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Edinburgh – Hong Kong

Where next?

Since returning from my journey to Japan earlier in the year I have been trying to decide upon my next adventure. To help me with planning I have a large National Geographic map on the wall in expedition HQ – the 1959 version – “Asia and adjacent areas”. This keeps me on my toes, as so much of the world looks quite different today! Thanks to the huge amount of information online I have been able to save a lot of time this year and compress my planning cycle, so here I am in April for and for the first […]

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Vostok

I am very much looking forward to taking one of the least known Trans-Siberian routes on my next adventure. It’s called the Trans-Manchurian, and the main train on this line is a Russian one, known as the “Vostok”, which translates simply as “East”. It is also known by it’s number – “20” going east, and “19” travelling west. Surely the “Vostok” must be one of the most evocative train names out there? “Vostok” image courtesy of Local Life In my experience nearly all Western travellers opt to travel on the Trans-Mongolian route, especially if it is their first Siberian adventure […]

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The Story So Far…

First of all, welcome to you if you are a new visitor to my blog and have found my website from great places like Wanderlust, Seat 61 and Real Russia. It’s great to have you here. I’m now in the final phase of preparation for my latest challenge. This post is a bit of a recap on my plan, just in case you might not have read some of my earlier posts. In a couple of weeks I shall be heading east again – this time with a destination of Hong Kong. But there is a twist. I’m going to […]

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Morning Departure

I set off from Edinburgh late on a bright December morning. With an already low winter sun behind Arthur’s Seat my old school Virgin East Coast train rumbled out of Waverley Station and chugged south towards the English border. Thankfully no visa formalities are yet required. I have fond memories of this journey when I used to be a man in a suit, but invairably my journeys would start at a crazy time in the early morning darkness and often finish late at night. But today the sun streamed through the windows of the coach and I sippled fizzy water whilst […]

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City to City

I have to tell you that if you have never heard a Dutch station announcer say the words “Inter City” in English you have missed a minor treat of schoolboy humour. I have been trying to learn a few words of local train lingo for this trip. I’m pretty good in Russian, and even know a few things in Chinese, but so far I have rather neglected my Dutch and German. So I’m pleased to learn that today I’m on a train that’s a “zug”, and I’m sitting in what I think is a “fenster”. Not a nice guitar, but […]

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Probably the Best Railway Station in the World

If I ever had to vote in a competition for the best railway station in the world, I would almost certainly choose Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Hbf). I would have thought for a moment about Shinjuku, Beijing South and maybe even the new Kings Cross, but none really come close to Berlin Hbf. If you have never been, it’s an ultra modern multi level station which at times feels like a shopping centre. That’s because it is in part a shopping centre. As you approach the station on the inter city tracks you climb up and enter the very top deck of […]

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The Berlin-Warszawa Express

Well I’m having an interesting day in the office. Things started out well, I managed to get myself onto platform 11 of Berlin Hbf with plenty of time to spare. The temperature is just warm enough to sit outside without getting too cold. Today I’m on the EC 43 service, destination Warsaw. The train is run by PKP – the Polish state owned railway company. Right on cue a weirdly pink locomotive pulled in to the platform. At the front of the train was carriage 272, my first class home for the day. I had a “fenster” again, thanks to the usual […]

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The D10 "Schnellzug" to Moscow

My time in Warsaw passed far too quickly. After a day out with a local chap called Mariosh whizzing round the Praga district in a converted police van (that’s another story) I got back to my hotel to prepare for the journey to Moscow. Rather touchingly the general manager was there to wish me a safe trip and she kindly said that she would never ever forget me. I could pretend to you that this was because I had inspired her with my love of Warsaw, but the truth was rather more comical. When I checked in had to change […]

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"Vostok" – the Midnight Express to Manchuria

The “Vostok” leaves Moscow’s Yaraslovsky station every Saturday night at close to midnight. Yaraslovsky is not a particularly sophisticated place, and once through security there are really just a few seats, a ticket office and departure board inside. Outside, a few drunks and mad men are on the streets looking for people to accost and share their stories with. I give them a wide berth. I had stocked up on supplies earlier in the day at my local Sokolniki supermarket, and now had an extra three bags to carry containing assorted noodles, biscuits, and porridge, not to mention a stash […]

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Towards the Ural Mountains and Siberia

I need to get the map out and calculate our actual progress, but roughly the train covers about 1000 km every 24 hours. It’s not going particularly fast, but it’s nearly always moving, so it really crunches through some serious distance. Despite being only a day east of Moscow, the temperature has started to fall. At our first stop in the morning in Kirov the temperature is -9C. The fresh snow covers black ice, and I manage to fall over and make a fool of myself in front of some very tough looking soldiers. They would look even tougher if […]

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