Flying is quick and usually the easiest way to cover a big distance, but with the convenience of modern-day flying, and especially budget airlines, it sometimes feels like the aura and romance has been lost from travel. Trains on the other hand, still feel romantic to us, so we thought we’d share our favorite railway adventures with you.
Hue to Da Nang, Vietnam
Approximately 103 km in length, the train from Hue to Da Nang takes around two and a half hours on a scenic express route that follows the Hai Van Pass (‘Ocean Cloud Pass’) on one side and the South China Sea to the other. The views are spectacular, especially when hugging the coastline, but the real pleasure in train travel in Vietnam is the social element of this form of travel. Although you can opt for a private air-conditioned cabin, it’s the ‘standard’ class seating that offers the ‘local’ experience where it’s common to be invited to join fellow travelers drinking and eating – popular time-passing activities in Vietnam!
Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok, Thailand
This famous rail route in Thailand takes in a stretch of line commonly known as the ‘Death Railway ’, built during World War II by Allied prisoners during the Japanese occupation of Thailand to create a route through to Myanmar. The line is most famous for the iconic black iron River Kwai Bridge and takes in some spectacular scenery along the way. From Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok takes approximately two hours, but you can also take the train from Bangkok all the way through to Nam Tok, a journey that will take four hours but has less inspirational scenery until you arrive at Death Railway Bridge, after which the journey becomes a scenic sightseeing tour of Thailand’s lovely landscapes.
Trans-Mongolian Railway, Russia – Mongolia – China
One of the longest railway routes in the world, the Trans-Mongolian Railway is one of four interconnecting routes that are all commonly confused with the primary route, the Trans-Siberian Railway. This primary route of the railroad covers a breathtaking 9,289km and spans no fewer than seven time zones, but it is the third primary route, the Trans-Mongolian Express that continues into Asia, all the way to from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia, crossing the Gobi desert in the process. This journey is not for the time conscious: the expansive journey takes around 6 days and nights of travel, stopping numerous stations and borders along the way. The train even changes its ‘wheels’, from the Russian standard to Chinese before it can ride China’s railway lines.
Maglev Train, China
Quite the opposite of the Trans-Mongolian railway route, China’s Shanghai Maglev route, which links Shanghai Pudong International Airport with Pudong, lasts for just 8 minutes. It’s not the length of the route that’s significant here however; it’s the style in which the train speeds along. ‘Maglev’ is short for ‘magnetic levitation’ a term used to describe the way these engineless trains are propelled down the track with a magnetic field created by electric coils in the train and the track combing to push the levitated train forward with opposing polarity. The trains are powered by electricity and are a quieter, smoother form of transportation that’s less damaging to the environment than diesel locomotives.
The airborne trains are also capable of much quicker acceleration and braking thanks to their non-reliance on friction, meaning they can move at record setting speeds – the Shanghai Maglev holds the ‘world’s fastest’ commercial train service, clocking a top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph).
The Goteik Viaduct, Myanmar
Completed in 1900, the Goteik viaduct is a bridge that connects the towns of Pyin U Lwin and Lashio, in Shan, Myanmar (100km northeast of Mandalay) and is the largest railway trestle in the world. Originally constructed by the then-occupying British, the bridge stretches some 2,260ft (689 m) and is supported by 15 towers. The scariest prospect for most about the viaduct is the height of the bridge, which stands 335ft (102 m) high in the air just 12ft (3.54m) wide – not for the faint of heart or those who suffer from vertigo! For the more confident, carefree traveler the train ride provides breathtaking views of the surrounding nature from a jaw-dropping angle – it’s certainly a route that’s great for fearless photographers.
If you’d like to experience any of these fascinating train journeys while on your holidays in Asia make sure you let our Travel Specialists know – they will be happy to include one of these cultural adventures in your tailor-made itinerary!