Rail Journeys to Remember

Few modes of travel inspire the romance, and adventure of the railway. Take the scenic route aboard the world’s most iconic train journeys

Travelling by train when on holiday can be fast and furious or languid and leisurely. But whichever way you choose, it can still be a scenic and even delicious experience if you pick the right rail journey from the ideal starting point of a Frasers Hospitality property. And there’s perhaps no better time than now to plan that dream rail journey, when borders open and leisure travel is welcomed again by countries around the world.

Journey through Geneva, Switzerland

Embark on an alpine adventure in Switzerland from Geneva.  Located in the heart of the city in the prestigious shopping and business district of Rue du Marché, Fraser Suites Geneva offers spacious luxury accommodations that are a stone’s throw from Lake Geneva and the Old Town.

Onboard the Glacier Express

Glacier Express

The Glacier Express is your window to the Swiss Alps. From Zermatt to St Moritz, the nearly eight-hour ride starts in the morning from the alpine village and takes you through the three cantons of Valais, Uri and Graubünden, before arriving in Switzerland’s most elegant holiday resorts.

The Sights

As the Glacier Express travels across 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels between Zermatt and St Moritz, expect breath-taking and varied panoramic views. The route has the perfect combination of green alpine valleys, snow-covered peaks and blue skies. Non-reflective windows ensure you don’t miss a thing during the 290 km journey. As you pull out of Zermatt and leave behind views of the majestic Matterhorn, the train passes through the Matter Valley where the highest peaks of the Swiss Alps loom. It then crosses the Rhone river before winding east through the Rhone valley towards the quaint mountain village of Andermatt and up to the Oberalp Pass. From there, it descends into the Rhine Valley and the spectacular Rhine Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland.

After crossing the Unesco World Heritage Site of Landwasser Viaduct – a curved, single-track railway bridge that towers 65 m above the Landwasser river – the Glacier Express spirals upwards to enter the 6 km-long Albula Tunnel before emerging into the Engadine valley for St Moritz.

The Taste

Glacier express

The Glacier Express calls itself the “world’s slowest express train that does not serve fast food”. Choose from a range of culinary specialities and traditional dishes, with all meals freshly prepared on board and served at your seat. Opt for the dish of the day or a 3-course meal, both made with carefully selected regional produce. A list of regional wines, from the cantons of Graubünden and Valais is also available to complement the dishes. And to round off your meal, enjoy a range of fine digestifs, including Grappa and Williams. 

Journey through Edinburgh, UK

Malmaison Edinburgh City is a brand new, award-winning hotel in the city centre. Nestled on St Andrews Square, the famous Edinburgh Castle is visible from the square, while the National Museum of Scotland is a 15-minute walk away. The nearby Rose and Thistle Streets inspired this Malmaison’s design, creating a lavish garden of texture, light and style to make it one of the most unique hotels in Edinburgh. There are double and twin rooms complete with either king or super king-sized beds and a state-of-the-art en suite.

Onboard the Jacobite

Jacobite

This is probably the world’s most magical railway journey. The Jacobite Steam Train is also known as Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter films. This steam-belching relic of the 1940s casts its spell daily as it puffs along, from the mountain town of Fort William in the Highlands of Scotland, to the picturesque village of Mallaig on the west coast. A round trip is 84 miles and there are two daily return services, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with each one-way ride taking about 2 hours.

The Sights

The Jacobite will reveal some of the country’s most impressive natural sights. For one, Fort William lies in the shadow of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, and the train will travel to the UK’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig. En route, it will pass close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis.

Along the way, there will be purple heather-clad mountains, glistening lochs and emerald fields, with a highlight of the journey being the crossing of the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct. This curving railway bridge with 21 arches towers 100 feet above spectacular Loch Shiel.

At Mallaig, disembark for spectacular views of the Isle of Skye and Scotland’s Inner Hebridean islands.

The Taste

Enjoy the scrumptious Jacobite Cream Tea in the cosy carriages. There are chunky sandwiches made with locally sourced Mull cheddar ploughman’s, free-range egg mayonnaise with rocket and heather honey and Arran mustard glazed ham salad – on white and brown bloomer bread.

This is accompanied by a savoury and sweet scone, served with Scottish artisan strawberry preserve, Scottish butter and clotted cream. There is a selection of homemade cakes too, and of course, coffee or tea. A vegetarian option is also available.

Journey through Sydney, Australia

Fraser Suites Sydney in the CBD is a luxury serviced residence just minutes from Darling Harbour and a short cab ride to Sydney station. This 41-storey glass high-rise designed by Norman Foster has 201 freshly refurbished luxury serviced apartments, comprising deluxe studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as two- and three-bedroom duplex penthouse suites.

It has won numerous awards, including Oceania’s Leading Serviced Apartments in the World Travel Awards, Best Serviced Apartment Property at the Hotel Management Awards for Hotel and Accommodation Excellence for the sixth year, and Apartment/Suite Hotel of the year at the Australian Hotels Association.

