Monday, 25 October 2010

Singapore to Scotland

I like trains.

There, I'm honest about it. I enjoy travelling by train. I'm quite rational about it as well, and since puberty I've never had an urge to hang about on railway platforms photographing trains.

And the reason I like trains is that they're interesting. Unlike flying which is only interesting when something goes wrong, train travel is interesting, be it because you get to look into other people's back yards or because the the often wonderful views of the country side - and sometimes magical - I remember reading papers for a meeting on a suburban train somewhere near Chalfont, and looking up when we stopped to find we were sitting in a snow spotted wood.

Not only that but other people's trains have that exoticism that travel brings them - like the brightly painted bar cars on Spanish trains, or signs on old French trains warning you not to lean out of the window with that silhouette of the woman with the scarf - they encapsulate other cultures in a full-on fully-leaded manner.

And they are simply more sociable than planes. thing about train travel seems to make people open up in a way they often don't on other modes of transport.

And as such I've always been a sucker for stories of long distance train travel, even though the longest we've done is this year's trip from London to Venice via Bologna (it was going to be from London to Kalamata but the gfc and austerity inspired strikes in Greece curtailed that).

One idea that has always fascinated me is getting the train from Bali to London - with a few ferries and the odd bus in between:

The route would be something like:
  • Fly to Bali
  • Bus and ferry to Java (kinda like this)
  • Train across Java
  • Ferry to Singapore
  • Train from Singapore to Bangkok via KL
  • Train from Bangkok to the Cambodian border, various buses via Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (or alternatively train from Bangkok to Vientiane and bus to Hue)
  • Train to Hanoi and onwards via Guangzhou to Beijing
  • Beijing to Moscow via Ulan Bator and the Trans Siberian
  • Moscow to Berlin and then on to Brussels via Cologne
  • Eurostar to London and then onto Edinburgh and the Montrose.
Why Montrose? for no other reason than for a few hundred years my family farmed somewhere roundabout St Cyrus in the Mearns and Montrose is the town my parents grew up in. (Or as J said one time we were visiting 'do you realise you're probably related in some way to every third person we pass?').

Would such a journey be possible - undoubtedly - as this Guardian article from 2006 shows, and it's getting easier, with the railways in Cambodia being brought back into service. And while we might not do it all in a single journey, the trip is amenable to being done in chunks over the years, after all you really can just go to the train station in Singapore and ask for two tickets to Bangkok ...

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