Banbury father and daughter's epic trip on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway
A father and daughter embarked on the trip of a lifetime by train across Russia to Vietnam.
Sally Moore, 46, started her new job as a teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam, in August but decided to add a bit of extra adventure by making the trip by train, accompanied by her father, Jeff.
The epic journey from Banbury took 13 days and included six trains, 8,284 miles, nine time zones, multiple border checks and adventures in dining.
The pair started in Banbury on July 24, travelling to St Pancras where they picked up the Eurostar to Paris, then the Paris-Moscow Express.
Jeff said: "The next afternoon, with great anticipation, we left for Moscow on the Paris-Moscow Express, a fast and comfortable train that travelled through Germany, Poland, and Belarus. "As part of extensive pre-trip travel document preparation we had had to pay for an expensive Belarussian visa but we didn't even get to see any of the country as we travelled through it in the dark! What a shame!
"At the Euro-Russian border at midnight, we stopped to have our wheels changed. We stayed on the train and carriage by carriage we were lifted by hydraulic lifts and had the wheels changed for a wider track. Very exciting! Following that experience we had the Belarussian first, then the Russian customs to contend with. At the border the train was searched and every item in our carriage was thoroughly investigated along with our passports that were taken for an hour."
They arrived in Moscow on July 27, where they picked up the famous Trans-Siberian Express, which travels through Siberia to Vladivostok.
The pair stayed in a cabin measuring 6ft6in by 6ft and there was no shower in their carriage - they had to pay for a short shower in an adjoining carriage.
Jeff said: “All signs and communication in the carriages and at stops were of course in local languages but using a guide book and sign language we were able to communicate somewhat. We were also lucky enough to meet some amazing people who had some English who were very keen to help us.
"One of the kind people we met was a Russian paediatrician who lived in the far north of Siberia. He shared photos of his snowbound home and we shared photos and stories of our lives before he disembarked to change trains for his journey to return to the Arctic Circle.
"One of our regular routines during the days on board the long stretch was constantly checking the timetable posted outside our door in the corridor that shows the stops in local times. On these stops, we were able to get off onto the platform, stretch our legs and sample the local cuisine such as freshly baked goods, dried fish, fresh raspberries and many other delicious and interesting choices.
"We were the only westerners on the train and eating in the restaurant car was an adventure daily with only an occasional picture to give us a clue. We soon found things we liked and kept choosing those from our friendly waiter."
On August 1, the train stopped at Chita, in Russia, and the pair’s carriage was shifted to the Manchurian train line to Beijing. Then followed one-and-a-half days without fresh food, a bag check and the taking of their fingerprints taken at the Chinese border. After a stop over in a comfortable hotel in Beijing, they took a train to Nanning on the China-Vietnam border.
Jeff said; "This train was not as clean as previous trains but the beds were a little wider and the train tracks smoother so our first night's sleep on this train was pretty good. From Beijing to Nanning our carriage was full of many young children who were fascinated by my white beard and trying to practice their English. Trying to communicate made this part of the journey fly by. The scenery changed rapidly and was wonderful to see the contracts of densely built cities and rural China.
"Chinese stations are efficient and the high-speed trains that whipped past us at stations looked fantastic. At the China - Vietnam border following border checks, we changed trains again to venture to our final destination of Hanoi."
On arrival in Hanoi on August 6, they were met by the head of school who joked: “You are one minute late!”
"The next day after a night in my daughter's new flat we visited the newly built school and were welcomed by the staff who had already arrived. After a week of sightseeing and relaxing I flew home. My daughter's new adventure had already started but that adventure for me was now over.
"It is hard to put such a journey into such few words as it really has to be experienced to truly understand what an amazing experience it truly was. We are grateful that we had this opportunity to have had this time together – from hours of staring at changing and fascinating scenery, taking hundreds of photos, sharing family stories, old jokes, laughs plus a few tears (from my daughter).”