Dazzling palaces and markets, magnificent temples set in lush jungles, serene lotus gardens and ancient cities adorned with towering pagodas spread out across vast plains. With expert guided tours and luxury five-star accommodation, the iconic Orient-Express offers the perfect way to discover the East. Their collection encircles the globe, with hotels, rail journeys and river adventures on six continents. From grand city landmarks to wilderness safaris, from Michelin-starred restaurants to canal cruises, Orient-Express sees travel as an opportunity for enrichment and spontaneity.
Authentic local experiences make travel more rewarding. They surprise. They inspire. They can challenge or entertain. Whatever they do, they keep us coming back for more. The exotic train journeys offered by Orient-Express have their own, unique character. Each is a vibrant part of its destination and the local culture. Specialising in one-of-a-kind train travel through many of Asia’s untouched regions, Orient-Express delights in the diverse – spanning land and water, adventure and relaxation, local individuality and iconic opulence.
In short, travelling via the most romantic railway journey in the world – one that has spanned more than a century – is the most exciting way to discover a new and unexpected world.
The Other Thailand and Myanmar
Travel by rail and river this summer to remote regions of Thailand and Myanmar and discover a slice of rural life beyond the tourist trail. In remote parts of Asia where few western travellers go, Orient-Express does not fear to tread. After all, the world’s most hard-to-access regions are among the most authentic and ripe for adventure, and discovering exciting new places is what their intrepid team enjoys most. Off-grid travel does not mean cutting comfort; in fact it’s quite the reverse when you go exploring aboard a luxury train or river cruiser.
The Eastern & Oriental Express recently introduced a collection of new journeys, Chronicles of South-East Asia, that see the train stopping at small stations off the main beat. Its Epic Thailand route heads north east from Bangkok out into the rural plains of Isaan, where it pulls to a halt at a tiny village. Guests visit rice fields in the company of a farmer who introduces his community and its way of life. It’s possible to take part in a traditional Thai ceremony and meet the region’s famous mudmee silk weavers.
Next stop are two Khmer-style temples where there are few foreign visitors to distract attention from the verdant setting and ancient stones carved with gods. It’s the chance to roam in peace and soak up the atmosphere of these Angkor Wat-style shrines that take you into another world. Your journey can then move on into an even more reclusive world. Fly to Myanmar (Burma) and spend languorous days scouring Yangon (old Rangoon) from an historic teak mansion in a garden dotted with lily ponds. The Governor’s Residence, once home to the official in charge of the shan states, a characterful base from which to visit tea houses and chat to the regulars over sips of the country’s oolong brew or to discover the wealth of religious sites that fan out from the mighty gold-spired Shwedagon.
Then it’s on to the Ayeyarwady River, where the Road To Mandalay cruiser is ready to set sail. This gentle glide past pagodas and riverside settlements where oxen lumber down to the water’s edge is the chance to access a distinctly different rhythm of life. Floating between the two great destinations of Mandalay and Bagan, into vast, open terrain dotted with riverside dwellings, takes you close up inside a land barely changed since Rudyard Kipling’s day.
Those keen to go somewhere truly off-piste could add on one of two new Myanmar extension trips – to Mrauk U (Little Bagan) or the Buddhist site of Golden Rock. But perhaps these should wait for a return visit – and a journey even deeper into the unknown.
Burma Captured on Canvas
Paintings by Burmese artists are emerging on the international art market, and winning prestigious competitions. But there’s no better place to view and buy their works than on the home turf of many – Yangon, already a major centre for visual arts in Southeast Asia.
“The art gallery scene is flourishing in Yangon,” says Gill Pattison, a New Zealander who manages one of the finest, River Gallery.
“The development is partly interest from abroad, as collectors and dealers hear whispers of this exciting new art market, and partly from local collectors who have become much more active in the past few years.”
A number of the galleries, most located in downtown Yangon, suburban Golden Valley and along Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, have been established by successful artists. Beikthano is owned by Tin Win, whose abstract canvases and more recent detailed, colorful portraits of Burma’s hill tribes have also been exhibited elsewhere in Asia, Australia and the United States. Min Wae Aung, – perhaps the country’s most famous painter – owns New Treasure Art with more than 50 international exhibitions to his credit. He is best known for his stylised depictions of Buddhist monks on striking gold backgrounds.
“Talented new artists are emerging all the time, and they are inspired by the success of some of their peers,” says Ms. Pattison, citing Mor Mor, a female artist, Khin Zaw Latt and Zaw Win Pen, who all scored in recent international competitions. This artistic flowering began in the early 1990s following economic liberalisation and an opening up to the outside world. Thavibu Gallery in Thailand, which specialises in Southeast Asian art, says that sales for Burmese works outpace those from Vietnam or Thailand. It notes: “The Burmese works may have an immediate, fresh appeal because they come from a country that has been isolated for a long time.”