‘Murder on the Orient Express’

Deb Eustice headed to Asia with two of our preferred partners, Belmond and Mandarin Oriental.

Q: You overnighted on the Eastern & Oriental Express luxury train from Singapore to Bangkok experiencing a panoramic view of the mystical landscapes of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand along the way.

Growing up watching my sister read every Agatha Christie novel, the only title that appealed to me was “Murder on the Orient Express.” Not that I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the super sleuth Herclue Poriot, but my fascination with the grandeur and glamour of the train has always been on my bucket list. Even though I was not traveling from London to Venice, experiencing the Eastern & Oriental Express from Singapore to Bangkok has definitely ticked that box!

It was an unforgettable adventure. The majesty and splendor of the Eastern & Oriental Express with its comfortable and elegant cabins, delicious cuisine and superb service, combined with the adventure of a journey through the heart of Asia, is a truly unique way to experience the full wonder of this remarkable region.

From the moment you arrive at the iconic Raffles Hotel to check-in until the time you disembark in Bangkok you are treated like royalty. As soon as you board and settle into your well appointed cabin you are met by your Cabin Steward who is on call 24/7. Your steward takes your afternoon tea and breakfast order, both served in your cabin. Afternoon tea is a selection of delicate sandwiches and pastries with your choice of tea or coffee and, in my case, Coke Zero (which the cabin steward automatically remembers). Breakfast is a choice of cereal, fresh fruit, yoghurt and warm fresh Danish pastries – truly delightful. You are advised of your lunch and dining times which are fine dining experiences with superb menus, two choices for entrée and mains served with silver and crystal and accompanying wines.

During the day after your morning tour excursion you can relax in your cabin enjoying Malaysian & Thai scenery along the way or head to the Observation car to soak up the atmosphere and as the train speeds along with the wind in your hair. Wave to children who often wait by the side of the railroad waiting to see the train speed past.

There is a reading and games carriage and you can even have leg or foot massage by the onboard therapist. Then it is time to change into your elegant resort wear and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail in the Saloon car. After dinner you can relax back in the Saloon car and enjoy an after dinner liqueur whilst you are entertained by the resident pianist or a Thai dancing performance. Upon retiring to your cabin, your cabin steward has transformed your couch into a cosy bed and supplied you with the itinerary for your next day’s adventure.

I must say that showering whilst the train is moving was admittedly a challenge! One of my companions mentioned that taking a shower was like showering on horseback. I found it to be more like showering on a bucking bronco! The experience was quite amusing with everyone the next morning comparing our showering adventures. But the overall experience was unforgettable and truly exquisite.

Q: Disembarking for a few hours, tell us about your guided tour of Kuala Kangsar.

Our guided tour of Kuala Kangsar was very enjoyable and interesting. Kuala Kangsa is the well preserved Royal Town renowned for its old palaces, grand mosque and museums – a very beautiful town.

Our visit started with the Ubudiah Mosque completed in 1917 which houses a magnificent crystal chandelier. Then we checked out the Bamboo Palace which was built in 1926 and constructed entirely without nails, the walls were completed from woven bamboo and still stands strong today.
For me the highlight was the Sultan Azian Shah Gallery, a restored former palace housing mementoes, family photographs, trophies, state regalia and personal belongings including an amazing vintage Rolls Royce collection, old Louis Vuitton luggage and trunks that travelled the world, jewels, crowns, sporting equipment even a collection of sun glasses. I could have spent hours and hours wandering around the rooms; however, it was easy to head back to the train in time for our fine dining lunch!

Q: Mandarin Oriental, Singapore is a hotel that has been designed to the height of modern luxury with sensational views over the city, harbour and ocean. Were your expectations exceeded during your stay?

Definitely! Stunning hotel classed as an “urban retreat” in Marina Bay. Very well appointed rooms, contemporary style with a touch of Asia. Excellent dining options and a notably never-ending breakfast buffet served in Melt Café. The outdoor lounge bar adjacent to its Dolce Vita Italian restaurant is an excellent way to relax after a day of shopping. Access to Marina Square and Suntech Shopping Malls via indoor walkways to avoid the heat of the day or take a quick cab ride to busy Orchard Road to experience local markets and designer shopping.
The hotel is versatile, ideal for the leisure or business traveller.

Q: A haven of calm on the banks of the river, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is a truly remarkable five star hotel. Timeless yet contemporary, classic yet cutting-egde, the unique blend of luxury and comfort make this hotel the ultimate Bangkok address. Tell us more about this special hotel and its dining options.

Sadly our time at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok was only about 16 hours but I was lucky enough to have stayed at the hotel previously and was very much looking forward to my return. The hotel is one of my favourites in the city – an iconic Bangkok hotel which has been operating for 130 years and has been home to some of the world’s most famous people. Rooms are spacious and extremely well appointed, service impeccable, the ambience and the feel of the hotel is welcoming and elegant.

Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River it is the ideal location for Bangkok. The weather seems to be a couple of degrees cooler by the river, so it’s an ideal location to dine for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Riverside Terrace, enjoy some amazing food from all around the world while watching the watercraft travelling up and down the river which is still a working river. You can take the complimentary Mandarin Oriental boat across the river to where their gym is located or down to the Skyrail station or to neighbouring hotels also located on the river.

Other dining options include Le Normandie for French fine dining, China House, Sala Rim Naam for traditional Thai food, Lord Jims for seafood, Authors Lounge for afternoon tea, The Verandah for casual dining or the Bamboo Bar for cocktails and jazz.

Q: Then you were off to Koh Samui, Thailand! Nestled between verdant tropical gardens and the dazzling sea, Belmond Napasai is a paradise on the north coast. A truly serene Koh Samui beach resort, Belmond Napasai is a secluded hideaway that’s perfect for an island escape. Describe this little slice of heaven.

Belmond Napasai is the perfect location if you are looking for villa accommodation with a gorgeous beach and stunning infinity pool. Located approximately 30 minutes from the airport for ease of transfers, 20 minutes to the town of Nathan for a spot of shopping and 20 minutes to Fishermans Village for a vast culinary array of local restaurants on the sands of the beach.

Villas are very spacious and very well appointed, grounds of the resort are beautifully maintained. Staff extremely friendly and helpful. The restaurant options are La Thai and Beach Restaurant which both offer one of the most comprehensive menus and delicious food that I have been lucky enough to enjoy at a resort hotel.

What a divine hotel with a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

Q: What a way to spend the day – kayaking, sightseeing, hiking and snorkeling during a private day trip to Angthong National Marine Park. Which activity was your favorite?

We were lucky to experience a day trip to the Angthong National Marine Park operated by 100 Degrees East. 100 Degrees East offer private boat charters and their crew were so professional and knowledgeable with safety and care of their travelers their highest priority. Highlights for me revolved around the water activities and swimming in the crystal clear sea of the marine park and the private beach coves with white sands. Personally frequented Koh Samui on many previous occasions I was not aware that such beauty existed only 40 – 60 minutes off the coast. I can highly recommend the services of 100 Degrees East for a visit to this truly beautiful area of Thailand.

Q: How did you spend your free time at Belmond Napasai?

After a sumptuous breakfast, I took advantage of the extensive spa services, exercising off the delicious food in the well equipped resort gym, lazing by the infinity pool and taking a quick visit for some local shopping at Nathan.

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