‘Around the World in 80 Days’ by Jules Verne is probably the most read travel novel of all time. It certainly is one of the earliest and still is one of the most successful ones as well. Even today roughly 140 years after first being published in France the book is great fun to read and everyone reading it, wants to go to all these exotic places Phileas Fogg, the main character, is travelling to.
This classic describes more the different ways of travelling rather than the destinations themselves. But since this theme is a common one specially amongst younger travellers these days, why not try to get back to the book and hop onto a journey that will lead you through many countries one way all around the world. Follow Fogg and make your own trip happen – Around the World in 80 Days.
Part I – From London to Suez
The first stage of the fictional Phileas Fogg’s journey in Jules Verne`s classic ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ was a trip from London to the Suez Canal. Fogg’s journey involved commute via steamship and rail. If you would like to do the journey today, it will take you far shorter than the 7 days Fogg took even without taking the plane.
In fact, many people are often surprised by how fast a train from London to Italy is. If you take the EuroStar to Paris and then the TGV to Milan, it is possible to depart from London at early afternoon and be in Milan by the early morning of the following day.
Cross from France into Italy through Modane and the ageless Mont Cenis tunnel that connects the two countries. If you want to see the Alps in all their glory, consider connecting through Zurich and onward to Milan. This train ride snakes past majestic mountains, picturesque lakes and thousands of acres of vineyards. From Milan, you can take another 9 hour train ride to the port of Brindisi which in millennia past, marked the end of the Roman Empire’s road and the start of the sea journey to the Near East which included Suez.
In case you have plenty of time to spare for your trip (at least 3 days), go from London to Zurich via Paris. From Zurich, take a train to a small, low traffic train station known as Muottas Muragi. From here, take the Bernina Express from Saint Moritz to Tirano. The train’s name borrows from the scenic, narrow pass it travels through – the Bernina Pass. From Tirano, you can take a train to Milan then proceed to Brindisi.
How much it costs depend on what level of luxury you prefer. The Eurostar has budget-friendly couchettes that have between 4 and 6 berths in each compartment. Private sleepers on the same train can cost close to 3 times more.
Fogg travelled from Brindisi to Suez by steamship. Whereas you can still do the journey by boat, it may make more sense first sailing to Greece, Turkey then onto Egypt’s Suez Canal.
Part II – From Suez to Mumbai
For many people, the idea of Egypt creates the impression of majestic antiquity that is epitomized by the Pyramids of Giza. That is why when you first arrive at the port of Suez, you will be struck by the modern ambience and technical sophistication of the port and how this contrasts with the more widely prevalent side of Egypt as home to relics of ancient Egyptian civilization.
It is said that this is a city you have to peel off in layers if you ever hope to understand what makes it tick. If you can spare a couple of days here before proceeding on your journey to Mumbai, it will be worth a while. After all, ancient Egyptian civilization is one of the most admired in the world even spawning its own field of study – Egyptology.
It is a fifteen day cruise from Suez to Mumbai which interestingly, almost coincides with the thirteen days it took Fogg to travel between the two ports. The cruise will often stop at Aqaba (Jordan), Safaga (Egypt), Djibouti (Djibouti) and Muscat (Oman) before embarking on the final phase of this leg to Mumbai.
When you eventually arrive in Mumbai, you will not need any briefing to know this is the home of India’s world famous movie industry popularly referred to as Bollywood, though many locals resent this comparison or derivation with Hollywood. A visit to a film set is a must do. However, you can start your visit by seeing the enigmatic Gateway of India, the number one city monument. From there, travel to Chor Bazaar ad Tomb of Haji Ali before laying out plans for the next leg of your journey round the world.
From Mumbai to Kolkata
The distance from the Mumbai, the financial capital of India, to Kolkata, India’s cultural capital is close to 2,000 kilometres. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, travelling between the two cities by road is impractical. Flying would be great and the trip is just shy of three hours. Doing this trip by train though is probably the best way to go. It takes anywhere from 24 to 35 hours.
Though this may sound like a long time, it provides a close-up and raw experience of both urban and rural Indian life that no flight can give you. And in any case, if you want o travel like Fogg, you need to do so just the way he did it – by train. There are several trains between these two important cities mainly departing from Central Railway Station in Mumbai and arriving at Howrah Junction Station in Kolkata.
Some trains however depart from Lokmanyatilak Train Station in Mumbai and/or arrive at Santragachi Junction station in Kolkata. Howrah is more than a mile from downtown Kolkata but you can always make the trip downtown through the regular buses and countless rickshaws. This would be particularly handy if you are doing the trip with a large group and costs are an issue.
If an express train is your thing, you may want to go with the HWH Duronto Express. The Duronto though only runs twice a week – Tuesday and Saturday. Other options include Kolkata Mail, Howrah Mail, CSTM HOWRAH, Gitanjali Express and Howrah Sup Express.
Part IV – From Kolkata to Hong Kong
Despite its small size, Hong Kong is one of the most important banking, financial and trading centres in the world. Now a specially administered part of China since the British ceded control, Hong Kong is a near perfect blend of past and present, Eastern and Western culture. Whether it is the fantastic Ocean Park, the beautiful Victoria Peak or the stunning Repulse Bay, or just the daily life in the streets, this is one city that is likely to exceed your expectations. It is meticulously organized and has a stellar reputation for safety.
Fogg travels from Kolkata to Hong Kong by steamer. Doing the same today is difficult since there is hardly any reputable cruise ship that sails from Kolkata to Hong Kong. You may have little option other than taking a flight from the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata to the Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong. Airlines serving this route include Sri Lankan Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Air India, Jet Airways, Thai Airways, Dragon Air, Cathay Pacific Airways and Emirates.