January 07 2010
If Phuket is old hat and Chiang Mai feels a tad too familiar, it might be time to consider exploring Thailand’s northeast. Just in time comes Eastern & Orient Express Asian Explorer (www.orient-express.com; from $1,950 per person), which in February inaugurates a knockout four-day rail itinerary up to and across the Thai-Laotian border into Vientiane, Laos’s capital.
The train – splendidly appointed in tropical woods and bespoke velvets and silks, as is E&O’s custom – meanders through the pristine jungles and stepped hills of the Khao Yai valley (pictured), lighting at some of Southeast Asia’s most important (but largely unexplored) Khmer monuments.
The highlights: traversing the Mekong across the Friendship Bridge – a first for a luxury passenger train line since the bridge’s construction in 1994 – and exploring the magnificent colonial architecture of Vientiane. The train’s limited capacity – just 66 air-conditioned cabins, along with dining cars and two observation carriages – enhances the ride.