Enjoying the street level sights of Hanoi without the stress. Cyclo tours are a fantastic way of getting an introduction to the old centre of town.

I am excited to be writing this post. First reason, after several weeks of wandering in the technological hinterland of having a non-functioning laptop, I am back in business. Second, transportation in S.E. Asia has been a consistent high point in every country we have been in thus far. So I am excited to be sharing a bit of information on what we have discovered in our first three months in SE Asia.

We were floored with the excellent service on Thai Airlines. However, we then found that Vietnam Airlines was just as good, if not even a bit better, in our limited experience. The service and punctuality of the flights was great on both airlines.
As we approached Hanoi on our first of several flights with Vietnam Airlines we were treated to a lovely sunset. This was the cherry on top of a wonderful introduction to this airline.
This was the first time we had to wait in a line to check in for a flight. I was glad we already had three flights on this airline so I was comfortable we would get through in time. And we did with time to spare.

We have done six flights since coming to SE Asia and they have all been positive experiences. The only word of warning is pay attention to announcements in the airport and check the departures information frequently because changing boarding gates seems to be a popular activity. However, despite our positive flight experiences, the real fun has been moving about via bus and train.

Within Cambodia we found the Giant Ibis bus company to be excellent. The buses were clean, well maintained, and offered power points at all the seats for getting your time in on whatever electronic device you like. Just know you need an actual plug, not just a USB connection to take advantage of this great feature.
No matter what company we travelled with by bus they all stopped every two hours for a toilet and snack break. The stop locations provided everything you need.
The toilets at these locations were not always something to admire, but we found them to be “reasonably” clean. Just not always the type of facility you might expect. i.e. pouring the water in by hand to flush and squatting. Some of the great experiences of travel.
This bus in Thailand was a bit more run down than most that we were on and yet it was still very good. The most pleasant surprise was the amount of leg room. My expectation was none, however I found there was enough room that being a contortionist was not necessary.
The only thing I found a bit disconcerting was the stockpile of fuel in the shed right by where we were loading onto the bus to start our trip in Cambodia. I was fairly confident none of these containers had any type of safety rating.
One of the ways of passing the time when travelling by bus is keeping an eye out for other users of the roadways. It is phenomenal what and how much can be moved on the smallest of vehicles.
I have no idea what is in the containers but we loved the collection of chickens on the back.

We have also used smaller buses for a number of our trips. These typically hold between 6 and 14 passengers and are operated by a much wider assortment of businesses. They take care of most trips under a couple of hours and can be quite entertaining.

I found the fact the operator had taken the time to zip tie the seatbelts so they didn’t get all tangled up quite thoughtful. At least we could find these ones.
We both were able to watch the collision that broke the left handgrip off this bike because he hit the side of the van right beside Karen. I watched his head bounce off the window and thought how fortunate the operator was one of the few who wore a helmet. After some discussion and a punch to the face, the motorcyclist drove off minus one hand grip and we continued on our trip.

One of the best travel experiences we have had, was the night train from Bangkok to Surat Thani in Thailand. Though the whole process from getting tickets to getting settled on the train was new to us, it went incredibly well. (OK, perhaps we had some severe stress when the taxi driver in Bangkok didn’t know where the train station was and our 90 minute buffer for getting the train ran down to 10 minutes. Got there though. And didn’t hurt the driver)

The second class cars are dominated by western travellers with a few locals mixed in. The authorities on the train were very good. Interested in us but not over friendly. They did their job and let us be.
We both had top berths which apparently are a little smaller than the lower ones. I found them fine. The only challenge was the lights are not turned off at night. That light you see in the photo is perfectly positioned to shine over the top of the berths curtain, right in your face. A mask would be a great addition.
Upon arrival we got to see what our train looked like as it was very dark and we were in a big hurry when we boarded the night before. An awesome experience we look forward to repeating.

