Around Asia

Starting by train from our base in Northern Greece, we quickly reached Istanbul, the Gate to Asia, crossed the whole of Turkey with the daily Iranian bus which carries back and forth workers, students, and shoppers, and arrived two days later in their country. The 2.000 km from Tehran to the Pakistani border cost us nine US dollars and 60 cents in comfortable long-distance buses. That first time, we had to skip India because the bubonic plague epidemic had just started, not that we were afraid but anybody getting in was not sure when (s)he could get out. So, after a loop that brought us within spitting distance of Afghanistan, we flew to Nepal. As there was no land nor maritime connection to Myanmar, we had again to fly, this time to Thailand. We resumed land crossing into Malaysia, then boat crossing into Indonesia’s Sumatra, up to Bali via Java, and back up north via Singapore. Cambodia and Vietnam were taken together and we entered China via Hong Kong, hopping from the subway to the Guangzhu-bound train, not a small feast as no one spoke any English and no one obliged to help. Mongolia was not better but taking the Trans-Siberian to Russia‘s capital in the middle of winter was one of the best memories. Then, the cultural shock to reach — via Poland — Berlin and Brussels by trains exactly ten times more expensive per km/mile than the Trans-Siberian and 75 times more than Iran’s buses.

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china-farmer-grandfather

Yangshuo, Southern China, December 1994. Proud farmer presenting his grandson to passing foreigners. Un fermier présente fièrement son petit-fils aux étrangers de passage.

Thessaloniki-Istanbul en train et bus, de là un bus “express” (24h pour traverser la Turquie) nous emmène jusque Téhéran, tout l’Iran par plusieurs bus, de la frontière irano-pakistanaise à Islamabad en frôlant l’Afghanistan, en minibus puis train, le reste du pays en minibus, de Karachi à la capitale népalaise en avion because la peste bubonique en Inde, de Kathmandu à Bangkok en avion because impossible de passer la Birmanie, de la Thaïlande à la Malaisie en train, on franchit le détroit de Malacca en aéroglisseur, continue de Sumatra à Jakarta en bateau de ligne; train, bus et ferry pour le reste de l’Indonésie, on ressaute le détroit en avion pour atterrir à Singapour , remontée vers le nord jusque Bangkok en bus suivi de train, on continue en avion jusque Phnom Penh car la frontière terrestre était fermée à l’époque, aéroglisseur à l’intérieur du Cambodge, on reprend l’avion pour Ho Chi Minh-ville — on aurait pu facilement prendre la route pour entrer au Vietnam, mais le billet était acheté — bus jusque Hanoi au nord, et on termine le billet d’avion à Hong Kong. Fini les airs. Bateau, bus et surtout train en Chine, pour finir avec le Transsibérien via la Mongolie, Moscou, Varsovie, Berlin et Bruxelles.

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