Passage through India
It was recently announced that the luxury Maharajas' Express (above) would begin service on an eight-day rail journey called the Royal Sojourn. The route begins and ends in Delhi, and travels through Agra, Kota and Jaipur, with side trips including a boat cruise on the Chambal River and a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park. The Maharajas' Express, which began operating last year, has 20 deluxe cabins, 18 junior suites, four suites and the single-carriage Grand Presidential Suite. All come with panoramic windows, Wi-fi, widescreen televisions and DVD players. Passengers travelling in the suites also get their own bathtub plus a personal chauffeur and guide at every stopover. There are two 'fine dining' restaurants on board. The Royal Sojourn is scheduled to depart on October 22, November 19, December 17 and throughout spring and winter next year. Prices start from US$6,760 per person in a twin or double deluxe cabin, and include all meals, selected wines, beers and spirits, butler service and guided excursions, inclusive of entrance fees and transport and porterage at stations. For further details and reservations, visit www.maharajasexpressindia.com.
On the map
Blogger Mark Smith, better known to trainspotters as The Man in Seat Sixty-One, has created a useful interactive map for travellers planning rail journeys in Southeast Asia. Also featuring connecting bus and ferry routes, the map shows all the major rail lines from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi, Mandalay and beyond and provides up-to-date, one-click details about routes and stations. If you are planning to travel from Singapore, be sure to check his latest information on how to get to and navigate the Woodlands Train Checkpoint, which replaced the lovely art deco-style Tanjong Pagar station, which was shut down a few weeks ago. You can find the map at www.seat61.com/news.htm.
The final Peace
A year after it reopened, following an extensive three-year refurbishment, the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai (below) is finally complete. The 1929 property's renaissance was sealed with the unveiling of nine 'nations' suites. These were features of the original occupant, the famed Cathay Hotel, and are the English, Chinese, Japanese, American, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Indian suites. The English suite, for example, has oak-panelled walls, stone and brick fireplaces and moulded plaster ceilings that 'suggest the solid grandeur of the Victorian Age of England' while the Indian suite promises the 'opulence, high colour and fantasy for which the hotel is [or at least was] renowned'. For the rest of the year, the hotel is offering a second night free for bookings on all 39 of its suites, with rates starting from 7,000 yuan (HK$8,400) per night. To make a reservation, go to www.fairmont.com/peacehotel and click through 'Packages/Suites at the Peace'.
Deal of the week
Cathay Pacific Holidays has launched a cheap package to the Japanese city of Osaka that includes two nights at the mid-range Best Western Hotel for HK$3,199. Better value is the Ritz-Carlton Osaka (above; www.ritzcarlton.com), where you can stay for two nights for HK$4,869. This hotel tops the TripAdvisor rankings for Osaka hotels. It is the highest-rated hotel in the 2011 Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe Michelin guide, which has also given two of its restaurants a Michelin star. Extra nights here are available for HK$1,140 and flight tickets can be extended for up to seven days, which is worth doing if you want to explore the nearby cities of Kyoto and Nara. The prices - quoted per person, twin share - include economy-class flights with Cathay Pacific and travel insurance, and will be available until the end of October, but with blackout dates for September 17-18 and 23-24, and October 8-9 for the Ritz-Carlton. For reservations, visit www.cxholidays.com or call 2747 4336, quoting Tour Reference CP1OSA01HKG.