Onboard the Indian Pacific 

Indian Pacific

The Indian Pacific traverses the width of Australia, from Sydney, through Adelaide, to Perth. Named for the two oceans the train encounters on its journey, the Indian Pacific delivers a 4,352 km odyssey between the eastern and western coasts of Australia.

The epic transcontinental crossing spans 4 days and 3 nights as it recreates the path taken by bush pioneers, gold rush prospectors and legendary adventurers.

The Sights

Regarded as Australia’s greatest train journey, the Indian Pacific runs through some of the country’s most dramatic landscapes, with off-train experiences in Broken Hill, Adelaide, Cook, Rawlinna and Perth. From this luxury train, you will witness a world of contrasts – from lush vineyards to vast goldmines, majestic mountains to wild bushlands, and from cities of four million to ghost towns of four.  

After departing Sydney in the afternoon, it winds through the breath-taking Blue Mountains towards a glorious sunset from the comfort of the restaurant carriage. The next day, wake up in Broken Hill, a mining town in the desert of New South Wales before arriving in the wine region of Adelaide Hills by mid-afternoon. The third day is a cruise through the vast and treeless Nullarbor Plain, which includes a 478 km stretch of straight railway track – the longest stretch of straight track in the world – before crossing the Western Australian border.

The rolling green hills of the Avon Valley greet your final day, with lush farmland that gives way to Perth and the Indian Ocean.

The Taste

The ticket price includes food and drink, and over the course of the 4-day, 3-night journey, a total of 9 gourmet meals will be served. Not all are taken onboard the Indian Pacific though. On the third night, guests disembark at the remote outpost of Rawlinna for a traditional long-table dinner under the stars.

In the city of Adelaide, there is also the choice of visiting the world famous Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale wine regions (depending on the season), or a trip to the beautiful Adelaide Hills featuring culinary delights in the town of Hahndorf. The Indian Pacific’s regionally-inspired menus are paired with a selection of local wines and beverages. They are crafted by an expert culinary team that embraces the diverse environments the train travels through by working closely with local suppliers, farmers and providores to source for the best regional ingredients.

Journey through Tokyo, Japan

This new luxury serviced residence in the Japanese capital is ideally located in the upscale Akasaka district. The 23-storey Fraser Suites Akasaka was designed by the award-winning team of Hirsch Bedner Associates and its 224 suites are extremely spacious, which is unusual for Tokyo. Choose from the 35 square metre studios or 60 square metre one-bedroom apartments, with the option of a kitchenette. Both are luxuriously comfortable and suited for either short- or long-term stays. For convenience, Fraser Suites Akasaka is easily accessed from three metro stations – Akasaka, Akasaka-mitsuke and Aoyama-itchome.

Onboard the Shinkansen

Japan’s high-speed shinkansen may be commonly known to foreigners as the bullet train but its name actually means “new trunk line”. Launched in 1964 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics of that year, the shinkansen is capable of speeds of up to 320 km/h. Renowned for its safety record, it is also super-efficient in typically Japanese fashion with a fastidiously punctual timetable.

From its massive Tokyo Station terminal, the shinkansen whizzes to both ends of Japan’s four main islands, delivering everyone from salarymen and tourists to their offices and onsens comfortably and swiftly.  

The Sights

One of the many services operated by the East Japan Railway Company or JR East is the Tokaido Shinkansen, which connects the five largest metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. This is the perfect route for adventurous sightseers and an exhilarating way to experience the country’s revered spring-time cherry blossom season, known as sakura.

Soon after the urban density of Tokyo diminishes, views of spectacular Mount Fuji will appear, weather permitting. This is considered one of the best mountain views in the country, so be sure to sit on the right side of the train. Those lucky enough to coincide their trip with Japan’s brief but beautiful sakura season will be treated to front-row seats for the spectacle while racing through the countryside.

Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the blur of rural scenery as the small towns, padi fields and rugged mountains whizz by.

The Taste

Tea and coffee – hot or cold – and canned drinks, along with snacks like chocolates and crackers are available from the food cart which plies up and down the train. For real food though, most commuters pick up a bento box or sandwich from the numerous food outlets in the main hall of Tokyo station. Choose from a bento filled with fresh seafood, tempura, beef or oden but fret not if you were in a rush and have already passed through the ticket gates; there are bento stands, convenience stores and vending machines on the platform. Do make your purchase before boarding however, and not during one of the train’s very brief stops at another station. 

And because the Japanese are also fastidiously clean, remember to take your trash with you when you disembark or throw it into one of the bins found at the end of each carriage.

Journey through Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is the perfect base from where you can spend a few days exploring this charming city’s upscale central Sisli district before boarding your train for Paris.

