October 7, 2013

The Man Who Would Be King

“The Man Who Would Be King” (1975) Columbia Pictures

What a great opportunity to combine a blog about one of my favourite films with a possibility for train travel! If you want to get in the mood for this, it’s time to get your pith helmet out and start shouting loudly “Stop throwing those bloody spears at me!”..

I remember first seeing “The Man Who Would Be King” shortly after leaving university (in about 1989). It had a big impact on me at the time, and is one of those films that seems to just get better and better with age. I recently had it out again – unbelieavably an old work friend had yet to see the dream team in action – Sir Michael Caine and Sir Sean Connery, not forgetting Christopher Plumber of course.. set in fictitional “Kafiristan”.

So how can I get away with changing the subject of my blog from rail adventure to my favourite films? One word, Kasakhstan. New possibilities. They have built a railway line over the last few years to create a (mainly freight) route from China through to Russia. So I have discovered from about 2008 it has actually been possible to travel on the train from Europe to Asia this way, avoiding the tougher Turkey-Iran-Pakistan/Afganistan “Silk” route (to the South) and bypassing the now familiar Trans-Siberian route (to the North). You can see this on this map at Seat 61.

Central Asia and the fabled “Silk Road”.. by rail of course!

Subject to my experiences on the Singapore run later this year, I’m going to go for an overland route through Central Asia next time, most likely from London to Hong Kong, probably via Russia, Kasakhstan, Usbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and into China that way. Do let me know if you want to tag along.. I will lend you a pith helmet!

I have also been looking at more organised tour options for the much harder to organise Turkey-Iran-Pakistan/Tajikistan routing, and there are a few options here, but it looks like hard work. The one I liked most (from my armchair!) was from Intrepid Travel – Beijing to Istanbul (96 days).

Back briefly to my Newcastle – Singapore trip. My Vietnamese visa has now been issued and my passport is at the Chinese Embassy today. Apparently a number of perfectly good applications are getting rejected here each week owing to a lack of back up paperwork, which they love. I have lots of paperwork, but no actual train tickets, so my fingers are crossed. I will know on Thursday if I have been successful.

In gadget news – I did a deal with a friend and traded up to a new iPad last week – its got a massive 128GB memory, so the chance for more movies and more photo editing on the rails. The new iPad has a different “Lightning” connector, so I’m slightly annoyed that new cables are needed for everything. I spent the weekend learning how to rip my own (legally owned) DVDs onto this device thanks to RipIt and also editing my photos on the fly with Adobe Photoshop Express, before loading them into Blogpress. Blogpress proved itself as very capable on my Shanghai run last year – its got much better image manipulation and control than the native Blogger iPad app – I am amazed Blogger hasn’t covered this better for people on the move.

I will give the final words today to Brother Peachy Carnahan Esq: “Now listen to me, you benighted muckers. We’re going to teach you soldiering. The world’s noblest profession. When we are done with you, you’ll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilised men!”

And of course not forgetting.. “Now, the problem is, how to divide five Afgans from three mules and have two Englishmen left over”.

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