A nice kind of dizzy
It happened again yesterday. The first time I felt or thought I felt the ground swaying was on Olkhon Island in Russia two years ago. About a year later, I felt the floor move again in a cafe in Mandalay.
Yesterday, while sitting in a restaurant in Kota Bharu, the room swayed and I thought I was about to faint.
But that’s what long train journeys do to you. They stay with you after you get off. On a train, your head, mind and body get so accustomed to being rocked from side to side that when you get back on solid ground, you can actually feel the floor moving if you sit still. Apparently this is a thing, and it’s called land sickness.
Two days ago I boarded a train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. My train was scruffy, to put it nicely. The carpets were old and the upholstery on the seats needed changing. The fabric on the seats had frayed from the thousands of bottoms that have sat on them over the years. I reached Singapore seven hours later.
After a quick jump over the border to the Malaysian state of Johor where I had a nice briyani, I took another train that night to Wakaf Bharu, which is the stop for Kota Bharu. This second ride was an unbelievable seventeen hours, longer than a flight from KL to London or Amsterdam. Not the longest continuous train ride I’ve been on (I’ve done 75 hours from Moscow-Irkutsk) but seventeen hours is pretty ridiculous considering you can do the same journey in two hours by plane non-stop.
Those of us who love trains don’t really care how long our journeys are. But for those who want to rush, who cannot wait, who lead such busy busy busy lives, I don’t suppose they can imagine how anyone can stand spending all those hours on a train.
One question I’ve heard more than once is “What on earth did you do, three nights on a train in Russia?” And my answer is really simple- I read, wrote in my notebook, ate my meals, had tea or coffee, I looked out the window and took photographs. Oh, wait- I slept too, of course. Sleeping always helps.
I’m going to be taking another train back to KL later today. It’ll be a fifteen-hour ride, if I’m lucky.
Fifteen hours is more than enough rocking and swaying, so I know how I’ll be feeling same time tomorrow. These train rides have a habit of staying with you.
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