Standing tall within the 39th and 52nd floors of the Anthill Residence complex, Fraser Place Anthill Istanbul offers 19 Gold-Standard luxury residences with sweeping views of the spectacular Bosphorus Strait that borders both the Asian and European continents. The one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as the four-bedroom penthouses are fully furnished with modern conveniences, from the kitchen to the state-of-the-art entertainment system. With beautiful oak flooring and full-length windows to enhance the chic and vibrant design, these spacious serviced apartments are both homey and elegant.

Onboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express 

Venice Simplon-Orient

Istanbul is located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe right where the historic Silk Road once was, and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a storied set of carriages in glamorous Art Deco style that will ferry you in style from Istanbul to Paris over six days.

Upon arrival at the platform, a steward in blue and gold livery welcomes you on board with a wave of his white-gloved hand. You are then led to an elegant cabin adorned with art-deco details and French-polished cherry wood to begin your grand voyage. Or to your Grand Suite with its butler, marble-clad bathroom and free-flow champagne.

The Sights 

Over the next six days, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express promises to take you not just across Europe, but to transport you back in time. Experience the legendary Orient Express’ original route from Istanbul to Paris by taking in some of Europe’s oldest and most culturally rich cities. The train will travel through the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, the Serbian capital of Belgrade, Zagreb in Croatia, and Venice and Milan in Italy, before reaching France’s romantic City of Light.  After departing soulful Istanbul and before passing through the lush valleys of Europe, there also opportunities to delve into some culture with stops in Bucharest and Budapest.

The Taste

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has three immaculate fine-dining carriages that exude culinary sophistication. Adorned with delicate Lalique glass inlays in Cote d’Azur and black lacquer panels in L’Oriental, you dine elegantly and comfortably in the luxurious interior of polished wood, sumptuous upholstery and antique fixtures.

The set menus celebrate artisanal cuisine that includes local seasonal produce like lobsters from Brittany and salt marsh lamb from Mont St Michel. After dinner, relax with a drink in the bar carriage as its resident pianist tinkles the ivories.

Journey through Singapore

Fraser Residence Orchard’s 115 fully-furnished Gold-Standard serviced residences are the ideal starting point for some sightseeing and retail therapy in the Lion City before your railway adventure through Malaysia to Thailand.

Its 115 fully-furnished Gold-Standard serviced residences features high-end appliances and essential modern conveniences – right next to Orchard Boulevard and trendy malls like ION Orchard, Ngee Ann City and Paragon. Fraser Residence Orchard in a leafy niche is a welcome sanctuary in dynamic Singapore.

Onboard the Eastern & Oriental Express 

Eastern Orient Express

Step onto the Eastern & Oriental Express for an old world-style two-night train journey from Singapore to Bangkok – through Malaysia, then southern Thailand before terminating in the Thai capital. This slow train offers all the luxury with polished wood-panelled corridors, classic silken furnishings and a dedicated 24-hour steward service.

In the ornamental dining cars, sparkling crystal and silverware are arranged on white-linen coated tables, while each cabin sports plush furnishings and ornate marquetry bathed in the glow of a bedside lamp, with a gown and slippers thoughtfully laid out for you. 

The Sights

After rolling out of Singapore’s Woodlands station in the afternoon, the train’s iconic gold and green carriages slide past the lush, tropical southern Malaysian countryside. The serene paddy fields give way early the next morning to the bustling metropolis of Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, before the Eastern & Oriental Express arrives at the royal town of Kuala Kangsar in Perak state. While in Malaysia, there is an opportunity to visit a local village with a choice of excursions. 

The final morning is spent in the historic town of Kanchanaburi where the train crosses the cliff-hugging Wampo Viaduct and the River Kwai Bridge, both sections of Thailand’s famous Death Railway. There, the train stops for a guided cruise on the River Kwai and a visit to the War Museum. After that, the E&O sets off for Bangkok, with the journey ending in the late afternoon at the main railway station of Hua Lamphong. This distinctive Italian Neo-Renaissance building is in the heart of the Old City, and can be the start of your next old-world adventure.

The Taste

The afternoon departure from Singapore allows passengers of the Eastern & Oriental Express to settle in with an aperitif and dinner. The bar’s signature “cocktails on the rails’’ include a punchy Hills of Perlis and a sweet, warm Royal Nightcap. At Kuala Kangsar in north-west peninsular Malaysia, surrounded by paddy fields and palm trees, travellers can get a taste of life in rural Malaysia with a visit to a durian plantation, before continuing the journey northwards to Thailand.

Over the course of the three-day, two-night trip, the daily 4-course dinner features a seasonal table d’hôte menu that includes coffee, tea and petits fours. It is followed by a daily continental breakfast served in your cabin, and a daily three-course lunch and afternoon tea that comprises sandwiches, biscuits and pastries. 

Adapted from Fraser Cachet Issue #38 © Frasers Hospitality and SPH Magazines

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