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Southeast Asia forum

Most scenic bus and train journeys in SE Asia

Posted by SBE on 17/7/2009 at 13:47

What are your favourite bus and train routes in SE Asia?

Two bus routes that are well worth doing are Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang in Laos and Makassar to Rantepao in Indonesia.

A 3rd class train seat between Hispaw and Mandalay (Burma)is well worth the money. I paid a fare of $1 US for that 8 hour trip but I think it's gone up to $3 now. The train acts as an ambulant market with locals buying and selling stuff through the windows at every station and it crosses the spectacular Gokteik viaduct.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8675349@N06/527962808/in/set-72157600304909011/

#1 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by BruceMoon on 17/7/2009 at 18:27

SBE

How far into China is SE Asia?

Coz, there's some good one's up there...

Cheers

#2 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941


Posted by SBE on 17/7/2009 at 21:09

OK add China! I'd love to see the rice terraces in Yunnan.

Here's an example of what the scenery beween Makassar and Rantepao looks like.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8675349@N06/3728856293/

#3 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by DLuek on 18/7/2009 at 00:23 TF writer

I'd have to cast a vote for the coastal highways in Vietnam. When I made the drive from Saigon to Tuy Hoa, we must have gone the more central route with the mountain view to the west for several hours, then all of a sudden the ocean appearred to the east and at some points the mountains seem to shoot out over the ocean, full with beautiful ocean fog; it was breathtaking... On a separate trip the opposite way I remember seeing probably the most incredible sunrise I've ever seen over the mountainous oceans. All of the little fishing villages and bays dotted with boats add to the scenery as well.

Another good one, although slow-going, is the cliffride drive next to the ocean between Hoi An and Hue.

#4 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,176
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Posted by smash on 18/7/2009 at 04:32

What's the train like on the Hue- Hoi An route? Would it be better to bus this? (for views). The only other major trip we're doing in Vietnam would be train between Hoi An and HCMC. I noticed there is a day train that does this route - is the scenery nice enough to warrant considering this or would it be better to stick with the 11AM/1PM departures (botgh arriving HCMC 4:00AMish)?

Think the only other trips of note we'll be taking are buses between LP-VV-Vientiane. The slow boat from Huay Xai to LP. A few overnight trains in China too but not sure there is much to see on these (Beijing-Xian-Nanjing//Guilin-Guangzhou). Got a few short day trains in China too: Nanjing-Suzhou-Hangzhou-Shanghai plus a few buses around the Longshen/Yangshou/Guilin area. (we're joining a tour in China)

#5 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162

Posted by BruceMoon on 18/7/2009 at 06:28

Ash

There's no station at Hoi An, nearest is DaNang.

For mine, it matters little whether it's a bus or train: both speed through at a zillion miles an hour. Also, the bus doesn't now go across Hai Van Pass, but through a tunnel. I say this as I've done the trip on both the bus and a motorcycle.

If you choose a train, the route is generally more elevated so you see more of the coastline than from a bus. But, also, you MUST have a seat on the left hand side (facing the front, as the train heads south) or it will be a less than spectacular journey. The buses generally stop at Lang Co beach, so that's a plus.

- - -

"A few overnight trains in China too but not sure there is much to see on these'.

Be very prepared to be proved wrong - you will be.

Cheers

#6 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by smash on 18/7/2009 at 08:12

got something to share Bruce? ;o)

#7 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162

Posted by BruceMoon on 18/7/2009 at 09:26

SBE

I nearly completed a long post on memorable journeys. Then, a power failure obliterated the lost. Oh, well, that's life.

When I started remembering the various journey's I've undertaken, etc., I wrote that the most memorable journey's were those undertaken at a slow pace - especially where I was in control and could stop to savour the scenery.

As for the most scenic journey's, there are just so may - too many.

But, the more I look back, the more I realise that public bus / train journey's are not what I'd call scenic. The train /bus speeds through in a way that doesn't allow me to enjoy the journey (at least as afar as scenery).

Perhaps the exceptions are those undertaken at slow slow speed, and/or those where the vista was large. So, from Muang Khiaw to Dien Bien Phu was a great bus trip as the bus went very very slowly. The most jawdropping section of a bus journey is from Binh Lu to SaPa via the Tram Ton Pass (despite the appeal of the Hai Van Pass).

The best train trip was from Wuhan to Guilin.

But, upon reflection, it has been the boat journey's that have rocked my socks.

A private boat journey journey along the Li Jiang was amazingly scenic. And, from a different perspective, a journey in a small boat along the Daning Jiang from Wushan was one that knocked me tits off - so to speak.

Then, there are the motorbike journey's. Hue to Aluoi via Ashau Valley is pretty scenery, but the nearby trip up Nui Son Tra from China Beach and down to Danang is unreal. Luang Nam Tha to Muang Sing is memorable, as is LNM to Nalia. Also, the road trip between Um Phang and Lao Yang knocks the eyeballs around. As do the sections between Sakhon Nakhon to Amnat Charoen.

I could go on...

Cheers

#8 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by DLuek on 18/7/2009 at 11:30 TF writer

The train from Da Nang to Hue is probably better for views than the bus... It's lucky if you get a seat on the right side of the train.

This isn't a train/bus voyage, but another great trip for views that comes to mind is the flight into Koh Samui.

#9 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,176
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Posted by MADMAC on 18/7/2009 at 23:59

The train from Nairobi to Mombassa is fantastic. But it's not exactly in southeast Asia.

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by SBE on 20/7/2009 at 15:27

"But, the more I look back, the more I realise that public bus / train journey's are not what I'd call scenic. The train /bus speeds through in a way that doesn't allow me to enjoy the journey (at least as afar as scenery)."


This may be true but most people have a limited amount of time and money. If you're planning an itinerary I think it's useful to know which bits are worth doing overland and which bits you're better off hopping on a flight for.

DLeuk, you just made me want to go to Vietnam!

#11 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by BruceMoon on 20/7/2009 at 18:38

SBE

Be careful on 'interpretation'.

Just to put things into perspective...

Here in Australia, we have a coast road from Melbourne to Cairns. When travelling on that road, one gets to see the ocean just 9 times, and from Sydney to Cairns it is 3 times.


I've travelled a goodly part of the coast road in Vietnam. There are more 'sightings' over a shorter distance, but not many.

DLuek's "cliffride drive" on Hwy 1A between Hue & Hoi An is but one view only. The highway no longer passes over the Hai Van Pass (instead through a tunnnel). When the bus leaves hwy 1A at DaNang and heads for Hoi An, it traverses a road that fronts what is now known as China Beach (in DaNang). At present, that is it. When the new bridge is built over the Han River at DaNang, one will then have three glimpses of the ocean.

Cheers

#12 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941


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