Why do I enjoy travelling by train so much?

Why do I enjoy travelling by train so much?

I have a thing for trains. I’m a train traveller. I love it. I’m writing this article while being on a train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta.

People have started asking me just recently: ‘What is it about travelling by train that you like so much. Why do you like it?’ And I find it hard to pinpoint why exactly. Why can you google the ten most scenic train rides while there’s probably nothing about spectacular bus rides? Why do we have orient express in the form of a train and not a bus? There must be something that makes train travel special. But what is it?

Leaving Moscow for Kazakhstan
Russian trains were so comfy. I loved them.
A stove for boiling water for tea and coffee (a Russian train)

My answer to the question is not a single word or a sentence. There’s more to train travel than meets the eye. First of all, it’s about the feeling. I feel happy and excited while travelling by train. It’s that kind of happiness a child feels when it does something fun or gets a present. But I can’t really say where it comes from. It’s inside me. It’s simply fun to take a train.

One the train to the Kazakh Chinese border – one of my 365 daily selfies

Watching the landscape pass by from a train feels different than from a car or bus. Perhaps railways are often built in more scenic places than roads. And it’s more comfortable making it more enjoyable. You can sit, you can lie, you can stand. You can stretch your legs when tired of sitting. And often leaning out of an open window or door makes the experience more intensive and more fun. I remember one of my most amazing train rides. I took a train from Kandy to Ohyia (Sri Lanka) and I was standing by the open door almost all the way taking in the beauty of the Sri Lankan highlands not wanting to sit down. It simply rocked my world. It’s trains that make travelling in Switzerland so much fun. Switzerland is a paradise for train travel lovers.

Leaving Nong Khai for Bangkok
A historical engine in Korat, Thailand
Leaving Chiang Mai for Bangkok

Apart from the landscape you also see the daily life of people in a way you can’t from a bus. In some countries railroad gets so close to people’s homes like no road does. You see how people live, what they do. There’s is so much life along the railway. I have seen people playing board games on the track, youth hanging out by the track, people drying clothes on the stones all around the track. I have seen people selling things on the railroad.

Leaving Yangon for Bagan
I have just arrived in Bagan
Hawkers selling snack at major stations
A third class passenger car in Myanmar
Approching the Gokteik Viaduct in Myanmar
Passing the Gokteik Viaduct in Myanmar
Passing the Gokteik Viaduct in Myanmar

But it isn’t only what’s happening outside. It’s what’s happening on the train as well. There’s so much going on on a train, more than on a bus or plane. For instance in Thailand or Myanmar you get to see a lot of hawkers going up and down the aisle trying to earn their living selling food, drinks, and even toys including Pichachu.

A commuter train in Malaysia. Trains in Malaysia are a far cry from those in other parts of SE Asia
An ETS train in Malaysia
I was the only passenger waiting for the train to Gemas

Moreover, a passing train is like an event in some places. Especially if only a few trains, or a single one runs through that town or village. People, especially children come and watch the train arrive and then leave. They smile, they wave, they interact with you. And you smile and wave back.

The jungle train in Malaysia
The international Malaysia to Singapore train. The journey takes 5 minutes

On top of that you get to meet locals and interact with them. It’s so much easier than on a bus. People sitting opposite often start chatting with me and I learn something about them, their life and the country they live in. Travelling isn’t just about seeing monuments or chilling on the beach. Not for me anyway. It’s about meeting locals. That’s why I couchsurf. That’s why I hitchhike. That’s why I take a train. And often the third or ordinary class because that’s where you get close to locals.

Leaving Jakarta for Yogyakarta
On the train to Yogyakarta

I once had a dream. I wanted to travel from Slovakia to Vietnam by train. It’s not my dream anymore… It’s not my dream anymore because my dream has come true. On October 29, 2017 I reached Hanoi after having travelled for three months. I felt accomplished. I’m that kind of person who feels super happy when they achieve something. Especially the goals I set and the dreams I have.

There is something special about train travel. It fills me with joy.

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