Updated: 17th February 2021
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Last week my WhatsApp pinged with a message of hope from my friend Emily – ‘We need to book a trip’ – which quickly escalated into somewhat of a mammoth train journey.
Portugal to Vietnam, to be precise, the longest train route you can take to traverse the world, starting in my adopted home-country, visiting European cities and remote Mongolian vistas, before arriving into the street-markets of Ho Chi Minh City for a celebratory Saigon Beer.
While the longest continual journey is the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok, when adding train and station changes we realised that Portugal to Vietnam wasn’t just possible, it was incredibly exciting, and we certainly aren’t alone in reaching for the railways for our future travels.
The EU has recently appointed 2021 the ‘Year of Rail‘ to further promote the plethora of great train connections we have across the continent. With a whole host of new night-trains set to arrive in Europe in the coming years, such as Vienna to Paris, and Zurich to Rome, it’s a large part of making the world a greener place.
While luxury train travel might conjure up romantic ideas of wooden clad carriages and fine-dining coaches with silverware, I’ve realised over the years not all train journeys are the same, and research is key. When I travelled from Beijing to Hong Kong by train there were easily over 100 of us sleeping dorm-style in a carriage. When my parents took The Ghan from Alice Springs to Adelaide in Australia, they indulged in first-class sipping champagne and I spent the half-a-day journey sat upright in a chair in economy eating a sausage roll.
Perhaps, therefore, a near 300-hour journey from Portugal to Vietnam isn’t calling your name, and instead, you’re more drawn to glamorous train trips that are truly unforgettable, both for the journey and the destination, but also the service inside the carriages.
Recently launched, Original Travel is an initiative between the UK’s Original Travel and France’s Voyageurs du Monde, to bring some of the most memorable and magical trips around the world to British travellers. Last year, I booked with them to do sail down the Nile on none-other than the boat Agatha Christie got her inspiration from, but alas, we all know how 2020 travel plans went. With a focus on tailor-made trips, their indulgent itineraries can be adapted to suit your particular interests.
The Original Travel Collection has now turned its attention to the tracks, with the launch of their Luxurious Train Travel Collection, complete with their signature concierge services.
Here are just three of the most tantalising train journey holidays they offer.
1. Romance by rail to Italy’s iconic trio
It’s no secret Italy is my favourite destination in the world; the cuisine, the culture, the architecture and the art collide to make this magical nation, and what could be more iconic than a train journey from Venice to Rome, stopping in Florence en route.
Train travel in Italy is a breeze, with fantastic connections especially between these cities. Italy has a whole host of train options, both public and private, which offer everything from local services to luxury longer carriages, though expect to enjoy this journey with Original Travel in premium seats, to best admire the glorious views from the window.
On this trip through three of Italy’s greats, you’ll visit the floating city of Venice, where a gondola ride along the canals is complimented by a look into Venice’s musical history. A private guide offers insights and hidden routes around the magnificent Doge’s Palace.
Next, head to Florence, perhaps the greatest art city in the world, where priority-passes get you into the famous Museo del Duomo, and a private guide shares local knowledge on the history and art of the city
Lastly, the journey ends in Rome, the century-old city that was the capital of one of history’s most famous empires, and is truly an open-air museum. Enjoy walking tours to see the city from all angles, and be sure to swing by my favourite neighbourhood, Trastevere, for a delicious meal.
2. Enjoy a luxury journey from Bangkok to Singapore
Singapore is a city I’ve visited countless times on stopovers when I lived in the Pacific, and I love it! It’s futuristic, exciting and inventive, while also holding its heritage in high regard. Bangkok is another city that holds countless attractions, from religious sights to sky-high bars, and somewhere I wish I had spent more time visiting.
With a flight between the two-cities being a quick hop, taking the train between Singapore and Bangkok is all about the journey. The Eastern & Oriental Express trains transport you back to the ‘golden era’ of train travel. Think mahogany woodwork, mood-lit carriages by lamps, and fine-dining rooms with all the silverware, there’s even a piano bar on board!
This journey can be taken in either direction, though I would advise starting in Singapore. Spend the first few days in Singapore with a private guide, or wandering through the different neighbourhoods. Head to sky-bars, visit ancient temples and enjoy culinary treats in high-end restaurants. By the time you leave Singapore, you’ll have been amazed by the futurist Gardens by the Bay, given your taste-buds a regional tour, and learnt about the various cultures and heritage that make up the country.
Over the next two nights, onboard the Belmond Eastern & Oriental Express you’ll be pampered, from Afternoon Tea in the cabins to the evenings spent wining and dining in the restaurant and bar car – the lush landscapes of Malaysia passing you by through the window. Stops can sometimes be made on the train when pre-booked and depending on the route, whether to hike amongst the greenery, visit rural villages, or you can break the trip in two by also combining a visit to the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.
Once in Bangkok, one of the worlds busiest and most fascinating capitals awaits. Enjoy cooking classes, river sailings, vast temples, ancient stilt-homes, and all the fantastic Thai cuisine that you can squeeze into your stay.
3. See two iconic cities in Russia by rail
St Petersburg is as far as I have got when it comes to visiting the vast nation of Russia, and the little I saw had me intrigued to see more. This grand city, full of iconic architecture and perhaps the most striking museum in the world, The Hermitage, is the gateway from Europe on the Baltic Sea. Moscow, the capital of Russia, is equally packed with legendary attractions.
Of course, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the most famous in the country, but for those who would rather focus on the nations two many cities, the train journey between the two is a more palatably short option – a much shorter option in fact. The Red Arrow route between Moscow and St Petersburg is an overnight service, with premium sleeping cars in first class, and a restaurant carriage.
This tour includes the expected attractions compliment with high-end luxury accommodation. The Hermitage in St Petersburg is incredible, and unsurprisingly a very popular destination. As such, the ‘exclusive early entry’ tickets are included, and I can personally testify what a difference having these made on my visit, rather than later in the day when it was very crowded. The arts dominate most visits to St Petersburg, as does theatre and the ballet. Private guides in both cities will allow you to learn more about the countries past while visiting famous sights such as the Pushkin Museum, or even the Kremlin Museum.
Train travel is certainly a much more environmentally friendly form of travel than flying, but I didn’t realise until recently just how effective of an emissions reducer it can be. (link: ) Another bonus is with the companies carbon absorption policy promising to off-set 100% of the carbon footprint generated by clients and staff travel, it makes for even more green credentials. So, the question is simple, where will you be taking your next epic rail journey to?
Advertorial content is produced for this website in partnership with brands, but written by myself. Please visit The Original Travel website to learn more about their journeys.