ALL ABOARD – Luxury boat cruises and trains add to the magic of experiencing Thailand in style.
Story by Laurence Civil
Thailand has a rich heritage of train travel, after all it was the railways that pioneered the tourist industry. The heritage is glamorous and today’s service depends on a spider web of 4,043 kms of one-metre gauge track reaching the Kingdom’s borders with Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia with a through service to Butterworth for the island of Penang and onward services to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
The country’s several rivers and canals also open the heart of the Kingdom to the traveller. The historic means of travel in Bangkok (and Thailand) was by canal/river rather than by road. The city was nicknamed ‘The Venice of the East’ by Sir John Bowring, Queen Victoria’s Governor of Hong Kong. The options are several and below are the ones that must not be missed out on.
The Luxury of the Eastern & Oriental Express and the Nostalgia of Steam
Air travel may be faster but the most elegant way to arrive in Bangkok from Singapore is aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express. Originally built in Japan in 1972, the 31 carriages started life as the Silver Star in New Zealand. Having being acquired by Orient Express, now Belmond, they were remodelled by Gerard Gallet who was responsible for both the British Pullman and the Venice Simplon Orient Express.
The interior panelling is decorated in elm, cherry, teak and rosewood, the diamond shaped marquetry is hand cut by local craftsmen. The compartments are panelled in cherry wood and elm and the Bar Car in pale ash wood. The Observation Car is floored in Burmese teak. The three restaurant cars Adisorn, Rosaline and Malaya have skilfully engraved marquetry, distinctive table lamps and exquisite table seating in a two or four configuration.
The Salon has a traditional Chinese feel, decorated in dark rosewood with richly coloured upholstery. The window pelmets are hand embroidered in Malaysia and the carpets are hand tufted in Thailand.
The two and a half day journey is a ritual of breakfast and afternoon tea served in the cabin with allocated sittings for lunch and dinner served in the dining room and daily stops for excursions. An indulgent life of eating and drinking and changing for the next meal.
From 15th October 2015 they are launching The Ancient Kingdom of Lanna a 3 day 2 night journey north with a stopover in Lampang and turning around in Chiang Mai to discover the city’s Lanna heritage.
Fun on the Water with an overnight cruise
Anantara Cruise is the river-borne equivalent to the Eastern & Oriental Express, the overnight luxury rice barge journeys from Bangkok to Ayuthaya the former capital of Siam. Below deck she has well-appointed suite-par cabins each with a queen sized bed and a compact ensuite bathroom. On deck there is an expansive salon and dining area with bar, plus an ample sun deck forward with loungers; offering a great view of the river life as the boat plies the majestic Chao Phraya.
The refurbished rice barge features Teak, Padua and Mahogany woods throughout, custom-designed furniture complimented with luxurious Thai silks and cottons, oriental rugs decorated with Thai and Southeast Asian art, sculpture and artefacts.
Departing from Anantara Riverside Resort & Spa the tour began on the west bank of the river in Thonburi, at one of Bangkok’s best known landmarks, the Temple of Dawn, the vessel then charted a northward course, stopping at the Royal Barges Museum and then passing the island of Koh Kret in Nonthaburi Province. A delightful lunch was served on deck followed by a decadent English Afternoon Tea complete with scones, strawberry jam and cream.
We moored overnight at Wat Samakkeeyaran and a formal Thai dinner was served on white linen as we watched the beautiful sunset over the horizon. After a comfortable night’s sleep we were served a Champagne breakfast and Mediterranean lunch before arriving at the World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya where we spent the afternoon engaging in an enthralling Ayutthaya tour in the company of an expert guide, marvelling at the ruins of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
It is an amazing experience that takes you on a journey back in time.