The Runaway Train

Train travel. It’s one of the oldest travel methods there is. We all thought it was dying from low cost flying, but is it?

I love flying. I work in that industry and fly every week. And that will always be my best mode of transport. But you can’t fly everywhere!

On my trips to countries far and wide I’ve done my fair share of train travelling. From full trips to one of journeys from A to B. So what do I really make of it?

My first rail trip was Switzerland. It’s one of my favourite countries in the world for its natural beauty and happy lifestyle. I’ve done many trips to Western Europe so this seemed like an easy choice. I made use of the Interail Pass and hopped from city to city for a week. What was it like? Well the trains were great. A modern service with friendly staff, which is rare on trains! It seemed too easy to be honest. My trip was amazing and went fully to plan. Best part of it was the amazing views of the mountains and lakes. Beautiful.

Next was Italy. Again, same old. Easy system and rail pass. No drama! Maybe this is what rail travel is like now.

Next stop, Thailand. Ok well maybe it’s not best to use previous train experience here. You just take it as it comes with Thailand, what will be will be. So off we go on the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We travelled there when half the country was suffering from major floods which caused chaos on the trains. We were warned it would be a few hours longer than normal as we had to divert round the floods. Oh well!

We went in second class. It wasn’t as bad as I maybe thought it would be. We had a decent bunk each and it was clean and full of backpackers. After a while my feelings changed!

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The night went on and I needed the loo. They call it a toilet but really it’s a hole onto the track! Two years on I can still smell the vile pong coming from in there. Guess ill try avoid going again!

Then came sleep time. I was on top bunk, I always do in hostels and don’t mind. I don’t know if it was because we were on an older line than it should have been, or if its always like this, but I could feel myself rocking side to side. Literally turning. Then came the strong smell of diesel. Sleep really wasn’t happening any time soon! How anyone slept through that beats me!

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I managed about 2 hours sleep the whole night. Oh well, only a couple of hours until we would be there. Or maybe not. We had been on there for 16 hours. Most people would go mad on a flight with no TV for that long! How long more is it going to take!

The train started climbing a long gradual hill through the jungle. It seemed to struggle to climb but we was getting up there. Or maybe not… It started to roll back down. For over an hour the train went up and down the hill. Patience starts to ware thin when your tired, hungry and dirty. I think everyone was fed up at this point. 18 hours and we eventually got there. Was it worth it? Well I’m glad I’ve done it but probably never again. Oh by the way, we flew back down in 50 minutes for £5 more. Thanks AirAsia!

Right, next trip Russia. Do I trust the internal airlines? No. Maybe I’m wrong but I’ve heard some pretty bad stuff. So, why don’t I do the night train between St Petersburg and Moscow. Or dare I? Well what choice do I have! In my head I think of an old train with drunken Russians sat singing all night. All my friends thought I was insane and “feared for my life”.

My hostel was over the road from the station. I thought I’ll get there 30 minutes before it goes. Well the ticket office is a nightmare and you have to swap a voucher for a ticket. I was a minute from missing it! Already stressed I shoved myself down the train from carriage 2 to 13 where I was. And there I was, in my carriage in second class. I had no idea what bed I was in as it was written in Russian. A nice family pointed it out. This wasn’t what I expected at all. The train was spotless, the people on it were just normal people and it didn’t smell! So my original perception of being sat all night getting drunk was changed to “woo I’m going to get sleep tonight”. Would I do this journey again? 100% yes. It was a perfect night train!

So any more? Well I’ve left the rail journeys for a bit now but who knows where’s next! But I’ve realised it’s not all bad. The views from the windows have been amazing and made my travels complete. Who knows, I may even choose to go by rail more often than plane. But yes, I do love rail travel!

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