. The first, “Essence of Malaysia: A Gateway into Malay Culture,” takes guests on a three-night journey through the west of Malaysia, encompassing stops in Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, and Penang.
Regrettably, the train will not make the journey to the islands, but Belmond has nevertheless thought ahead: A private boat transports guests to the enchanting island of Langkawi, where they can indulge in activities like snorkeling in the Pulau Payar Marine Park. The trip culminates in Penang, renowned for its historic architecture and vibrant street food scene.
The second itinerary, “Wild Malaysia: Exploring Sights Unseen,” ventures along the eastern side of the Malaysian peninsula. The highlight of this journey is a visit to the Taman Negara National Park, one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests. Here, guests can immerse themselves in the wonders of nature, encounter diverse wildlife, and participate in activities like jungle foraging and photography masterclasses. The trip concludes with a visit to Penang before returning to Singapore.
Both itineraries span three nights, and rates start from an admittedly steep US$3,410 (RM15,434) per person for a Pullman cabin, which is just a bit over 62 sq ft. (We did mention this was a luxury train!) The price includes meals, select drinks, entertainment, and activities, ensuring a comprehensive and immersive experience.
If you’re really looking to push the journey into the upper echelon of luxury, consider the 125-sq ft Presidential Suite (US$8,600, or about RM39,000) per person), which offers not just more space and more indulgent furnishing, but a free-flow of Champagne, and a welcome spread of caviar, fruit, and flowers upon boarding. (For that fare, we’re expecting some top-grade Beluga!)
PLANS TO LOOK NORTHWARD?
While The Eastern & Oriental Express currently focuses on journeys through Malaysia, discussions are underway with Thai authorities to reinstate routes to and from Thailand. Belmond aims to resume offering Thailand-based routes, including stops in popular destinations like Bangkok and Kanchanaburi, in the future.
As the world gradually recovers from the pandemic’s impact on travel, the return of The Eastern & Oriental Express heralds a new chapter for luxury rail journeys in Southeast Asia. Embark on a captivating adventure, where exquisite landscapes, cultural immersion, and unparalleled hospitality converge to create unforgettable memories.
To learn more, visit Belmond’s site HERE.
Reporting from CNN Travel and information from Belmond contributed to this article.
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