I am definitely getting a thing for train travel. When I lived in Vancouver I was always waving people off as they took this journey but I never found the time to do it then so this time I finally got to ride the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff.
This is a full two day journey with an overnight stay in Kamloops BC. The train is a double decker if you travel gold leaf with an oval glass roof so visibility is excellent but it is cleverly tinted to ensure easy viewing but no roasting under the sun. Seats are large and comfortable and even have heating should you need it. The train does not stop along the way but does slow down around the most scenic areas and each carriage has an open air vestibule you can stand on to get an outdoors perspective. Food is excellent and plentiful with a separate dining car on the lower level of the carriage you are in and drinks are in plentiful supply. Each carriage has two hosts who point out what to look at and historical info.
These photos will give a flavour of what you see from your window – the train itself and then bridges, scenery, trees, rivers and lakes. A good experience although slightly marred by the impact of smoke haze from the bush fires in BC.
The world famous Rocky Mountaineer
Below include Doris whose dog always barks when the RM engine goes by (But not when the freight trains go by – and there are loads of them. This brings Doris out to wave and we all waved back. Actually a lot of people wave at the train – Canadians are very friendly:)
Rivers and Lakes are on the “doorstep” of your train carriage.
Rivers and lakes along the the Rocky Mountaineer route
My friend Margot recommended a visit to the bamboo groves on the west side of Kyoto – it was well worth finding my way there on the train. The first set of pictures shows an artistic interpretation of the grove using kimono patterns in cones all over the station. Apparently they are lit up at night so very pretty. As you can see, even the train matches in nicely. And would you believe on the train platform there is also a sulphur foot bath you can use for a small payment to soothe your feet after a hard day’s walking and everyone waiting for a train can watch you. Didn’t seem to put people off. I thought this was really neat.
Kimono columns at Arashiyama Station
And then I walked on to the real thing. 15 minutes through this amazing environment – quite extraordinary and not like anything I’ve seen before.
OBSERVATION OF THE DAY – Train Travel – Gotta love it. Here’s how it goes. Get a JR rail pass before you leave home as unless you only plan one train journey it will likely be cheaper than paying as you go. Japan, as my friends in the UK will appreciate, has a train system that is owned by multiple suppliers so JR rail is only valid for the train lines they own (quite a few of the expensive ones eg. Kyoto to Tokyo) but you have to pay for other trips. But that is where any similarity to the UK train systems ends.
Trains are spotless and cleaned by staff in white gloves in many station stops and always immediately at the end of the line before turning round for the return journey. They are always on time. They always have a cart that comes through to sell you coffee and food – and it’s not half bad. They have a conductor who walks through the carriages to review tickets and greets and bows to the customers in each carriage (how come I never managed to get my work colleagues to do that to me I wonder?!?) and they are wearing smarter suits than I’ve seen in many office environments. At the end of the line when they are due to go in the opposite direction the seats make a balletic twirl and turn around meaning that everyone can face forward on every train but equally should they want to sit in a square they can do that too if they prefer.Everyone queues in an orderly fashion on the platform and remain orderly when the train arrives – no-one ever pushes in or shoves you. And most amazing is that every employee at the stations even the large and busy ones can speak “train English” – give them a destination and departure time and they immediately know which platform to direct you too – they seemed to have learned the whole timetable off by heart. Big tick as an excellent way to travel in Japan
Trains in Kyoto Station. Coffee and food is provided with a little bag to put your rubbish in once you are done