My love of train journeys began in 1981 when I travelled all the way from London to Moscow, by train crossing the channel by ferry and resuming the train ride in Belgium to reach Paris. We stopped in Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin (those days it was East & West Berlin separated by Checkpoint Charlie & Brandenberg Gate). At Checkpoint Charlie, the inscrutable Soviet border patrol barged into our coupee and thoroughly examined every item of luggage including the diapers of our year-old son. From Berlin, we went over to Warsaw where we stayed ten days and finally to Moscow via Minsk. We also made a separate train journey to St.Petersburg, known as Leningrad those days. Unfortunately, I have lost many photographs of this historic train journey..
The romance of the rail journey is unmatched. Whether you’re snaking up the winding Darjeeling hills in a toy train, cruising through the high-altitude Tibetan plateau in a swanky pressurised coach equipped with oxygen masks, chugging through snow-covered barren countryside in Norway, hurtling through Tuscan grottos or speeding past Mt.Fuji in a Japanese bullet train, a train journey serves up vignettes of landscape like no other mode of transport can. Rectangular frames of lush rice paddies, crowded and cluttered towns and cities, pristine wildernesses, farmsteads, stunning scenery, all whiz past as you recline in your cushioned seat and just stare.
Sailing, on the other hand, is a serene and calming experience – unless of course, the sea or river is choppy. Welcome aboard as we cruise along the Mekong through four countries, hop across the frozen Baltic to Finland, watch an election rally on the backwaters of Kerala, be mesmerized by the fjords of the Tasman Sea in Doubtful Sounds or ogle at the Rock in Gibralter from my Comarit ferry.
Cruising Kerala’s Backwaters During Local Elections (2007)- I was in Cochin on official duty. On the weekend, I decided to go boating in the backwaters and to Vembanad lake. It so happened that some local elections were happening soon. Vallam after vallam, loaded with people shouting slogans and decked up with posters […] Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (2000)- If you think a tiny string of painted steel boxes balancing precariously on a two feet wide track meandering on the hillside is an unlikely candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage Site status, think again. It may not be as magnificient as Humayun’s Tomb or […] Doubtful Sound Cruise, South Island, New Zealand (2016)- The highlight of our trip to South Island, of course, is the cruise through Doubtful Sound: sheer, weathered cliffs dominate the horizon and the perpetual mist adds a touch of mystique as our boat sails silently through these waters. Post-rain cascades dot the hillsides. The […] Ferry From Pontianak to Ketapong in Kalimantan (2007)- We are on a journey to spot orangutans in the wild. That’s how we chose Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan where we would spend the next one week. Lubuk Baji would be our pit-stop from where we would explore the jungle. It was […] Ferry Ride Across Straits of Gibralter (2006)- My friend Rekha and I were in Granada for a conference. Before leaving Delhi, we had pored over the map of Spain and Portugal to decide which other places we should visit during the trip. When we realised Morocco was just a hop away ( […] Flam Rail & Fjord Cruise in Norway (2000)- (The photos here are scanned version of print pictures) The automatic currency changing machine at Oslo Central does not like my dollar bills. It spits it out everytime I feed it into the slot. I try various denominations, but without any success. It is a […] Irrawaddy Cruise – Mandalay to Bagan- The Mandalay-Bagan cruise in the Irrawaddy is the highlight of my trip to Myanmar. Flanked by sculptured mud-banks sprinkled with stupas whose steep spires rise skyward as if in prayer, the river is tranquility personified. The boat glides gracefully. Sunrise on the Irrawaddy is a […] Lhasa – Chengdu High Altitude Railway (2014)- 3360 Kms, 2.5 days – Lhasa -Golmud – Delingha -Xining – Lanzhou -Guangyuan -Chengdu Lhasa sits at a height of 12000 feet, same as Leh. Yet, when you travel by train to Lhasa, you will cross Tanggu La at 16,640 feet, high enough to give […] Peru Rail – Cusco to Aguas Calientes (2009)- Machupicchu is a demanding destination. I had to fly for over 36 hours, hopping three flights to reach Lima. A one-hour flight from Lima brings me to Cusco at a height of 12000 feet, After acclimatization in Cusco I am ready for Machu Picchu. One […] Tokyo-Kyoto Shinkansen Past Mt. Fuji (2013)- Figuring trains in Tokyo Station is not for the uninitiated. The station is crowded, there are far too many trains going off in all directions. Quite a few of them are bullet trains that look absolutely stunning. Finally, I managed to make my way to […]