Exploring Asia: Rail Cars and Ryokans

Hornbill Festival
The annual Hornbill Festival in Nagaland

As one of the largest and most culturally diverse destinations on the planet, Asia continues to expand its travel and hospitality industries, offering a wide range of opportunities to travelers who are looking for unique experiences. 

New Luxury Rail Trips to Asia From Zegrahm Expeditions 

Zegrahm Expeditions is expanding its options for travelers looking to explore Asia in the coming months. Among three new rail itineraries scheduled for 2016-2017 is the “India by Rail with the Hornbill Festival” itinerary, taking place November 20 – December 4, 2017.

Guests will board the luxury train Palace On Wheels for a 15 day journey making stops to explore local life, royal cities, national parks, art, and attend the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland

Palace on Wheels has ensuite cabins with large picture windows, in-cabin air and heat control and music systems. Onboard amenities include two dining cars, fully stocked bar, a lounge, as well as cabin attendants available 24-hours a day. Travelers will be led by Dr. Shirley Campbell, social anthropologist and India enthusiast. 

Beginning with an overnight stay at the Taj Palace Hotel on November 20, the itinerary begins the next afternoon after an orientation tour through India Gate in New Delhi. Once on board the Palace on Wheels, guests will head to The “Pink City” of Jaipur. The tour begins at Hawa Mahal, or “Palace of the Winds”, a five-story, pink sandstone building decorated with intricately carved windows and balconies. Stops will include a visit to Amber Fort, Jantar Mantar Observatory, home of the world’s largest sundial, and later, City Palace, with decorative state rooms, temples and courtyards. 

The next stop is Sawai Madhopur and Ranthambore National Park, a wildlife sanctuary with a large tiger population. Visitors have the opportunity to go on safari to search for the big cats, as well as wild boars, sambar and leopards. Then, it’s on to Udaipur for a day in the City Palace complex, and Jasiamer, an ancient fort comprising sacred Jain temples and havelis (mansions).

Guests will then visit Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a haven for migratory birds, and after a morning among the wildlife, the tour will head to the Taj Mahal, where there will be time for exploration and photography before visiting the Red Fort of Agra.

On November 29, travelers will enjoy a final meal on board Palace on Wheels before taking a rickshaw ride through Old Delhi. After an overnight at the Taj Palace Hotel, the group will board a flight to Dimapur and transfer to their luxury tents in Kohima Camp.

On December 1 and 2, guests will explore India’s remote Nagaland, a narrow strip of mountainous land full of flora and fauna. Visitors will see the native peoples’ elaborate costumes and ritualistic headdresses decorated with tiger tusks, bear skins and hornbill feathers. The week-long Hornbill Festival will showcase Naga dance, music, costumes, art, ethnic foods, and handicrafts. Other opportunities include visits to traditional huts, interacting with the locals, and the possibility of taking part in one of the contests of strength and agility.

After the festivities have ended, guests fly back to Delhi and check into the JW Marriot in preparation for a return flight back to the United States

Good to know: Most flights will be departing in the late evening of December 4. Travelers booking the “India by Rail with the Hornbill Festival” itinerary will need to purchase their own home city/Delhi and Delhi/home city airfare. 

Rates for the “India by Rail with the Hornbill Festival” are $19,980 per person, double occupancy and $28,960 per person, single occupancy. 

Before you go: Temperatures will range from 40 – 70 degrees, so pack appropriately. 

Agents interested in booking this trip should visit www.zegrahm.com or call 1-800-628-8747. 

Women Indian Market

Belmond Partners With Restaurateur Luke Mangan On Eastern & Oriental Express Itineraries 

Belmond has joined forces with Australian chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan to create a new Asia itinerary on board the Eastern & Oriental Express train traveling from Singapore to Bangkok. The first hosted journey will take place October 28, 2016.

In partnership with Eastern & Oriental Express’ Executive Chef Yannis Martineau, Luke Mangan and his team will serve their signature contemporary cuisine. In addition to the on board menu, guests will also be invited to join Mangan for a morning tour of the exotic food market before boarding the train for the three day, two night itinerary traveling through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand

Once travelers board the train, Mangan will meet with guests and hold a signing of his book ‘Salt Grill, Fine Dining for the whole family’. He will later be serving specially designed menus from the train’s galley kitchens to guests in the dining cars on day two of the journey. 

