INDIA'S answer the Oriental Express is taking to the tracks with a fresh image and a new itinerary from next week, steaming beyond the deserts of Rajasthan into Gujarat. Known for years as the 'Palace on Wheels', the luxury train service has been re-named The Royal Orient as it switches to broad-gauge track. The train is also under new management. Gujarat Tourism is taking over from Rajasthan Tourism to run the service in collaboration with Indian Railways. Though not steeped in intrigue like its European cousin, which inspired an Agatha Christie novel, The Royal Orient is nevertheless a journey into a world of legend and fantasy. The state carriages and saloons were once the exclusive domain of former maharajas and India's best-equipped train even boasts its own postmark. This fantasy begins with a red-carpet welcome at Delhi Cantonment Station as guests embark at 2.30 pm sharp for a seven-day journey into a region of India steeped in history. 'The idea is to travel by night and sight-see by day,' said a spokesman for The Royal Orient. So, on the first morning, the train, which can accommodate just 104 guests in 52 cabins, steams into Udaipur, the city of lakes, for a guided tour of the enchanting marble palaces of Jag Mandir and Jag Niwas, which appear to float in the middle of Lake Pichola and is today the Lake Palace Hotel. On the second day, The Royal Orient reaches Palitana in Gujarat, the first stage of the new itinerary where the hills are covered with 863 Jain temples dating back almost 1,000 years. Next it is on to Somnath, famous for its temple built by Soma, the Moon God, to mark the creation of the universe, before continuing onwards to the metropolis of Ahmedabad, with its walled city of dazzlingly-colourful stores. Midway through the itinerary, the train takes a diversion to the ethnic beach resort of Mandvi before heading back north to Delhi via Sasangir, the 'pink city' of Jaipur and the magnificent hill fort of Amber. Equipped like a five-star hotel, there are 13 saloons aboard The Royal Orient with video screens in all of them and dining cars offering a choice between European and Indian cuisine. The lounge car has a bar, smoking room and library where passengers can relax. The package for double occupancy costs from US$150-$200 a day, depending on the season. This includes the cabin and meals and all sightseeing and special events. Further details from The Royal Orient, Bikaner House, Pandara Road, New Delhi (Tel: 381884. Fax: 011-382823).