AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Kanchanaburi: The Death Railway

Posted on Jan 31, 2014

The Death Railway was built by POWs and Asian labourers during the Second World War for the Japanese, so they could get supplies into Burma. It was 400km long and was in use until the end of the war. After the war it was disconnected near the border by the British who were paranoid about some separatists using it to force the British out. The Thai government then decided in 1947 to close the uppermost section of the line near the Burmese border. The rest of the line, from Bangkok to Nam Tok was left in service and is still in use today. There is a short extension to a waterfall which is now the end of the line, but only one train goes there and only on a Saturday and Sunday. As luck would have it we were in Kanchanaburi over the weekend so we got tickets onto the 909 special train to the waterfall at the end of the line. The purpose of the journey was simply to ride over the bridge and ride the death railway. The waterfall at the end was little more than a bonus for the trip. The train journey was very slow moving at about 20 mph most of the time and much less when we went over wooden sections. When we reached the waterfalls it’s lucky they weren’t the main reason for the journey. They were small and picturesque, but they were full of Russian tourists who seemingly came out of nowhere and were now climbing on every available inch of stone. There was one reasonably large waterfall which Annemarie went to a paddle under but mainly we rested and ate ice cream. All the photos from our trip on the train and the waterfall can be seen here. Posted from Tha Sao, Kanchanaburi,...

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Trans-mongolian Railway thoughts

Posted on Nov 11, 2013

From day 3 the train passes through Siberia and as it was November it was snowy as well as cold. Frozen lakes and rivers covered the land. Day 5 sees you travel through Mongolia. Mongolia is very flat and the Gobi Desert a real dust pan. Every so often towns pop up and we saw camels, deer and yaks. The train is somewhat mind-numbing. In second class it is hard to get comfortable. The toilets are sub standard and you can’t wash. The food is expensive and the border crossings are ridiculously long, made worse by the fact the toilets are locked and after a while you can’t even leave the train. As yet I have not experienced the 6 hours of Chinese Customs and bogie changing, which entails 4 hours at the border. Should you take the train? Although flawed in many ways and having long periods of time when you are uncomfortable, bored and unable to stretch your legs you should do it. Why? It is an experience, you see three countries and 3 cultures. You meet new people and you go on the world’s longest railway journey. Your mouth will water as you smell the cooking of the conductor’s food and you will ache lots but not that many people have done it and life’s about doing new things so go for it. Posted from Xilin Gol, Nei Mongol,...

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Sitting here on the Trans-Siberian Railway reminds me of camping holidays. I’m living in a cramped area which is not designed for this kind of living, whilst taking every opportunity to remind myself that it is outside which matters and the inside is just the price you have to pay to see what we are seeing. Our cabin consists of four beds and a rather small table. There is storage space under the bed/seat and more storage over the door. In the corridor we have the hot water tank at one end of each carriage, a bin at the other and a toilet at both ends (although our carriage only has one in use, we suspect the conductor is keeping the other to himself). And with that four people have to live for 6 days. Cooking consists of adding boiling water to a pack of noodles. To drink we either make tea or drink the bottled water we have bought at the stations. There is a restaurant car, but it is basic, way overpriced, only has about 5 tables and has a waitress who makes the Parisian waitresses look polite. I don’t know whether to be surprised or not at the lack of basic items. No cold water, no shelves, no privacy curtain for each bunk, no bin in each room, better toilet facilities and a washroom which actually feels like a room of cleaning. Even the heating is out of my control, the conductor decides how hot we should be and we live with that. The seats are very firm, there is a hint of foam but little else to suggest human comfort was a factor in their specification, but as bed they are solid. It takes a while to find a position where you might actually be able to sleep. We brought enough dried noodles and loose green tea to last the trip. We have bought bottled water at a number of stations, plus ice tea and fruit juice. We have also bought biscuits and various other snacks. We have ventured into local foods, some of it good, some not so good. The biggest surprise so far has been the total lack of alcohol, it can’t be bought at any station. I guess this is to crack down on the excessive drinking levels in Russia. On day one and two the views were a bit dull, vast forests as far as the eye could see, but now on day three it feels like Siberia. The temperature has dropped and the last station reported -12 degrees. There is now an inch or so of snow and the sun...

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Not really knowing what to expect is indeed positive. The windows been somewhat dirty exacerbated the gloom of rural Russia. Endless miles of trees interspersed with small townships seemingly with no road network and appearing to have no form of economic importance lined the route intermittantly. Why then are these towns here? As we continued through the Russian wilderness we began to awe at any signs of life, a small cabin, a factory and indeed any signs of humanity. We all know Russia is vast but time on the train reiterates this and the mundanity of daily life leads to reflections about the culture you live in, the similarities and mostly the differences. There is no reading material on the train and our Chinese guard did not speak English. We were expecting announcements about time zones and also place locations but so far have received none. Luckily we had some information as our fellow cabin mates have the Lonely Planet book about the route. Maybe tomorrow I shall brush up on my knowledge about the world’s longest train journey. Posted from Omsk, Omskaya oblast,...

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