Eastern & Oriental Express carries only 82 guests, with ensuite air-conditioned cabins and two dining cars, a bar car and outdoor observation car to take in the landscapes of Southeast Asia.  

Prices start from US$2,820 / £1,861 per person for the 3 day/2 night journey based on two people sharing a Pullman cabin and meals. 

Visit www.belmond.com 

New Developments For Japan’s Ryokan Collection

In Japan, The Ryokan Collection launched three new initiatives in December 2015 in an effort to further promote a spirit of “omotenashi”, or Japanese hospitality. The initiatives include a loyalty program, new premium items, and a new experiential program. 

With the loyalty program guests can earn a one-night complimentary stay after 10 stays at three or more member properties during a two year period. Extended privileges include discounts on purchases made with participating partners such as saké breweries and art galleries. 

New premium items throughout The Ryokan Collection properties include artifacts and specially curated items like lacquerware, pottery and dining utensils created by local artisans. Other new amenities include yukuta (a casual Japanese garment similar to the kimono) and locally blended/brewed saké. Guests also have the opportunity to meet the craftsperson to learn their personal story. 

The Ryokan Collection’s experiential program is designed to give guests VIP privileges such as access to private art galleries, one-on-one appointments with local artists, guided tours of local saké breweries and sample Japanese kaiseki, or “haute” dining, in a  private ryokan, ryotei, or inside a major temple. For special dining experiences, the food is served in handcrafted wares made by local ceramic artists or studio potters. 

In addition to the new initiatives, The Ryokan Collection has also partnered with H.I.S. Co. and R Project to create “Zenses: Japan Ultimate Experience”, a new DMC brand aimed at providing exclusive services in Japan to international luxury guests.

The new brand was also created in an effort to highlight Japan’s cultural heritage and revive Japanese culturally-related businesses and regional economies.

“Zenses: Japan Ultimate Experience” will include services such as providing specially selected guides with a specific area of expertise, luxury transportation, private admission and access to famous and specialized temples shrines and gardens, as well as galleries and other events. The brand will also arrange private meetings with high-profile artists and craftsmen. 

Moving forward, more amenities will be added for top-tier, individual foreign travelers, travel agencies and travel consultants specializing in luxury consumers.

All of these new developments come on the heels of The Ryokan Collection’s induction of six new properties in 2015; Nakanobo Zuien and Yoshimatsu Hakone, Hakone Suishoen, Atami Fufu, Atami Sekaie and Atami Kaihourou

Visit www.ryokancollection.com 

Ankgor Anantara
Anantara Angkor organizes breakfasts for guests at the Ankgor Archeological Park

Adventurous Offerings From Angkor Anantara Resort & Spa 

Lastly, the Angkor Anantara Resort & Spa in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a must see for visitors to Southeast Asia, especially for ambitious travelers looking to venture out and explore. The hotel can arrange a tour for guests at daybreak to enjoy breakfast among the ancient temples. In some of these, the only other people around are fruit and water vendors getting ready for the day. The hotel also arranges local market tours with its resident “Streetwise Guru”, picnic lunches at Angkor Thom (a local temple), and visits to the Angkor Archaeological Park UNESCO World Heritage Site of ancient Khmer ruins and Angkor Wat.

The boutique resort offers a range of accommodations styles, including Premium Deluxe Rooms with balconies overlooking the property’s Khmer inspired pool. The resort’s spacious Anantara Suites includes a dining area and separate lounge areas, while the Sothea Suites situated on the ground floor have private gardens, upper level Sothea Suites afford a large balcony, and each have a library which can be converted into a lounge, dining or meeting room. Suites also have private spa rooms with two treatment beds and a whirlpool Jacuzzi bath. 

There are three dining options at Angkor Anantara. Local produce and classic Khmer dishes are served with a contemporary twist at The Sothea, which also hosts weekly dance and musical performance to accompany meals. For an à la carte style breakfast, The Gallery offers international dishes poolside or on the al fresco terrace, while the property’s Dining by Design program lets visitors design their own menu with a personal chef. 

Visit www.angkor.anantara.com