Skip to content

Chugging Through the East: Asia’s Greatest Rail Journeys

Asia has some fantastic luxury train journeys that are absolute must-dos for anyone enchanted by the idea of exploring the region in truly romantic style. Here's our pick of Asia's Greatest Rail Journeys.

The romance of train travel is probably best articulated by legendary travel writer Paul Theroux, though he certainly wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, to pen prose inspired by the rhythmic cadence of the train. Train travel – once the only way for the upper class to travel from place to place – may have been largely replaced by the convenience and speed of flight, but those who choose this mode of transportation are rarely disappointed.

Yes, the journey takes longer, but trains allow for a far more relaxing, comfortable journey that encourages the traveler to sit back and take in the beauty of the passing scenery and experience the rich culture that awaits at every stop.

Asia has some fantastic luxury train journeys that are absolute must-dos for anyone enchanted by the idea of exploring the region via this mode of transportation.

From the Eastern & Oriental, carving its way through Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, the luxurious Golden Eagle Shangri-La Express, chugging through China’s exquisite countryside, the ever-opulent Maharajas’ Express, a journey fit for an Indian king, to the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, traversing the surreal countryside of Mongolia and Russia, you’re sure to find inspiration here for your next luxury escape, which we hope will be by train!

Eastern & Oriental Express- Singapore/Malaysia/Thailand

Travelling in style on the Eastern & Oriental
Travelling in style on the Eastern & Oriental

There is no better way to take in the exotic scenery of Southeast Asia than onboard the first-class Eastern & Oriental Express, which offers a range of trips through the region.

Private cabins, of which there is a choice of three delightful options, all feature en-suite facilities. Breakfast is served in bed – the only way to wake up aboard such a luxurious vessel. An observation car at the train’s rear provides a wonderful social environment for guests to enjoy stunning views of the passing lush jungle and bustling cities from uncovered windows, with nightly entertainment performances. Guests can enjoy their lunches and dinners in the train’s well-appointed restaurant, with tables draped in luxe white linens, upon which delectable Asian and international dishes are served by friendly, knowledgeable staff.

The bar car is a comfortable venue to enjoy a tipple with a newly-found friends, with chit-chat accompanied by the sweet tunes of the train’s resident pianist.

Golden Eagle Shangri-La Express – China

Following in Theroux's tracks on the Golden Eagle Shangri-La
Following in Theroux’s tracks on the Golden Eagle Shangri-La

For a truly enchanting experience, we highly recommend the Golden Eagle Shangri-La Express train, which transports guests not only through the picturesque and ancient Tarim Basin and Gobi Desert, but also back to a more romantic time – though it is in fact China’s most modern hotel train.

Well-appointed first-class cabins feature luxurious touches one wouldn’t often associate with a train suite, such as arm chairs and Pullman tables. For breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant car serves up delicious Western breakfasts, alongside both Western and Cantonese options for lunch and dinner, accompanied by an extensive wine list.

The piano bar car is the best spot on the train to wind down in the evening, enjoying a nightcap to the sounds of the hotel’s resident pianist. Guests can stay connected with full internet access throughout their journey, and extras like laundry service, medical assistance, luggage porterage, and personal headsets for external excursions, making this an experience on a similar level to most five-star hotels. The only difference here is that the hotel is mobile, gliding through some of China’s most exquisite scenery.

Maharajas’ Express – India

A meal fit for royalty on the Maharajas' Express
A meal fit for royalty on the Maharajas’ Express

As the name implies, a journey aboard the Maharajas’ Express is fit for a king. As the half-mile-long train slides along the beguiling Indian landscape, from Delhi to Jaipur, guests can relax in the spacious luxury of their private cabins – one of which takes up an entire carriage – benefitting from both air-conditioning and WiFi.

Dining options are plentiful, with two well-appointed restaurants, a lounge, and a bar providing the charm of India with the comforts of home. Along the way, guests can enjoy stops at ancient temples and caves, and lush jungles, where they can watch for the elusive wildlife that dots the Indian countryside and snap photos to bring to life the magical memories this train journey is sure to provide.

Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express – Mongolia

The glory of Mongolia viewed from the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian
The glory of Mongolia viewed from the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian

The Trans-Siberian railway must be Asia’s most famous, and what better way to experience it than aboard the route’s classiest vessel? The luxury train snakes its way between Moscow and Vladivostok (guests may choose from either starting point), stopping along the way at beautiful spots like Lake Baikal and Ulaan Baatar.

Three classes of cabins are available – each one more opulent than the next – full of plush delights like power showers, DVD players, and large picture windows. The Lecture Car is a unique addition to this fascinating journey, where guests can enjoy history lessons on the areas they are passing, as the train glides through them.

The up-scale dining car is blessed with menus that will satisfy even the most discerning tastes, while the bar lounge recalls the elegance of yesteryear, which one can take in while sipping on an exquisite cocktail concocted by the highly-skilled bartender.