Of course travelling between cities and countries is only part of the transportation adventure. Getting around within the cities has been a truly eye-opening opportunity. From the chaos of Phnom Penh to the effectiveness of Hong Kong we have learned that North America is still truly in its infancy of learning to move large numbers of people effectively.

The incredible number of these machines on several Asian city streets is awe-inspiring. We generally found the operators good at what they did. None of them even flinched when they saw our luggage, unlike many taxi operators we have encountered. These guys just made it work and got you to where you wanted to be.
I am constantly impressed at how these little 125cc engines haul the loads they do. One of the ways they do it is a home-made water cooling system to augment the normal air cooling these engines use. These jugs of water provide a steady drip of water over the engine to help keep the temperatures down. Brilliant problem solving.
One of the other components of city transportation here is cooperation. Other than the punch to the face after a collision, I have yet to see any road rage here. People just take the right of way. If someone else takes it from them they wait 2 seconds and carry on. Everything moves and the stress level is way lower than the stupidity one observes on most roadways.
This is one of my favourite images. The relaxed nature of the family making their way through traffic. Admittedly we have seen the aftermath of more than a few accidents with people injured, probably more severely than necessary due to a lack of protection. However, because of the smaller engines and lower speeds the level of trauma is lower than expected.

The public transit has been awesome in SE Asia. Volume of ridership is obviously a key, but it is amazing!

The elevated metro in Bangkok was my first exposure to well-educated riders following the rules. everyone stands back of the yellow line (or an attendant blows a whistle at you, trust me I know), and wait to the side for passengers to disembark before boarding.
Both Bangkok and Hong Kong utilized these doors to some degree. No falling in front of trains from the platform here. And the trains are huge! Did I mention it is awesome?
The transportation options on Hong Kong island are great. The longest running one is the electric tram. This double-decker tram system has been operating for more than 100 years, ding, ding.
The tram is known as “ding, ding“. They run frequently, are super cheap, and a great way to see downtown Hong Kong. You hop on at any stop and pay your $2.30HK(.40CDN) when you exit.

Water taxis were another mode of transport we have used. The ones we have used all appeared quite safe and in no immediate threat of sinking, despite some of the horror stories we had read.

This passenger ferry in Cambodia was good. Other than the operators not looking old enough to be driving a car, the trip was uneventful. On the return trip they took us to a different port, but hey, you have to roll with the unexpected. It was only a short bus ride to where we wanted to go.
The biggest concern on the ferries was watching all your earthly belongings being slung over the water. Didn’t see any go in, but that really does not lessen the concern.

I will close off with a couple of images from Hong Kong. We took the tram up Victoria Peak which gets you close to the summit. Not only is this a tourist attraction, but some locals use this as part of their commute as well. And the other hugely historical and still highly used mode of transport is the Star Ferries in Victoria Harbour.

The Peak Tram takes 1.4km to go up 400 metres in elevation. It is a fantastic way to get to the top. I went up by foot and by tram, the tram is much more pleasant.
The Star Ferries have boats leaving approximately every 10 minutes for the 9 minute commute between Hong Kong and Kowloon. Being able to use a piece of history like this for an everyday event is one of the fascinating things of travel.

Welcome to our travel blog. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to say, "I'm out of here?" Well we did, and in 2013 we made it a reality. We sold or gave away all of our possessions other than what fit in our luggage and we set off on an endless adventure. Part of our goal is to share our experiences with others and hopefully provide some information, motivation, or just a moments escape. The general idea was to look for a place that would be ideal to settle down in. However in the meantime it is about experiencing life in different countries amongst different cultures and learning how to understand and appreciate each other. A large part of our time is spent housesitting which provides an excellent opportunity to experience more of the "normal" neighbourhoods as opposed to the tourist locales. Though we make sure to enjoy those as well. So through plenty of photographs and a running commentary come and share with us our life on the road.

3 comments on “Transportation Asia

  1. Happy New Year 🍾

  2. looks amazing!! Talk about trains, planes and automobiles 😉 >

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