Even the most jaded traveller will feel a shiver of excitement at the sight of the racing green Eastern and Oriental Express ready to depart from Bangkok's chaotic Hualamphong station. The Orient Express may be more famous, but its exotic sister service gives it a run for its money in the romance-on-the-rails stakes. Since 1993 the train has been weaving a leisurely course through Thailand and Malaysia along the 1,262-mile journey between Bangkok and Singapore.
This is resolutely old school, harking back to the good old days of rail travel - think Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express. There are, of course, far cheaper ways to travel between these two Asian cities, but for passengers on the E&O that's not really the point.
From the bustle of Bangkok, the train threads through a varied landscape on its route to Singapore. The temples and coconut plantations of the slender Thai peninsula give way to tropical rainforest, traditional Malay kampongs (wooden houses on stilts) and the rubber plantations of Malaysia, skirting the edge of Bukit Merah Lake to arrive in the centre of gleaming, steamy Singapore. There are several departures a month, and it's a three-night itinerary going south, or two nights in the other direction.
There are 66 air-conditioned compartments: 36 Pullmans, 28 (larger) State compartments and two Presidential Suites. All are decorated with Thai and Malaysian marquetry, with upholstered seats and wide windows. Every evening your steward will transform your carriage, with starched linen sheets and orchids by your bed. How well you sleep depends on how you cope with the clackety-clack of the train's progress and the odd shuddering stop.
You won't be swinging any cats, but it's all there - loo, basin, shower - decked out in apple-green mosaic tiles and lots of chrome, with delicious-smelling Bulgari green tea toiletries.
The food & drink
Being a passenger on the E&O means your day is measured by the next snack - the gentle rap of your steward at the door with yet another cup of tea is never far away. There are two dining cars, a bar (with a dance performance before dinner) and a saloon. Guests are encouraged to dress up for dinner. The food is modern French with an Oriental-style option.
Middle-aged with a smattering of younger couples and families.
There are two scheduled off-train activities. First stop is Kanchanaburi and the bridge on the River Kwai, with a rafting trip and a visit to the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. This moving museum is dedicated to the story of the line's construction between 1942 and 1945, when an estimated 130,000 people, mainly Allied prisoners of war and forced Asian workers, died at the hands of the Japanese. The second is Butterworth, with a ferry to Georgetown on Penang Island, off Malaysia. It's possible to leave the train for longer periods and rejoin it later.
The train is unsuitable for wheelchairs. An able-bodied passenger should accompany guests with limited mobility. No pets.
The trip on the Bangkok-to-Singapore journey starts at £990 per person in a Pullman cabin and £1,470 in a State cabin, based on two sharing. This includesmeals and excursions, but excludes drinks.
Orient Express (0845-077 2222; orient-express.com).
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