The romance of travel has all but disappeared as travelers seek the quickest and easiest way to reach a destination. But what if getting there was just as important as the destination itself? Why not recapture the elegance and romance of a by-gone era on one of the select first class luxury train trips available in some of the world's most picturesque locations.
Eastern & Oriental Express, Thailand
The Orient Express is the name synonymous with luxury train travel and many a back-packer has looked on in awe as they happen to walk past the opulent train at a European train station like Venice or Simplon.
Europe isn't the only locale to experience this magnificent train as it also calls Thailand home with its Eastern and Orient Express line. Imagine yourself, peering out into the Thai landscape with its temples, rice-paddies, mountains and small villages from the open-sided observation car on your way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, then back down the Thai peninsula, along the River Kwai. Or perhaps you would prefer to journey from Bangkok down to Singapore.
The elegance of this adventure adds to its appeal, so bare in mind that there is a strict dress code on board. Dinners are semi formal and the wearing of jeans and sports shoes is prohibited. Women will require scarves or wraps to cover their shoulders whilst visiting Buddhist temples.
The Eastern & Oriental Express's Thai Explorer journey runs from Bangkok to Chang Mai during the months of March, April, October and November in 2005 and two-nights aboard starts at $1,360 per person twin share in a Pullman compartment ($2,780 in a Presidential Suite), including all meals and guided tours of Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Lampang, and Kanchanaburi on the River Kwai. Bangkok to Singapore two-night journeys depart in March, April and August to December in 2005 starting at $1,730 per person twin share in a Pullman compartment ($3,510 in a Presidential Suite).
Orient Express also operates historic luxury train journeys in Peru, Scotland and England. For further information, visit www.orient-express.com.
Rovos Rail, South Africa
A hundred years ago, the only real way to travel across Southern Africa was by train. It was a time when you would interact with your fellow passengers, meet interesting strangers from around the world, dress formally for dinner and sleep in the comfort of your personal cabin with a butler to attend to your every whim and desire. Today, you can have that same experience on a Rovos train for an unforgettable journey between some of Africa's greatest destinations. These first class train adventures last from 24 hours to two weeks in length, and can take you from Cape Town to Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania, from the game reserves of Mpumalanga to the Victoria Falls, from the desert of Namibia to the canefields of KwaZulu-Natal or along the Garden Route of the Cape South Coast.
Immerse yourself in the luxury of finely restored 1920's wood-paneled coaches with their Edwardian suites, enjoy fine cuisine in five-star luxury as some of the most unique scenery and wildlife imaginable appears outside your window. Each train can accommodate up to 72 passengers in style and elegance.
Traveling back then was definitely a pursuit of the privileged and wealthy, and not much has changed. For discerning travelers, an opportunity to experience the beauty of Africa from the comfort of a Rovos train starts at $1,238 for a two-day/two-night journey from Cape Town to George in a Deluxe Suite ($1,660 in a Royal Suite) or $1,839 in a Deluxe Suite ($2,445 in a Royal Suite) for a two-day/two-night journey from Pretoria to Cape Town. Other longer and more expensive itineraries are available and there are regular departures throughout the year. Special trips include Pretoria to Swakopmund (May 11-17, 2005) from $4,748 and Cape Town to Dar Es Salaam (July 1-13, 2005) from $7,600. All prices are based on dual occupancy.
For further information, visit www.rovos.co.za.
Palace on Wheels, India
In the 19th century, opulent and lavish trains were built in order to accommodate the transportation needs of the Indian royal family members as well as the British rulers. Today you don't have to be a Maharaja or a Viceroy to enjoy the same level of luxury for your Indian sojourn.
Indian Railways runs the Palace on Wheels, which will transport you through colorful and vibrant Rajasthan, creating a unique way to see the stunning architecture, lively bazaars, desert camels and vibrant people of this fascinating region.
All the regal trappings of the past, including wood-paneled interiors, gold and brass fittings, chandeliers, full-sized baths and fine linens will make you feel like you are truly traveling in a palace on wheels. The steam locomotive has thirteen original luxury saloons that were custom-built for the Maharajas and Viceroys of India, each manned by its own khidmatgar or attendant to provide personalized service.
In addition to the opulence of your personal suite, there are two restaurant cars that serve five-star European and Indian cuisine and a special observation lounge that serves as both a library and bar. The Palace visits the cities of Jaipur, Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra, the royal city of the Taj Mahal. The seven-day journey begins in Delhi with travel done mostly at night. The price includes all exquisite meals, excursions and transfers and starts at $590 per day during April and September, 2005 (the warmest months in Rajasthan), and $770 per day from October 2005 to March, 2006 (a four-night minimum is required).
For further information visit www.thepalaceonwheels.com.
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