Travel blogger James Clark visualized what the region would look like if all its transit goals are achieved.

Travel blogger and self-described “digital nomad” James Clark thinks a lot about Southeast Asia’s transit system as he roams the region via train, bus, and motorbike taxi for his online travel guide, Nomadic Notes. Over the last few months, Clark, an Australian native who’s usually based in Saigon, Vietnam, has also been following news reports on big transit projects, like the Kunming-Singapore high-speed railway. So he has pretty strong opinions about what a more robust railway network in the region could look like. On his blog, he writes:

I envision it to be a cross between China’s high-speed rail network and Europe’s international InterCity services. With a single visa for ASEAN, an InterCity-style train would be able travel from Bangkok to Phnom Penh in four hours, and a high-speed train in under three.

Based on his research and experiences, Clark designed a subway-style map of the region that weaves potential future train lines into the current existing network. The not-yet-built railways include those that are currently under construction, those that have been proposed but not yet deemed feasible, and those promised by politicians. A few (less than one percent of the total distance of new lines) are also his own recommendations, to “fill in the missing gaps,” he writes in a detailed blog post explaining the map.  

That’s what Southeast Asia will look like if all its transit dreams come true. (James Clark/nomadnotes.com)

Here’s a closer look at the map around Kunming city, in Southwest China, which is the connecting point for routes that will end up in the far corners of Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos. Construction on these lines is set to start in December:

A snazzy new train station has just been opened in Kunming, in preparation for the traffic that’s expected to come through once the train lines are built. (James Clark/nomadnotes.com)

The map below shows the close-up of the region that’s just south of the map above. A key railway line has been proposed between Kanchanaburi, a town in the West of Thailand, and the port of Dawei, in Myanmar. Another, on the east, would connect Bangkok and Phnom Penh for the first time.

On the bottom right, there’s a small link between Saigon to the coastal town Mui Ne. “I’ve placed this partly for selfish purposes as I would sure love to be able to get the train from Saigon to the beach resort area of Mui Ne for weekend getaways,” Clark writes.

James Clark/nomadnotes.com

That’s kind of the spirit of this enterprise—a mix of practical travel info and imaginative transit fan-fiction. Clark’s map isn’t entirely comprehensive; he has purposely left out a few unbuilt railway lines either because there wasn’t enough information about them, or because the map didn’t have enough room. Clark is also open to suggestions on additions and edits: If you’ve got an opinion about how to get around better in Southeast Asia, here’s how to reach him.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a full parking lot with a double rainbow over it
    Transportation

    Parking Reform Will Save the City

    Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   

  2. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  3. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. A woman looks straight at camera with others people and trees in background.
    Equity

    Why Pittsburgh Is the Worst City for Black Women, in 6 Charts

    Pittsburgh is the worst place for black women to live in for just about every indicator of livability, says the city’s Gender Equity Commission.

×