Friday, May 24, 2013

Free early morning train rides in Singapore

If you are in Singapore after June 24, you can take the MRT into the city center for free if you arrive between 7 and 8 am. There are also discounts for people who arrive in the city center between 7:45 and 8 am. The Transport Ministry wants to spread out Singapore's rush hour. The Ministry is also supporting telecommuting initiatives.

The free rides are estimated to cost about $10 million Singapore dollars (about $8,000 US). It is predicted that 10 to 20% of riders will shift their commutes.

There is some controversy about this decision.

In favor


Friday, March 8, 2013

In the Category of Creepy but Interesting

There is going to be rail-only tour of North Korea this September by an organization called Juche Travel Services which is apparently run by a British citizen called David and is based out of the London area.

The rail tour starts in Beijing on September 20, crosses  the border of North Korea the morning of the 22nd and arrives in Pyongyang that evening. From there the tour visits Mount Myohyang, Hamhung, and Wonsan by charter train, the Chosun Explorer. Visits include temples, museums, and a fertilizer factory. While in Pyongyang, visitors ride on the Metro, thus proving that it is a real subway, even though it only has five stops.

This tour does NOT include the mass games which will be over by the time this tour begins.

Americans can visit North Korea, but not on this tour as they cannot take the Beijing-Pyongyang train. Current residents of South Korea are also prohibited, although it is OK if you have lived there in the past.

This is an opportunity to see parts of the country that very few foreigners get to see. It also is a little slower paced than some tours which visit a lot of places in short amount of time.

This tour costs 1,995 Euros. That price includes all transportation, entry fees, and hotels. It includes some meals, but not all.

Journalists are prohibited from taking any group tours. If you have a blog that has anything to do with Korea, you are considered to be a journalist. I could not go on a tour to North Korea and then write about it.

So I feel kind of ambivalent about these tours. On the one hand, it is good for people to learn more about North Korea as ignorance is dangerous. But if we are only learning from people who do not have enough context to understand what they are seeing, it makes it difficult to know what people actually saw. Also, do the people who have contact from these tours learn anything about the outside world. There is also the question of how much of the money that people pay for these trips goes to the government, and how much to the people providing the services.

For more information about traveling to North Korea in general here are some links:

Juche Travel Hints and Tips

Koryo Group Travel Advice

Reviews of other trips with Juche Travel

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pyongyang has a subway (maybe)

Patrick Chovanec visited North Korea so you don't have to. Along the way, he had the opportunity to visit Pyongyang's subway.

A Visit to North Korea

Here is hoping that North Korea becomes a place where people want to go within my lifetime.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Interested in Working Steam?

Interested in working steam? Want to visit China? John Raby has a list of reasons why you should join his tour to Sichuan Province which visits the Shibanxi line that runs from 5-15 March 2012.

"1. It's the place I chose for my 60th birthday last year because it's one of the best narrow gauge steam railways (real or preserved) in the world
2. real steam ng, trains in a landscape, friendly people, good food
3. walk everywhere and anywhere
4. no cars
5. the nicest place I know in China
6. some great little locos that think they are big, working their socks off
7. passenger, coal traffic, tourist trains, additional cargoes – pigs, refrigerators, brick, bamboo (and even corpses!)
8. five tunnels to walk through (bring a torch) and 1 reversal
9. electric coal trains and steam under the wires on the bottom section
10. haircut in Bagou, stay with the doctor in Mifeng
11. hiking trails with views of the line in the hills between Sanjing and Huangcun
12.small coal mine at Huangcun with hand tramming (and 300mm and 600mm gauge)"

This is the second time that this tour has run, so you can read about the 2011 trip on John Raby's blog. Even if you cannot take the trip, I recommend reading the blog just for the pictures and perspective on life in small-town China.

The fully refundable deposit for the tour is 400 British pounds with the tour itself priced in Chinese yuan. The main tour costs 11,000 yuan for 10 nights and is to be paid in China at the start of the tour or my bank transfer to the Chinese guide, Zebedee. Minus the £400, that means ¥7,000 will need to be paid in China. All meals, transportation, and tours are included in this price. Most of the rooms will be singles, although you will need to pay a small surcharge to guarantee a single room every night. Tour arrangements assume that participants will fly into and out of Chengdu in western China. Apparently, this is easy for people coming from the UK, but may be more of challenge (and more expensive) if you are coming from the US.

Both pre and post tours are available at an additional, reasonable cost. (At current exchange rates, this entire tour costs less than $1,800.)

The deadline to book is February 1. Contact John Raby at jraby at if you are interested in more information.