It seems not a month goes by without the announcement of a proposed new rail line in Southeast Asia. It’s ripe for development. In terms of transport networks, much of the mainland and islands that comprise this stunningly beautiful part of the world are either massively undeveloped or simply not there.
The changes being planned are so sizeable, and the areas they cover so vast, it’s near-impossible to imagine what those networks would look like without a map. Luckily, though, SmartRail World is in the address book of a rather skilled designer and writer by the name of James Clark – the editor of the superb travel blog and guide, Nomadic Notes – who has studiously removed any need for such an imagination and we recommend you take a look…
Last year, James shared his Nomadic Notes (@) Future Southeast Asia map 2016, a subway-style map that compiled every current and proposed line that was due to go ahead, and he has been hard at work since then to produce this year’s edition. It includes parts of Southeast Asia that are yet to even have a locomotive on their shores – such as the Philippine’s south island, Papua New Guinea and Central, West, North and South Sulawesi.
James does a wonderful job of bringing the map to life. A copy of the above map can be downloaded here.
Also covered is a breakdown of what has changed since his last edition, where he highlights those areas that have either lost out as a result of plans not being realised, or ones that have been the victim of budgetary cuts that were cancelled altogether. Further into the story, James uses his insight and knowledge of the region to add to a five-strong list of what he calls “glaring omissions” that would serve as useful extensions to lines in Sumatra, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The latest addition to that list is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Myanmar, the country that between the years of 1948 and 2011 was ruled by a military dictatorship. Those many decades of enforced rule, which ended with the voting in of Aung San Suu Kyi, has created a transport vacuum that James believes needs to be filled.
James is keen to point out (as he did last year) that this latest map is merely a depiction of what has been proposed and not to be used for travel around the region – after all, you’d be waiting for a long time to catch a train in a country that has not one piece of track. Usefully though, James has created a pretty comprehensive guide to help one make use of the tracks that have already been laid, with his Southeast Asia guide – giving tips and advice on a form of transport that James thinks is “the best way to travel in the region”.
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