Nostalgic train experiences are popping up across Southeast Asia.
“These days, people want to move at a more relaxed pace, and trains are perfect for slower journeys,” says Dan Fraser, founder of Smiling Albino, a travel outfitter based in Bangkok. That’s particularly true in Thailand, where the company recently launched a rail-themed tour of the country’s Pak Chong district, the gateway to Khao Yai National Park, about two hours northeast of Bangkok. Highlights include a guided tour of historic Khlong Phai Railway Station and its vintage machinery, a picturesque ride on a local commuter train, and a visit to a night market to snack on mango sticky rice and taro-stuffed Chinese buns.
The excursion should pair perfectly with a stay at the InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, which opened in September. “The resort pays homage to the golden age of King Rama V, in the early 20th century, when Khao Yai was a gateway for railroad travel to northeastern Thailand,” says celebrated designer Bill Bensley, who upcycled old train carriages to create the resort’s 19 suites, spa, and teahouse. An additional 45 guest rooms will evoke a first-class train voyage with decorative flourishes such as station signage and special luggage tags. “It’s a time warp into a bygone era filled with train memorabilia that I’ve collected myself over the past several years,” Bensley adds.
In Vietnam, a new 12-person train carriage called the Vietage offers luxurious round-trips between Da Nang Railway Station, near Hoi An, and the beach town of Quy Nhon. At six hours each way, Fraser says, “travelers have the time to really savor the beauty of central Vietnam.” A three-course meal, cocktails, wine, and Wi-Fi are all included, as are treatments from an onboard massage therapist. While guests can do the out-and-back in a single day, breaking up the trip with a night at the beachside Anantara Quy Nhon Villas is more in keeping with the Vietage’s slow-travel vibe.
A version of this story first appeared in the October 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Romance on the Rails."
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