Friday, January 21

The longest train ride in the world


A route from Portugal to Singapore becomes the longest train journey in the world: no less than 18,755 kilometers. It is twice the length of the mythical Trans-Siberian. We just have to wait for all the stages to be available, because right now the coronavirus pandemic has closed some points on the borders. The itinerary is still there, ready to receive passengers with a desire for adventure and new emotions when possible.

It has been the recent opening of a section in Laos which allows to extend a route that previously ended in Vietnam. Getting on board means being prepared to go through 10 countries in 21 days.

Portugal. 91 kilometers from Faro, the warm winter of the Algarve allows a mild start on the road to the distance. It will be an exception, so better let yourself be swayed by the bonanza of the air a short distance from Praia da Luz, where the mysterious disappearance of the British girl Madeleine McCann occurred in 2007. A still unsolved case that continues to be talked about in the area. The mouth of the river Bensafrim serves as a stage for storing belongings and shopping to face the days that await.

The neighbors Conceição, Cacela and Olhao They precede Faro, the capital of a region that has been gaining weight in the Michelin Guide, as various establishments in Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo testify. Their menus do not forget almonds as an ingredient in some of their dishes, as they appear at the base of the ‘azevia’, a delicious sweet dumpling that also contains pumpkin and sweet potato. Nor can we forget the ‘morgadinho’, an exquisite mixture of almond and angel hair, or the ‘queijinho de figo’, where figs shine in an irreplaceable combination. To accompany, you can use the ‘amarginha’, whose name refers to bitter almonds.

Jump to Almancil it takes us into churches covered by the traditional tile inside, an aesthetic option that is not found in any other part of Europe. Thus, cultivating the spirit after getting in tune (gastronomic), the wick is lit that will take the avid passenger to Coimbra, that crossroads that looks north from the library of its university with great tradition, founded in 1290.

It is there, on the banks of the Mondego River, where you begin to glimpse the passage through Spain, as the wagons are heading to Hendaye, Border city located very close to San Sebastián and key to go geographically climbing.

The heart of france, as if it were the Tour, it is guessed as the prelude to disembark at the Parisian station of Montparnasse, on the other side of where the lovers of Pont Neuf embraced. The only moment in which it is necessary to change (provisionally) of means of transport: in the metropolitan until Paris Nord. Then it will be the turn to stand in Cologne, where the impressive Gothic cathedral greets the traveler.

The Internet portal Reddit has teamed up with the British blogger Mark Smith to specify this succession of stages towards the distance, with the exoticism waiting to enter through the window and horizontality as a flag, instead of the implacable verticality that governs the lives of Western citizens, relentlessly pending the clock and the computer. In Warsaw, surrounded by a cold that chills the soul, it is advisable to organize things well before the long journey to Moscow, in this Russia that looks more and more sideways at the essence of democracy. Two nights in the ex-Soviet capital will constitute the first great ‘impasse’, which will be completed with another two in Beijing.

Literary setting

It seems that Paul Theroux can appear from any corner, such was the North American writer’s fondness for the convoy that moves on the tracks. ‘Ghost train to the Eastern Star ‘and’ The great railway bazaar ‘ they catch us with a backdrop that could well be extended to this very long journey that captivates hundreds of readers, eager to get into the shoes of one of those engines.

«The transitory nature of the trip intensifies friendship and turns it into intimacy», «I was lucky enough to make a mistake, and the mistake is the essence of the traveler’s story» and «you leave for a long time and come back as another person: one never completes all the way back ”represent some of the most heartfelt thoughts of Theroux, now 80, regarding the culture of the train heading to a remote destination. Bruce Chatwin or Patrick Leigh Fermor were equally seduced by the call of the trails of other latitudes that, in this case that concerns us, is preparing to cross China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand before herding the imaginary procession through Malaysia and, finally, Singapore.

“The day ended with a fierce red and purple twilight,” wrote the author of the acclaimed ‘The Travels’ trilogy, which echoes as the journey takes its course. Hanoi shakes hands with Ho Chi Minh City in the Vietnam that is overwhelmed with the memories of the communist guerrillaEspecially when the nightmare took over from his quintessential enemy, the United States.

Chinese labor built the railway in Laos, so the once bus gap between Beijing and Bangkok has given way to a train extension that has proven beneficial to the locals.

But, as Bob Dylan used to sing, “times are changing …” and more that they will evolve because the roulette does not stop. This is what happened in the 60s, in the 70s, and they have never been as volatile as they are today.

It was Chinese labor that, at low cost, built the railway in LaosThe former bus gap between Beijing and Bangkok has given way to an extension by train that has proven beneficial for the locals. “Previously, you could only go south to Saigon and then take a bus through Cambodia to reach Bangkok, but now you can cross Laos on board a train, which is an impressive achievement,” underlines Mark Smith, who has calculated the current price for the entire gigantic complete itinerary: about 1,200 euros.

Indian journalist Monisha Rajesh Accompany the announcement of this journey to the depths of oneself as well as the European and Asian intricacies of the planet. He does it with ‘Epic Train Travels’, where he describes 50 of these initiatives. From Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, her words frame the land immersion: “I did not come from a railway family, nor do I have memories of traveling by train as a child. All this came after a long journey through India ». “I had always wanted to visit the country as a tourist, and I realized that the best way to travel and to be able to talk to people was by train. There the network is huge, it covers about 65,000 kilometers. It turned out to be the perfect way to jump straight into the country’s bloodstream and come face-to-face with people of all backgrounds, ”continues Rajesh before concluding:“I spent four months traveling in India and I came back to the UK completely spellbound by the railways. ‘

The inner journey

One last link remains: from Kuala Lumpur to SingaporeAt the end of the journey, the proof that getting off will reveal the transformation inside the person. Singapore stands out surprisingly as a triumphant champion of modern housing strategy. After such a long (and intense) journey, dotted with diverse emotions and a truly diverse parade of landscapes, the final whistle puts a note of relief for the simple reason that it’s time to rest in a hotel bed.

But of course, the journey through those distant roads leaves no one indifferent, For this reason, it is convenient to take a break to rest everything that has captivated a soul that started with expectations and ends with saddlebags full of spirit, beyond the onslaught of low temperatures through those steppes that await when jumping from European lands to the Asians.



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