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The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train through Asia [Paperback]

Paul Theroux
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 1 2006
First published more than thirty years ago, Paul Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand continental tour. Asia's fabled trains -- the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, the Trans-Siberian Express -- are the stars of a journey that takes him on a loop eastbound from London's Victoria Station to Tokyo Central, then back from Japan on the Trans-Siberian. Brimming with Theroux's signature humor and wry observations, this engrossing chronicle is essential reading for both the ardent adventurer and the armchair traveler.

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The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train through Asia + Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown + Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar
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About the Author

PAUL THEROUX's highly acclaimed novels include Blinding Light, Hotel Honolulu, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong, and The Mosquito Coast. His travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, and The Happy Isles of Oceania. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.


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First Sentence
EVER since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as his later books Feb. 9 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Read this after Happy Isles of Oceania, so, maybe that's why I was disappointed. This was one of his earlier books.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A series of interesting vignettes. June 2 2003
Format:Paperback
I recently re-read Theroux's Great Railway Bazaar and immediately was awash in memories of innumerable train journeys across the length and breadth of my native India. This is an excellent read both for train lovers (whom the exotic trains Theroux rides will captivate) as well as readers who enjoy travelogues. To be fair, this is less a travelogue than a series of vignettes covering Theroux's journeys through various Asian countries. Theroux makes no attempt to develop an understanding of the cultures he travels through but is content to describe the train itself along with a handful of anecdotes about the people he meets on each leg of his journey. Fair enough, this is not after all a sociological text but a travel diary of sorts.
And it is in description that Theroux's strength lies. He has the ability to make an anecdote seem so real as to make the reader a part of the scene. The pace of the book varies with the stop and start of each journey and I guess every reader will prefer some parts to others. Plus of course, it is a bit jarring when one reads this book today, since the tide of history has greatly changed many of the countries Theroux traversed. Still, culture is slower to change than politics and that keeps much of the book relevant even today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grumpy Travels of a Fine Writer Jan. 30 2009
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I recently read Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (which re-creates the trip described in The Great Railway Bazaar and comments on the earlier trip). Although I thought that the writing is better and more interesting in The Great Railway Bazaar, this book lacks the perspective on writing that makes Ghost Train to the Eastern Star special for authors.

For many years, I traveled across the United States by slow trains (on a free pass) over 72 hours. I was always glad to have the trip end . . . except for that one time I met an interesting young woman (but that's a story for another time).

I would find the kind of trip that Mr. Theroux describes to be unendurable. It's not surprising that he did, too. And that spoils much of the potential fun of this book.

He is fixated on giving you more than you ever wanted to know about bad meals, poor ticket-buying experiences, missing visas, getting drunk, poor sanitary facilities, and unpleasant companions. Mr. Theroux takes himself very seriously. That's too bad. A little humor about his situation would have helped.

From Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, it's not hard to know why: His marriage was falling apart and he couldn't really afford the trip. All I can say is that his problems show.

Imagine instead that a poor person had been granted this same opportunity: It would have been like a magic carpet ride. Unfortunately, you take yourself with you when you are a travel writer.

There are some good moments in the book. Occasionally, Mr. Theroux has enough knowledge about a country and its people to use his journey to comment in a helpful way about the culture.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Grumpy Travels of a Fine Writer Jan. 30 2009
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I recently read Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (which re-creates the trip described in The Great Railway Bazaar and comments on the earlier trip). Although I thought that the writing is better and more interesting in The Great Railway Bazaar, this book lacks the perspective on writing that makes Ghost Train to the Eastern Star special for authors.

For many years, I traveled across the United States by slow trains (on a free pass) over 72 hours. I was always glad to have the trip end . . . except for that one time I met an interesting young woman (but that's a story for another time).

I would find the kind of trip that Mr. Theroux describes to be unendurable. It's not surprising that he did, too. And that spoils much of the potential fun of this book.

He is fixated on giving you more than you ever wanted to know about bad meals, poor ticket-buying experiences, missing visas, getting drunk, poor sanitary facilities, and unpleasant companions. Mr. Theroux takes himself very seriously. That's too bad. A little humor about his situation would have helped.

From Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, it's not hard to know why: His marriage was falling apart and he couldn't really afford the trip. All I can say is that his problems show.

Imagine instead that a poor person had been granted this same opportunity: It would have been like a magic carpet ride. Unfortunately, you take yourself with you when you are a travel writer.

There are some good moments in the book. Occasionally, Mr. Theroux has enough knowledge about a country and its people to use his journey to comment in a helpful way about the culture.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Grumpy Travels of a Fine Writer Jan. 30 2009
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I recently read Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (which re-creates the trip described in The Great Railway Bazaar and comments on the earlier trip). Although I thought that the writing is better and more interesting in The Great Railway Bazaar, this book lacks the perspective on writing that makes Ghost Train to the Eastern Star special for authors.

For many years, I traveled across the United States by slow trains (on a free pass) over 72 hours. I was always glad to have the trip end . . . except for that one time I met an interesting young woman (but that's a story for another time).

I would find the kind of trip that Mr. Theroux describes to be unendurable. It's not surprising that he did, too. And that spoils much of the potential fun of this book.

He is fixated on giving you more than you ever wanted to know about bad meals, poor ticket-buying experiences, missing visas, getting drunk, poor sanitary facilities, and unpleasant companions. Mr. Theroux takes himself very seriously. That's too bad. A little humor about his situation would have helped.

From Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, it's not hard to know why: His marriage was falling apart and he couldn't really afford the trip. All I can say is that his problems show.

Imagine instead that a poor person had been granted this same opportunity: It would have been like a magic carpet ride. Unfortunately, you take yourself with you when you are a travel writer.

There are some good moments in the book. Occasionally, Mr. Theroux has enough knowledge about a country and its people to use his journey to comment in a helpful way about the culture.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Less than I expected
Despite it's previous bestseller status, I found this book to be quite slow and it didn't grab my concentration. Read more
Published on April 11 2004 by J. Jacobs
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad at all
This is a journal of a trip covering the major rail routes available in the 1970s across Europe and Asia. Read more
Published on Sept. 16 2003 by Erika Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting, rambling journey
"Paul Theroux is _so_ overrated!"
It was a line I would hear over and over again during the past month I spent with 'The Great Railway Bazaar' every time I fielded the... Read more
Published on Dec 11 2002 by Elisabeth W. Movius
3.0 out of 5 stars Train travelling by reading.
"Train travel animate my imagination and usually give me solitude to order and write my thoughts: I travel easily in two directions, along the level rails while Asia flashed... Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2002 by Britt Arnhild Lindland
5.0 out of 5 stars It's the people that make the travelogue
One of the off-putting things about traditional travelogues is the litany of thing-descriptions (buildings, markets, clothes, hills) which just don't make for compelling brain... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2001 by Venugapal Vasudevan
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Opportunity Wasted
A great opportunity wasted.
This is my first Theroux. I am envious for he had the opportunity to travel all around the world that too in train. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2001 by Hariharan S.
2.0 out of 5 stars Obsolete and almost racist
This book may have been a pleasant read when it appeared in the mid 70's, but today, it is definitely unsavory. The attitude of Mr. Read more
Published on Sept. 18 2001 by Jethro Manjay
4.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Classic.
Reading this book is like taking a trip to the past. The first edition of the book was actually printed in 1974 & many countries have changed since. U.S.S. Read more
Published on June 15 2001 by Ping Lim
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