Visakhapatnam to the Araku Valley
Traverse the mountains of Andhra Pradesh in India with this train journey, which takes you up into the verdant Araku Valley. The daily Visakhapatnam-Kirandul Express departs from Visakhapatnam Station in the early morning, taking four hours to reach the hill station of Araku. It then continues on to Kirandul.
Maintained by the East Coast Railway Zone, the train comprises a total of 11 carriages – one air-conditioned car, one sleeper, two seater cars, five second-class unreserved coaches and two second-class luggage-cum-sitting coaches.
After an hour or so, the train begins its dramatic climb into the hills via a series of bridges and tunnels. As the temperatures drop, you’ll pass mountain streams and waterfalls, before being presented with spectacular views of forested slopes, coffee plantations and the winding ghat road. Be sure to get a seat on the right hand side of the train.
Hanoi to Danang
Departing five times a day from Hanoi, the train arrives in Danang around 16 hours later before continuing on to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam’s far South. Most people opt for an overnight journey, departing Hanoi in the evening. Notable stops along the way include the ancient citadel of Hue and the coastal town of Dong Hoi.
Rail provider Livitrans Express operates six to seven VIP cabins on the SE2 train, better known as the Reunification Express. The train departs Hanoi at 7pm and arrives in Danang at 10.30am the following day. Each air-conditioned VIP cabin offers a four-berth sleeper arrangement, and travellers can purchase snacks and drinks on board.
After leaving the suburbs of Hanoi, you’ll pass low hills and paddy fields. The latter half of the journey sees the train hugging the coast; the gorgeous sea vistas are an interesting accompaniment to the martial music blasting from the loudspeakers.
Singapore to Bangkok
From Singapore, the three-day, two-night route plied by the Eastern & Oriental Express travels north via Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Kangsar in Malaysia before crossing into Thailand. It then passes through the royal beach resort of Hua Hin before taking a slight detour to the River Kwai, finally arriving in Bangkok’s historic Hua Lamphong station.
It’s all about indulgence on board. There are four cabin types: Pullman Single, Pullman, State and Presidential, all of which are air-conditioned and equipped with ensuite bathrooms. The colonial-style Observation Car at the rear of the train is ideal for sightseeing, while you can head to the Bar Car to sample all-day cocktails.
Rice fields and gleaming pagodas are among the highlights. If you can pry yourself away from your cabin, the stop at Kuala Kangsar includes a tour of the Ubudiah Mosque, the Royal Museum of Perak and the Sultan Shah Gallery. On the last day of the journey, disembark for a cruise along the picturesque River Kwai.
Colombo to Kandy
The 2.5-hour daily route from Sri Lanka’s capital city up to Kandy gives you an insight into the country’s contrasting vistas, taking you from the Indian Ocean and the sweltering coastal lowlands to the tea-covered slopes of the temperate highlands.
Reserve first-class seats in the privately run, air-conditioned Exporail car, or opt for a second- or third-class carriage. The former offers WiFi access, power sockets, complimentary breakfast with tea and coffee and an observation car from which passengers can admire the passing scenery.
The experience starts before you get on the train, thanks to the chaotic and slightly faded glory that is Colombo Fort station. You’ll first pass small villages dotted with rice paddies and temples, before making the long, slow ascent – via numerous tunnels and vertiginous bridges – to the lush green highlands dotted with tea plantations around Kandy. Snag a seat on the right hand side of the train for the best views.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine.