The Eastern Oriental Express –
This elegant mode of transport lives up to the majesty and tradition of times gone by in the most regal of fashions.
Bound in mahogany and brass with white linens and heavy upholsteries dominating the soft furnishings, this aesthetic sets the tone for the grandeur of what’s to come. We’re entirely seduced by every element of what we experience. With a childlike excitement, we embark the train eager to get this ‘once in a lifetime experience’ started. There is a palpable sense of adventure amongst all the guests. The level of indulgence and decadence that comes with this trip is fit for royalty, and anyone with an expanding waist band!
Our cabin is compact and has various wood inspired veneers adorning the walls. The Eastern Oriental Express motif makes a claim on everything from our slippers and dressing-gowns, right through to our leather luggage tags and bottles of water; proudly championing everything it represents. The historic landscape of the train dates back over a century. In some aspects much remains the same, and its this sense of heritage that really is at the heart of the Eastern Oriental Express. Staff members are proud to work aboard this world renowned service and couldn’t be more accommodating or sweet in nature. Our cabin is at the very end of the train, which means we’re next to the observation deck (and lounge), completely ideal. One morning we sneak out at 06:15 on the dot to watch the sun rise, wrapped in our dressing gowns and slippers. Days pass us by as we watch the landscapes change; deep, thick tropical forests, small towns, rivers, rice fields and finally city. All exotic and unfamiliar to the eye.
We dine as the sun begins to soften and lower in the sky: another four courses. There will be no point where you experience any pang of hunger as a four course lunch is followed by afternoon tea, and finally another four courses for dinner. Guests are encouraged to dress for the evening meals, and it’s absolutely the place to do it. There’s a real sense of occasion, pride and romance aboard. As we get to know the fellow guests we learn that most are here to celebrate an occasion, whether it’s an anniversary, birthday or like us, their honeymoon. This is no everyday experience. What we also come to realise is that there’s time to sit back, watch the world go by and detach from reality. This is a peaceful haven, where people pensively sip at cocktails, with a book in hand. It hadn’t occurred to me that this had become a rarity for me until now.
Our first excursion means we spend one morning roaming the most beautiful of mosques, see the oldest rubber tree grown, view a traditional Malay house plus visit the last reigning Kings memorial museum. The highlight had to be the lunch provided; traditional spring rolls, pancakes and curry sauce (which I even had a go at making resulting in a fifth meal added to the day!).
Were it possible to indulge in one of The Belmonds’ train journeys often, I would. From the dining ritual, the schedule (which includes several excursions) to the experience of a much more compact way of life, it’s a welcome change and one that we eagerly acclimatised to.
This slower pace of life, gifting a renewed appreciation of the surrounding environment, is partly what makes these journeys so special. The level of service and decadent dining is what you’d expect – absolutely – but, even still, they seem to exceed themselves. I’ll be gushing about this journey for a long time yet.