Oct 10 2011
I haven’t been on many train rides in my life and I’ve been on even fewer that were for more than a couple of hours long. I don’t have anything against trains; it’s been more of a lack of opportunity coupled with travel time restraints. While at this point in my life I’d say I was more of a plane girl, I’d like to give trains a shot.
Recently, three travel bloggers, Go, See, Write’s Michael Hodson, Nomadic Chick’s Jeannie Mark, and The Professional Hobo’s Nora Dunn took things a little overboard when they decided to start the Ultimate Train Challenge, a month-long trans-continental train ride that just so happened to end in my own wonderful city of Saigon.
On September 1, the three writers began their month-long journey. Starting in Lisbon, Portugal they each boarded a train, which would take them on their own individual route, bound for Ho Chi Minh City. Spending nearly every day and night on a train for a month, the group covered numerous countries and close to 25,000km in track.
The general route chosen stretched across Europe to Moscow, where the writers met to take the six-day, no-internet, no-shower, Trans-Siberian line to Beijing, then made their way south to Vietnam.
However, the road wasn’t without its hardship. For example, after completing the 150 straight hour train ride from Russia to Bejing, Nora said she was, “more excited about taking a shower than seeing the Great Wall of China.” Jeannie told me the hardest part for her was, “Probably, the concept of time. We rely on time to set our day, or know what we’re supposed to do. I was changing time zones so much, that at first it was hard to know where I was, should I be eating breakfast or dinner, etc. Oh, and lack of solid sleep.”
During the trip, the group partnered with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) to help Vietnamese children suffering from disabilities by raising money from their followers and supporters.
When they finally arrived in Saigon, although they were a bit tired from their trip, I managed to get some face time with the group when I met them for dinner at the always-tasty Cuc Gach Quan restaurant in District 1. It was nice to finally meet some real-life versions of people I had only talked to online plus the food was great.
While we were reminiscing about their month of exploits I found out that one of their favourite train rides from the whole trip was a rail journey in Vietnam — the three-day, final train from Hanoi to Saigon.
About the final ride, Michael said it had, “beautiful scenery, power in the cars, and it was the last train.” While that’s all great for them I’m not sure how that information sits with me. I don’t seem like I’m a multiple nights on a train person, but now, after their recommendation I’m going to have to try it.
If I’m really lucky, maybe I can get them, or anyone for that matter, to join me and we can start the next Ultimate Train Challenge the other way; better yet, we could make things easier just call it the Ultimate Plane Challenge!
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.
Tags: Ultimate Train Challenge