Tag Archives: Asia luxury train

Silk Road Snapshot

22 Apr

The oasis of Crescent Lake at Dunhuang, China.

Spanning five countries – China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia – on two trains – the first class Shangri-La Express and the luxury Golden Eagle – the Silk Road is for many of our travelers the most adventurous and best-loved “journey of a lifetime.”ShLaExpr1955

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IRT traveler David Minnerly enjoying the Golden Eagle’s dining car. IRT Photo by Eleanor Hardy.

We spoke with Society of International Railway Travelers President Eleanor Hardy about her recollections from her 2013 Silk Road adventure.

The Shangri-La Express: “Hands-down the best train in China – but we do not consider this a luxury train! The food, service, and entire experience was considerably upgraded since the last time we’d experienced it. And there is no better way to see these out-of-the-way destinations.”

The Golden Eagle: “The Imperial Suites – two to a train – are worthy of their name. Staff is exceedingly accommodating, friendly, and some are bilingual.”

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One of two Imperial Suites on the Golden Eagle. Bonus: these spacious accommodations also include private English-speaking guide. Photo by Golden Eagle.

 

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Family picnics on the shores of Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy.

  • BEIJING: “The sprawling Summer Palace grounds are populated by friendly picnicking Beijingese families — large clusters of grownups surrounding one or two “Little Emperors” or “Empresses.” This is a major tourist attraction that still maintains a distinctly local flavor.”

    The Mogoa Thousand Buddha Complex. IRT Photo by Eleanor Hardy.

  • DUNHUANG: “The Magao Thousand Buddha Cave Complex is a must-see. The wildly colorful frescoes and massive statuary are visually stunning — and are important reminders of the vital role the Silk Road trade route played in spreading culture and religion in addition to fine cloth and spices.”
  • SAMARKAND: “You have to visit Registan Square at least twice – once by day and once again by night. The blues in the architecture here are magnificent, and the way the Square lights up at night is spectacular!”

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    IRT travelers in front of the “Genghis Hole” of Merv. IRT Photo by Eleanor Hardy.

  • MERV: “Unbelievably well-preserved evidence of 12th century warfare: huge holes in the sides of the castle where Genghis Khan directed his catapults. Close by, the house where the king’s daughters jumped to their deaths to escape the approaching horde.”

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    Textiles in the markets of Khiva. IRT Photo by Eleanor Hardy.

  • KHIVA: “Stunning madrasas, minarets, and bazaars. The markets here made for excellent shopping: richly embroidered textiles, colorful pottery, and ornate jewelry were plentiful.”
  • MOSCOW: “Tours of the Kremlin, Red Square, and St. Basil’s were thrilling – but we all agreed that our night at the Bolshoi Ballet was THE experience we would always remember from Moscow.”

2016 Dates: Sept. 19-Oct. 10 (Moscow-Beijing), Sept. 23-Oct. 13 (Beijing-Moscow)
2017 Dates: Sept. 22-Oct. 13 (Moscow-Beijing), Sept. 26-Oct. 16 (Beijing-Moscow)

Interested in joining one of our Silk Road departures? Space fills up early and quickly for this twice-a-year journey. Call us: (800) 478-4881 or (502) 897-1725. Email us: tourdesk@irtsociety.com Or vist our web site: http://www.irtsociety.com

Eastern & Oriental Express’s Rising New Star: Epic Thailand

3 Mar

Ulf Buchert, senior train manager of the Eastern & Oriental Express, visits with IRT's Eleanor Hardy (in dark blue) and other representatives from American tour operators. Behind Mrs. Hardy is Valerie Ottofaro, Director of Sales for Orient Express Trains & Cruises. Across from Mrs. Hardy is Elizabeth Calhoun of Orient Express.

It’s hard to contain my excitement: the gorgeous Eastern & Oriental Express will be my home for six nights. I’m on its first Epic Thailand itinerary—a 7-day escorted tour to jungles, tiny villages and temple-studded cities—and I am thrilled to be on board. Hualamphong station in Bangkok, Thailand, buzzed with activity as we boarded at about 3 p.m. on Feb. 20. A troop of young musicians and dancers dressed in bright yellow and red led us on board.

But now all is quiet, and our train, readied for departure, is a haven of peace and beauty. I open my cabin door and am amazed:

My state cabin on the Eastern & Oriental Express was roomy and comfortable with plenty of storage. All photos by Eleanor Hardy for IRT

Spacious and cool, my state compartment contains a long sofa, upholstered chair and velvet chair and matching ottoman. The sofa and upholstered chair make up into comfy twin-sized beds at night. In the middle is a small table and lovely lamp. Along the two large picture windows is a long, folding table. On it is an orchid-filled silver vase and a light green Celadon porcelain dish full of fresh fruit.

“Welcome on board, Madame Hardy!” says my steward.

I admire the details:  silk curtains, embroidered valance, marquetry in light blond and dark wood, whose border around the top of the room picks up the theme of a medallion on the wall: lotus blossoms and jungle vines. It’s a light, fresh look of the orient.

I admire the ensuite bathroom: mahogany seat, granite-topped sink, mirror,  and cabinet with four shelves; Bulgari shower gel, shampoo and soap; large fluffy white towels with E&O logo. The foot-wide closet with padded hangers has two shelves at the bottom. Another cupboard has a safe and two shelves, plus two brass luggage racks.

The fabric on the sofa and upholstered chair is a rich combination of rose and green, coordinating beautifully with the rose velvet. And the lamps and light fixtures pick up those colors, not only in my cabin but throughout the train. They are lovely.

Despite my excitement, I’m determined to unpack. I stack shirts on one brass shelf, pants on another. I hang dresses in the closet and cram my underwear in a cupboard which also contains a safe. My steward whisks my suitcase away. (I can have it back whenever I want, he promises.) In this little home away from home, there is a place for everything. Even the ottoman opens for storage. And hooray! There are two great plugs for recharging, complete with converters to match my equipment.

This tray arrived daily about 5 p.m., always decorated with an orchid.

Soon, the train is rolling out of Bangkok, and it’s tea time. My steward arrives with a lovely tray: a crisp linen cloth is laid with a silver tea set, decorated with a ginko leaf pattern. The porcelain cups and plates are pale green, and the little linen napkin sports the E&O logo. A basket of traditional Thai sweets tempts. Tucked into the sweets: a bright fuchsia orchid blossom .

“This train,” I think as we edge out of Bangkok, “well deserves to be in our pantheon of the World’s Top 25 Trains.”  But, at this point, little do I know the main reason why.

Here is the link to our photo album. https://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=39059&id=146283798751515

If you have been on the train or to Thailand, let us know about your favorite experiences.

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