The Great Railway Bazaar

The Great Railway Bazaar

Paul Theroux

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0618658947

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


First published more than thirty years ago, Paul Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand continental tour. Asia's fabled trains -- the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, the Trans-Siberian Express -- are the stars of a journey that takes him on a loop eastbound from London's Victoria Station to Tokyo Central, then back from Japan on the Trans-Siberian. Brimming with Theroux's signature humor and wry observations, this engrossing chronicle is essential reading for both the ardent adventurer and the armchair traveler.

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buy my ticket on the Frontier Mail to Delhi. The man at Reservations put me on the waiting list and told me there was “a ninety-eight percent chance” that I would get a berth, but that I would have to wait until half-past four for a confirmation. Indian railway stations are wonderful places for killing time in, and they are like scale models of Indian society, with its divisions of caste, class, and sex: SECOND-CLASS LADIES’ WAITING ROOM, BEARERS’ ENTRANCE, THIRD-CLASS EXIT, FIRST-CLASS TOILET,

whine. Within minutes we were on the slope, looking down at the top of Kalka Station, where in the train yard two men were winching a huge steam locomotive around in a circle. The rail car’s speed was a steady ten miles an hour, zigzagging in and out of the steeply pitched hill, reversing on switchbacks through the terraced gardens and the white flocks of butterflies. We passed through several tunnels before I noticed they were numbered; a large number 4 was painted over the entrance of the next

I lay. I smiled; it was the smile of placid incomprehension I had been taught by any number of Afghan stall-holders in Kabul. “English?” I shook my head, still smiling. The Singhalese hooked the stepladder to the upper berth. But he did not climb it. He turned on the fan, sat on one of his crates, and began eating a stinking meal out of a piece of newspaper—the smell of his rotten onions and mildewed rice was to stay in the compartment for the remainder of the journey. At 3:15 the train

skirt and rain-drenched hair, is another child. “Have you seen the sink in the w.c.?” asked Dial. “No.” “You turn on the faucet and guess what comes out?” “Rust,” I said. “Nothing,” said Cobra Two. Dial said, “Water!” “Right,” said Cobra One. “Paul, take that down. The faucets work. Running water available. What do you think of that?” But this was the only sink in the train. The stationmaster had said that the line to Danang had been open for four months, having been out of action for

outcrops of rock, there were igloos of sandbags, and pillboxes and bunkers, where sentries, most of them very young, waved to the train with carbines. On their shelters were slogans flying on red and yellow banners. Dial translated them for me. A typical one was, GREET THE PEACE HAPPILY BUT DON’T SLEEP AND FORGET THE WAR. The soldiers stood around in their undershirts; they could be seen swinging in hammocks; some swam in the rivers or were doing their washing. Some watched the train, with their

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