Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Narvik to Singapore by train

If you like to take trips by train, you might like to take a look at a website devoted to train journeys called seat61. It's a compendium of train trips you can take all around the world. I've used it many times to plan imaginary train trips and one day I suddenly had the inspiration to plan a trip from the north west corner of Europe to the south east corner of Asia.

The first part of the journey on May 3 takes me from Narvik across the mountains to Luleaa in Sweden where I will stay the night in a cabin by a lake. I found this place to stay through Airbnb and the bloke who will be hosting me will pick me up at the station, take me back to his place, feed me a dinner of fish which probably will come from the lake and then drop me off at the bus station the next morning.  

I'll be staying in hotels for some of the bigger cities such as St Peterburg, Moscow, Beijing and Hanoi. It simplifies getting visas for those countries. The other nights I will use places I have booked through Airbnb. It's much less expensive and you get to meet the locals.

From Luleaa, I will take buses around the northern part of the Baltic Sea to Kemi from where I will take an overnight train down to Helsinki where I will spend two nights at another Airbnb close to the station.

The next train takes me to St Petersburg where I will spend three nights in a hotel.  Another train will take me to Moscow for three nights in another hotel. I'm looking forward to finally seeing these cities. 

The train number 4 to Beijing leaves once a week on each Tuesday. On day 5 of this incredibly long trip the train heads south from Ulan Ude towards Mongolia. Since I like to have a nap in the afternoon, I have opted to go first class in a compartment for just two people. I have no idea who the poor unfortunate person will be who has to put up with me.

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The train passes through Ulan Bator and eventually arrives in Beijing on Monday where I will stay for three nights in a hotel. Hopefully the smog will not be too much of a problem. I'm looking particularly forward to seeing the Summer Palace.

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The next train takes me from Beijing down to Hanoi via Nanning. I will be spending two nights on the train. In Hanoi I will stay in another hotel for three nights which cost just $40 a night. It's quite elegant and in the old quarter. It offers a street food tour that looks interesting.

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The next train is supposed to take a spectacular route by the sea on the way to Saigon. There will be two nights on the train and I will spend three nights in Saigon in another Airbnb. All of my subsequent accommodation for the remainder of the trip will be using Airbnb.

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Passenger trains no longer run in Cambodia so from Saigon I will take a bus to Phnom Penh and then a boat up the Mekong River to Siem Reap which is close to Angkor Wat. Another bus will take me to the border of Thailand where I will catch a train to Bangkok. Because of the political unrest in Bangkok I will only spend two nights in Bangkok before heading south by train in to Malaysia. One of my friends has recommended that I spend some time in Penang before I continue down to Kuala Lumpur. The final train trip will take be down to Singapore.

The only time I have been in Singapore was forty years ago so I expect much to have changed. I also expect to be fed up with the heat and humidity of south east Asia by this time so I expect I will be happy to get on a plane to take me to Sydney where Marianne will join me and for five weeks we will look after the house next door to the house we stayed in last year.

The trip from Narvik to Singapore takes 45 days. It should be quite something. No, Marianne does not want to join me on this journey. We have found that since I am retired and not going off to work, she likes to have a break from my company and have the house to herself. I can't imagine why.

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