I like travelling for the taste of local culture, food and lifestyle. Earlier this month, I did an extraordinary trip around South-east Asia with a friend: a trip from Singapore to Hanoi by train.
By train – yes, you read that right.
In theory, it is possible to train all the way from Singapore to London, but we weren’t that ambitious, not at least during the short precious time we have till university starts in August. We were a little crazy, but the experience was truly memorable, unique and fascinating. It started from a casual remark to train up onto Vietnam, but we eventually planned our itinerary and did the booking. In just a little short of three weeks, we traversed across five countries, stopping by Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sa Pa.
Travelling by train has its merits and drawbacks. You get a first-hand experience of how locals in these countries travel. They live a frugal life and travelling by car (let alone flying on a plane) is considered luxurious. Getting from one part of the country to another is usually done by hopping onto a train. This experience is unique and probably seldom heard of. Yet, it brings about one of the greatest joys in travelling: interacting with the locals.
The experience of seeing the rural countryside while gazing out of the train windows, watching middle-aged women carrying heavy bags of fruits board at make-shift train stations located in the remote countryside and hawking on the train carriages are fascinating. An overnight sleeper train also helps you save money on accommodation, which can make this backpacking trip relatively affordable.
However, taking a train is extremely time-consuming, which is why I decided to do this trip while I am still young and have the time to travel. For example, flying from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi would take two hours on a plane, but it takes almost two days by train. Unless you have a whole lot of time to burn off for the experience, you’d be better off saving the time and choose to fly instead.
The trip is rather exotic and ambitious in its own way since it’s a journey that few people would embark on. However, I thought I’d decide to share with you guys an amazing and affordable trip you could do with some time!
You can read the travelogue on my blog here.