On this week’s episode of Talk Travel Asia podcast we discuss traveling Asia by train, particularly how new rail lines across the continent will make travel by train in Asia more exciting than ever. Few modes of travel hold as much allure, intrigue, and romance as going from here to there by train. Riding the rails has been a mainstay for roughly two centuries, and as lines were built, formerly inaccessible areas of the world were open to anyone who could afford a ticket. Nowadays, high-speed rail projects are making traveling by train in Asia faster than by airplane as more and more countries update their train and rail systems. On this episode, we’ll chat with James Clark, about recent and upcoming rail projects in Asia and those in the works to help you plan your next trip.

Talk Travel Asia podcast Train Travel in Asia with James Clark
Train on Gokteik Viaduct, Myanmar (courtesy of James Clark)

Introduction: Scott & Trevor banter about their personal train travel in Asia, and their thoughts on the current train system in countries they have lived or travel to often. 

Scott: Thailand’s train system is painfully slow. I can’t wait for it to improve. Getting Cambodia’s train going again would be sweet. In many respects, it’s surprising how few connecting routes there are in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia. You’d think going from Vientiane to Singapore by train would be a smooth snap by now. Trevor: For everyone interested in train travel in Asia, we had a great train episode in September 2020: 108 – Riding Asian Trains with The Man in Seat 61


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James Clark Train Travel in Asia on Talk Travel Asia podcast

Guest Intro: James Clark is an engineering enthusiast who has been running a travel blog since beginning his global travels in 2003. He contacted us to share his love of train projects, which are featured on his website Future Southeast Asia, a city development blog covering urban design, infrastructure, heritage conservation, and transport in Asia, particularly traveling by train in Asia, and we jumped at the chance. He joins us online from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Listen to episode 133 – The Future of Train Travel in Asia to hear James answer the following questions: 
  • We always like to start at the beginning: where are you originally from?
  • What was your occupation before heading to Asia?
  • What first brought you to the region? 
  • Why and when did you decide to start Future SE Asia?
  • What is the focus and point of the site?
  • What first got you so interested in train projects in Asia?
  • In a nutshell, give us a broad overview of where train travel stands in Asia at the moment?
  • Where do you think train travel in Asia will be in 10-15 years?

We’re now going to focus on a few key train projects that are in development and will have great impact on their respective regions:

Talk Travel Asia podcast Train Travel in Asia with James Clark
Light rail in Palembang, Indonesia (courtesy of James Clark)

Boten, China to Vientiane, Laos by Train:

This is an exciting line that will go from southern China to the capital of Laos, Vientiane. Tell us about it? When will it be ready? When do you anticipate the Thailand link will be ready and Bangkokians could go all the way to Luang Prabang? Will this line be a good or bad thing for Laos tourism?

East–West Economic Corridor Railway from Myanmar to Vietnam:

What is the potential benefit of this train line between Myanmar and Vietnam? What is its status? Why are you keen on it? Will it serve passengers as well or just cargo? What’s the likelihood it’s going to happen in the next 10-20 years?

Bang Sue Grand Train Station, Bangkok: 

This is the big new central train station in Bangkok. When is it due to open and will it happen? What should the benefits be of having this station? Will the country’s antiquated system fit with this new station? How will the old Hua Lamphong station be impacted as well as the people who use it daily?

Trans-Sulawesi Railway: 

So this is on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, which has a very interesting and seemingly challenging shape. Why is this line of interest to you? Is it happening and what does it’s future look like for travelers? And how about Saigon’s metro system – it’s been under development for quite a while. When will it open and how will it change the city?

James Clark on Talk Travel Asia Podacast on train travel in Asia
Ben Thanh station, Ho Chi Minh City Metro (courtesy of James Clark)
Some final questions on traveling by train in Asia with James Clark:
  • What is happening with the update on Cambodia’s rail system?
  • Overall, what should travelers be most excited for in terms of rail travel in the coming years?
  • What are some of your favorite train tips you’ve taken in Asia?
  • Where can people learn more about you and what you’re doing?


Learn more about Scott and Trevor:

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