With the readily available and relatively low-priced airfare options presented to travelers these days, other forms of travel could be forgiven for sliding into decline. Rail travel however seems to be something that will continue to endure no matter what thanks to the many benefits it offers.
The ability to gaze upon untamed wilderness mixed with secluded villages and vast landscapes from the comfort of a designated space aboard a roaring metal steed appeals to adventurers of every kind. Be it a modern, sleek form of the centuries-old method of transportation or a rusting carriage leaking a storied history, train travel is a popular and much-loved option when it comes to eating up the miles. Here are ten of the best journeys to be found in Asia.
10 Jungle Train, Malaysia
A 300-mile track weaving through the Malaysian jungle that was originally constructed by the British, this incredible journey rolls gently amongst some of the most incredible scenery in Asia.
As well as passengers, this vital service also transports dried seafood, vegetables, tea and more to the cities and villages along its route. The 12-hour overnight trek is other-worldly, taking in vast and imposing cliffs that crash below into surging rivers under the peaceful gaze of a star-riddled sky. Be sure to sample the lamb curry specialty on-board, it alone is worth the ticket price.
9 Eastern & Oriental Express, Singapore
A more expensive option for traveling the Orient, the stunning green carriages of the Eastern & Oriental Express ooze class and the interior only steps up the glamour. Feel like a royal as you take your spot within a private sleeping compartment boasting an en suite shower.
Running between Singapore’s Woodlands Train Checkpoint and Hua Lamphong in Bangkok, travelers can expect to see the boundless beauty of both countries as well as the wild and wonderful Malaysia in-between. Gourmet dining cars cater to every whim throughout and the open-air observation car gives passengers a chance to feel ensconced in the vibrant jungle surrounds.
8 Mumbai To Goa, India
There are plenty of options when it comes to traversing the stunning territory between Mumbai and Goa with the average travel time sitting around the 12-hour mark. Some prefer to take the overnight train and spend the journey resting before waking to find themselves having completed the trip during a peaceful sleep.
The only way to truly enjoy the stunning scenery, however, is via the day services along the Konkan Railway. There are some semi-high speed trains that will cover the distance in eight hours, but most will gently meander through the never-ending greenery and provide a positively perfect day of travel and relaxation.
7 Jiayuguan To Xi’an, China
Cozying up to the edge of the vast Gobi Desert, Jiayugan is home to the Jiayu Pass which is the most western point of the Great Wall of China. A fantastic destination in its own right, it is also the starting point of one of the greatest rail journey’s China has to offer.
Totaling 18-hours, the joyous jaunt to Xi-an grants riders views of unfathomably vast scenery that provides a true sense of the size of a remarkable country. Fly along the famed Silk Road while snapping pictures of snow-capped mountains that shimmer magically amidst unmatched sunsets that punctuate each passing day. Upon completion of this phenomenal travel leg, China will feel like an old friend that has welcomed you with open arms.
6 Ella To Kandy, Sri Lanka
Widely regarded as one of the most glorious train expeditions in the world, Ella to Kandy takes place over seven hours and the pure wonder never relents. Train travel in Sri Lanka is both affordable and comfortable, with this route representing the best value for time and money you are likely to find anywhere in the world.
Cast an amazed gaze across the vast tea plantations, soaring mountains, ancient bridges, elegant villages and wave at the smiling locals that are always willing to break up your journey with delicious track-side treats. Even those that don’t love train travel will have their mind changed by this unbelievable foray into the unknown.
5 Reunification Express, Vietnam
Groaning its way through unique villages, thick jungle, and typically grand Asian landscapes, the Reunification Express slowly finds its way along the entire length of gorgeous Vietnam. An integral cog in the country’s history, the route can be joined anywhere along Vietnam’s spine or traveled on for its entire 1100 miles of aging tracks.
Press your nose against the window as the South China Sea races along the horizon, keeping an eye out for the fisherman doing as their ancestors did for centuries before them. Feast on noodles with lime and chili in the dining cars and bring the rice paddies alongside the tracks into sharp focus with the strong black coffee always on offer. To discover the real Vietnam, at least one leg of the Reunification Express is a must.
4 The Gonō Railway, Japan
Once in the northerly regions of Japan, book a seat on the Gono Railway without delay. Running through splendid scenery showcasing wondrously white-tipped mountains and icy seas in just about every direction, it will be a journey never forgotten and often reminisced.
Designed with tourists in mind, the train's dramatic glass windows give a view of the country that cannot be obtained anywhere else. View it all from the comfort of your soft seats while tasting some of the regions best food without ever having to get up.
3 Jakarta To Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Depart the densely-packed streets of Indonesian capital Jakarta aboard a train bound for the traditional and culturally important city of Yogyakarta then sit back and relax because you are in for a delightful experience.
It is a challenge well worth attempting to keep up with the sheer number of traditional temples that fill the windows alongside magnificent mountains, vast volcanos and fantastic forests. There will also be plenty of local, delicious food offered along the way and it is best to accept everything so as not to miss out on a single delicacy that will leave the fussiest bellies satisfied.
2 Bangkok To Kanchanaburi, Thailand
A short, three-hour jaunt, the Bangkok to Kanchanaburi train transports passengers to an idyllic-looking town that harbors a heart-wrenching past. It sits extremely close to the ‘Death Railway’ that was constructed through forced labor by allied prisoners of war during World War Two, the ghosts of whom still linger in Kanchanaburi today.
This route traverses sections of the Death Railway, including the Bridge on the River Kwai, made famous by the 1957 film. It can be a harrowing experience to be in the area that such atrocities took place but it is a timely reminder of what this region of the world has endured and how far we have come.
1 Trans-Mongolian Railway, China
Reaching across the world like an inquisitive traveler yearning for lands unknown, the Trans-Mongolian Railway follows ancient routes that link China and Russia. Marking the beginning of an even longer journey aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway, this ingenious marvel of discovery still requires a commitment of approximately 30 hours to complete.
Beginning in Asia but finishing in another continent, this is perhaps the most majestic way to end an experience in the Orient before commencing a whole new adventure. Rail travel at its absolute best, the Trans-Mongolian Railway sits somewhere on most aspiring travelers wish-lists for the simple reason that it has stood the test of time as a wonder of our world.