These days, most of us are in a hectic rush to make it to our destinations, so much so that we forget that the actual process of traveling can be just as stunning and rewarding as the landing place. No longer is train travel merely a means to an end - it is, in and of itself, a picturesque, relaxing adventure.
There’s something nostalgic about trekking chugging down the countryside on a steam train, or bulleting from city to city onboard hyperspeed electrics, nowhere more so that in Asia. So, without further ado, let’s hop on board and check of some of the continent’s more impressive train journeys.
10 Tokaido Shinkansen line - Tokyo to Kyoto (Japan)
All aboard! Let’s kick things off in a nation who prides itself on their train travel unlike any other - the technologically-advanced, culturally-unique, anime-centric nation of Japan. As an undisputed icon of the nation, Mount Fuji finds itself slapped on endless postcards, welcoming tourists from all corners of the globe who want to catch a glimpse of the active volcano.
One of the best ways to take in its beauty is onboard the 270km/h+ trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, which link the bustling cities of Tokyo and Kyoto in the Shizuoka Prefecture.
9 Kandy to Ella (Sri Lanka)
If you’ve ever seen an Insta snap of someone hanging out the side of the moving train carriage while looking over lush greenery, odds are that it was on board the train from Kandy to Ella in Sri Lanka.
From start to finish, the stunning journey takes around seven hours, passing through picturesque tea plantations and endless, impressive hilly landscapes along the way. As a very cheap nation to travel to in general, especially compared to the aforementioned Japan, it should come as no surprise that this Sri Lankan journey costs pennies on the dollar.
8 The Trans-Mongolian Railway (China, Mongolia)
Just because the Trans-Mongolian Railway shares its opening track portion with the much longer, more infamous Trans-Siberian train route, that doesn’t mean that it’s a walk in the park by any means. After departing from Beijing in the morning, it’ll take travelers close to 30 hours to reach Ulaanbaatar the following afternoon, after crossing the often-painstaking Chinese/Mongolian border.
Logistics aside, the views are spectacular - as the train clacks through the Chinese countryside and then through the vast Gobi Desert, the vistas on offer are second to none. So make sure the camera’s charged!
7 The Trans-Siberian Railway (Mongolia, Russia)
After reaching Ulaanbaatar on the Trans-Mongolian Railway, if your thirst for open plains and train travel is yet to be quenched, fear not, because the undisputed longest railway line in the world awaits. To get to Moscow in the far west of Russia, expect to be on board for five days or thereabouts.
As you can imagine, the landscapes change rapidly across the almost week-long, cross-country journey, skirting the southern shore of Lake Baikal and passing through Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg, with plenty more to gawk at in awe along the way.
6 Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (Singapore, Malaysia)
Over in the dazzling city-state of Singapore, rail enthusiasts can rejoice en route to Malaysia's impressive capital city, the one and only Kuala Lumpur. The journey between cities is a fairly cheap one, and is touted as one the best way to travel between the two locales - however, you might need to switch trains halfway through.
For those looking to continue further north, tracks are laid between KL and Butterworth, which is the window to the popular island of Penang. Best of all, stunning vistas along the way are abundant.
5 The Jungle Train (Malaysia)
Chugging along British-laid tracks on some through the most beautiful landscapes throughout the continent, the 300 or so mile journey through the Malaysian jungle is as impressive as any in the region. All in all, it’s about 12 hours on board from start to finish, usually venturing though the jungle from dusk until dawn.
Aside from endless scenes of shimmering rivers and dramatic cliffs that will have you whipping out your camera time and time again, the train also offers some top-quality local cuisine, specifically the highly-regarded lamb curry dish.
4 MUMBAI TO GOA (INDIA)
As far as diverse Asian nations go, it’s hard to bypass India as the frontrunner. Its people use trains day in, day out go get from A to B, often overloading the carriages in a comedic fashion.
One of the country’s most beloved routes is the one from Mumbai, the nation’s largest city, to Goa, the beachside locale further south. While there are a number of options to make the trek, the roughly 12-hour train trip on the Konkan Railway is widely regarded as the most beautiful, and it’s not hard to see why.
3 JAKARTA TO YOGYAKARTA (INDONESIA)
As you speed past dramatic volcanic landscapes, under towering mountains, and through lush, colorful forests, you’ll quickly come to terms with the fact that the train journey from the Indonesian capital to the Javan city of Yogyakarta is one of the most illustrious across the entire continent.
Aside from the spectacular vistas, travelers are also blessed with the opportunity to chow down on a handful of local delicacies along the way. Great views, great food, and all for pennies on the dollar - sounds like a perfect combination for any of us.
2 THE GONŌ RAILWAY (JAPAN)
For the next stop on this stunning railway adventure, were heading back to where we started - Japan. The Gono railway, which skips across the northern regions of the country, linking Higashi-Noshiro Station in Akita Prefecture with Kawabe Station in Aomori Prefecture, was actually partially designed as a tourist attraction - they know that the snow-capped mountains and glistening waters would be a hit for tourists and train enthusiasts, so they built the carriages with large, dramatic glass windows.
After taking in the views, make sure to try some of the delectable local cuisines on board!
1 Eastern & Oriental Express (China)
As the sister service to the world-famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (AKA simply, ‘Orient Express), it should come as no surprise to see China’s luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express make an appearance on this list. With an interior mirroring the Parisian restaurant salon of the Orient, this journey combines impeccable service inside with stunning views outside.
Unfortunately, a dream rail journey like this doesn’t come cheap - for the three-night tour, which includes an array of tantalizing foods and a bed fit for a queen, the check will tally up to well over $2,000 USD.