Our Second Trip Around the World Itinerary
A trip around the world takes quite a bit of organising. So I wanted to share our second around the world itinerary. I will, of course, share more details of the journey in my blog posts over the next few weeks. So, this is an overview of our entire route:
Around the World Itinerary Overview
London to New York
We started our Around the World Itinerary by flying from London, Gatwick to JFK, New York. The first leg of our trip started with a hiccup since we planned to take the train from Flitwick. Then Thameslink chose that weekend to do maintenance work. So instead of a nice easy train straight to the airport, we travelled via East Croydon and East Grinstead. Then took a bus. Still, something told me it wasn’t the trickiest thing we’d need to deal with.
New York to Los Angeles
From New York, we took the overnight train to Chicago. I’ve always wanted to try the Amtrak sleeper train. Plus, as the weather is unpredictable at this time of year it made a good alternative to driving.
Then another overnight train to Dallas for a couple of days before heading on to Austin. From there we took another Amtrak sleeper all the way to Los Angeles. Two days on the train gives us plenty of time to soak up the Amtrak experience. All meals are included because we’re in sleeper class. Hopefully, we’ll get some good views of the USA as we go.
We’ve been to LA before and it wasn’t our favourite place so it’s just an overnight stop here. We toyed with the idea of catching a same-day flight to Hawaii. However, we decided it was too big a risk as the trains are often several hours late. So, we stayed overnight at the airport and took a morning flight to Maui.
We planned on taking advantage of a few internal flights in Hawaii. Amazingly there are no inter-island ferries so flying is the only option. Lucky it’s not a non-flying trip. We planned a mini-tour of the Hawaiian Islands, taking in Hawaii Island before heading to Oahu. Our visit to the big island coincided with an ongoing outbreak of Dengue Fever. This is not something I anticipated having to deal with while still in the USA. So we took plenty of insect repellent and hoped for the best.
We booked a very late (or is that very early?) flight to Sydney at 00:15 from Honolulu. The Fiji Airways flight made 2 stops en-route. Then thanks to the international date line, we arrived in Sydney the next day.
Since we’ve been to Sydney before we just stayed overnight near the central railway station. So ideal for our 6-hour train ride to Melbourne the next day. From Melbourne we picked up our hire car and headed along the coastal road to Adelaide, taking the scenic route.
We took a break in Adelaide. This was one of our longest stopovers with 3 nights to relax and enjoy the city. Of course, this meant plenty of time to visit the cricket ground and museum but there is always a downside. We booked an apartment in the north part of the city to give us a chance to do some washing and get ready for the long drive north.
Leaving Adelaide, we headed north through the wine areas of the Barossa and Clare Valleys and then on to Port Augusta. Leaving civilization behind we head for the outback with a stopover in the mining town of Coober Pedy before reaching Uluru. This was one of my must-sees for the trip. No way was I going back to Australia again without seeing Ayers Rock, no matter how remote it might be. We planned a few days in the area, taking in Kings Canyon as well before heading to Alice Springs.
Heading further north on the Stuart Highway we spent several days driving through the outback before reaching Kakadu National Park, just south of Darwin. We stayed for a couple of days in the national park as Paul was keen to see the crocodiles (hee hee!) and then a couple of days to relax in Darwin before taking our final flight of the trip to Singapore.
Singapore to Malaysia
The Asian part of the trip is something I have had in planning for some time now and we nearly did this as a shorter trip flying directly into Singapore so I was delighted to be able to integrate it into this trip. It felt like the beginning of the journey home at this point as it was fully overland from here and we’re more than half-way round.
The plans from Singapore through to Bangkok we left somewhat fluid however as Malaysian Railways just announced a serious timetable shake-up following the rollout of their new electric train system. However, they had already missed the original date and while there are plenty of rumours as to which trains may be cancelled and which changed, there are no hard facts to help with the planning. So, I planned a route based on the best information available and we re-adjusted as necessary when new information became available.
Thailand & Malaysia
Firstly, the plan was to take the overnight train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. Stay there for a couple of nights then take the ETS (electric train) to Padang Besar – where we cross the border into Thailand. None of these trains can be booked until a month before travel so are easy to adjust en route.
After negotiating Malaysian and Thai customs and immigration I am crossed my fingers that we had time to catch the connecting shuttle train to Hat Yai. It appears to be timed to wait for the ETS to arrive but we need to do all the immigration formalities. Then buy tickets (because they can’t be bought in advance). All with just 30 minutes in order to catch the onward train. I planned for the possibility that we may need to take the bus instead. It won’t be the end of the world (or the trip!!) as it is only an hour, buses run regularly and we have plenty of time until our overnight sleeper train leaves Hat Yai for Bangkok. Hopefully, our train tickets for that journey should be waiting for us at the left-luggage office.
From Bangkok we turned to buses to get us across Cambodia as their railway system was torn up by the notorious Pol Pot. Unfortunately, this means several very long bus journeys but needs must. Our first stop is Siem Reap for a chance to view Angkor Wat and then on to Phnom Penh to visit the Killing Fields. Followed by another all-day bus journey to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam.
Vietnam and China
Thankfully, the Vietnamese railway system is fully functional and we will be taking the Reunification express to Hanoi with a stopover to catch our breath in Hoi An. The Reunification Express, like the trans-Siberian, is not a single train but simply a descriptive name for any of the trains which travel the length of the country.
From Hanoi, we catch the overnight train and cross into China. We really enjoyed our time travelling in China last time and wanted to see some new places this time. We are stopping over in Guilin which is a picturesque city overlooking the Li River. Then we’re heading to Zhengzhou, the ancient Shang dynasty capital and known as the cradle of Chinese martial arts – much less visited by Western tourists apparently and so a step off the main tourist trail.
Beijing to Mongolia
It is just a short hop on the high-speed train from here to Beijing. We were fortunate on our last trip to have several sunny and completely smog-free days in Beijing. So we are hoping that will be repeated this time. Although it is now well known for its high levels of pollution this is the best time of year to visit the city when levels are at their lowest so fingers crossed.
As you may remember, we travelled all the way from Moscow to Beijing last time without stopping at all. We thought we’d change things up a bit this time by travelling back via Mongolia, with a brief stop in Ulaanbaatar. This is an easy overnight train journey from Beijing. Although it will still be freezing in Mongolia (it is -30 C at the moment), we hope it will be clear enough to enable us to get out and see a bit of the countryside.
Our Around the World Itinerary is coming to an end now. We then have a 4-day train journey to the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod. For many years it was known as Gorky after the writer but the name was restored following the break up of the Soviet Union. Several of the matches for the 2018 World Cup took place here.
Then on to St Petersburg for our final stop before heading home. Founded by Tsar Peter the Great, St Petersburg has changed its name several times. Its name was changed to Petrograd in 1914 and then Leningrad in 1924 and was only changed back to St Petersburg in 1991. It is home to the world-famous Hermitage Museum and seems to be packed full of fabulous historical sights.
Heading Home on our Around the World Itinerary
From here we take the high-speed Sapsan train to Moscow in the afternoon to connect with the sleeper train from Moscow to Paris. We exit Russia through Belarus (for which privilege we had to pay for transit visas) arriving in Paris after 2 nights on the train. Then it is just a quick walk across to the Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar back to St Pancras.
So, that’s an overview of our around the world itinerary. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about all these wonderful places in my upcoming blog posts.