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The Great Railway Bazaar

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  11,269 Ratings  ·  538 Reviews
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 Mand ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Mariner Books (first published 1969)
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Shamim E. Haque This is a great book! But it is a very realistic depiction of the journey and not an emotional flowery reaction to the pleasures of travel. I think…moreThis is a great book! But it is a very realistic depiction of the journey and not an emotional flowery reaction to the pleasures of travel. I think the Indian section is particularly harsh. It is a very enjoyable book though. (less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul are a miserable bastard.

On every excruciating page of this around Europe and Asia whine-fest, I wanted to shake your self-righteous little New England prick shoulders and beat some enjoyment into your crabby-bastardness.

The trains are late or crowded or smelly -- waaaaah!

The food is crappy or elsewhere or non-existent -- waaaaah! waaaaah!

The service is poor or sarcastic or requiring bribes (sorry..."baksheesh." Boy are you ever cool and in the know) -- waaaaah! waaaaah! fucki
Andrew Smith
I’ve been hearing about Theroux for years and yet had never read one of books. The idea of reading about a man journeying alone was something I couldn’t quite settle to. Would it be tedious and repetitious? Perhaps it’d be like delving into one of those dry guidebooks we’ve all taken with us to a foreign city – lots of information but very little pleasure? In the end curiosity got the better of me and I grabbed an audio copy of perhaps his best known book.

Set in 1973 (but released in 1975) it te
May 15, 2008 Kirsten rated it it was ok
oh dear, yes, he's observant and turns a pretty phrase on every page, makes you laugh, etc. but he's so contemptuous of everyone he comes across i lost interest. skipped all the trains between india and the soviet union. he really loses it at the end and addresses all the russians he meets on the trans siberian railway as monkeys. granted, i have now been in a similar situation, far from home in bleak surroundings at christmastime, like theroux on the trans siberian, homesick and irritated by ev ...more
Sep 27, 2012 Kavita rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
The book is an account of a journey through Europe and Asia by train. The concept is good, and the author made a great journey, and has the gift of story telling. But the author himself comes across as a stupid, rude and horrible person who abuses random people, makes snide remarks, plays practical jokes on helpful locals, and in general appears quite slap-worthy.

He mostly behaves himself in the first half of the book, but on reaching Japan, he becomes a perfect pest. Giving away gifts that wou
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I started out liking this book, but the author started to grate on my nerves. He took an amazing trip on trains from Europe to Turkey to Iran through Asia including Thailand, Japan, and Siberia. For a large portion of his journey, he is following the "hippie trail," popular in the 1960s and 1970s for people traveling from England to India. But his tone and commentary on the people he meets were not always the kindest. In fact he seemed rather uninterested in talking to anyone who wasn't already ...more
Apr 13, 2016 Andrea rated it really liked it

In theory nothing is more romantic than a long voyage aboard a train. In reality you tend to get yourself into strange situations, meet questionable characters, occasionally starve, and be left to your own devices and demons for days at a time, while you bob gently in solitude along the endless tracks. This is a travelogue of just such a voyage.

The biggest complaint from others I noticed with this book is apparent negativity and rudeness displayed by the author as he traverses through Central a
Jeremy Allan
May 29, 2013 Jeremy Allan rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
So Paul Theroux takes a trip from Paris to Japan and back, all on the railroad (with some minor air and sea deviations), seeing the world in all its sundry chaos on the way. I couldn't have been more excited to start this book when I did, being a lover of train travel (mostly without the opportunity to express that love), and curious about all these places he had visited--Afghanistan, Siberia, Vietnam, India, Singapore, many more--that I would like to visit and still have not had the chance. So ...more
Jul 18, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing
Less a travel book and more a book about the physical act of travelling. Theroux has a refreshing lack of romance about the journey and the places he visits; most places are dirty, dull, unbearably hot or cold, and full of locals whose sole aim seems to be to rip him off. And although Theroux seems to enjoy very few of his stopovers, he feels compelled to travel and to sample these places. And as the book progresses, you feel the main aspect of the book change from a simple travel book to a more ...more
Feb 20, 2016 Santhosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The travelogue of a drunk, imperialist, chauvinist, self-righteous, elitist travelling in first class, flaunting rules and baksheesh in equal measure, and generally getting on everybody's nerves and goodwill. With that as the base, the rest of the book is engaging enough, especially the conversations with fellow passengers. Set in 1973, the colonial hangover comes along as an undertone for the entire journey, though his connections do open doors, leading to some not-so-easily-accessible sights a ...more
Dec 21, 2010 Reid rated it liked it
Whereas this appears on the surface to be the story of one man taking trains around Asia, it is more an exploration of Theroux's own internal wanderlust. It is also fascinating to today's readers since it was written in 1975 and so much has changed since then, though perhaps most insistent is the fact that so much has not.

It is a source of some head-scratching that Theroux generally eschews the investigation of any of the places he travels through, no matter how fascinating they may be. He has c
Dec 29, 2008 Tom rated it it was amazing
I love Paul Theroux and this, one his first is the one which set me off. I wanted to re-read it before reading his new book about taking the same trip across Europe and Asia some thirty years later.
In the early 70s which he writes about in this book there were no railways in Afghanistan and I'm pretty sure railways aren't a priority to this day but I'm looking forward to seeing how he crosses the country in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s.
Theroux is an author one either loves or hate
Aug 12, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it
Recommended to Melissa by: Chris Whitley
This book portrays how I feel about travel better than I can articulate. It shows all the effort, the trouble, the fear, the discomfort, the cost, the worry - all the unpleasantness about travel - but at the same time shows why people want to travel despite it all. Not that I would travel like Paul Theroux traveled to write this book. I don't think he would recommend it, either. I don't think he embarked on it for enjoyment and leisure as much as to see if he could do it - the equivalent of slog ...more
Feb 16, 2016 Malvika rated it really liked it
It took me over 40 days to complete this book and I was so glad when it ended. Not because I didn't like it, it just got very exhausting by the end. Also, because I was frustrated I was taking so much time and I hadn't finished any book in 2016. I loved the India and Vietnam chapters, they were a treat to read.

Overall, this travelogue was amazing and a special one because I love train journeys as well. This makes taking so much time worth it (almost). And what made this even more special was th
Jan 01, 2016 Quo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that began a sub-genre of travel writing, or so it seems. While there are many varieties of travel narratives, Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar takes the reader in a somewhat different direction, for this author's travel books are in many ways more self-reflective than they are descriptive of the places he is passing through. And with Theroux, there is always much more detail about the process of travel & about the passage through a country by train than about arriva ...more
Katy Dickinson
Apr 30, 2008 Katy Dickinson rated it really liked it
From my February 5, 2007 blog

The Great Railway Bazaar (by Paul Theroux)

I finished one book on the drive home and had to go to Border's for a new book to get me through dinner. I thus interrupted my current naval reading theme with the quick read of a famous and excellent travel book: The Great Railway Bazaar: by train through Asia by Paul Theroux (ISBN-10: 0618658947, originally published in 1975).

My husband and I have a work trip to Bangalore later this m
Apr 06, 2011 Caleb rated it it was amazing
Just so we're clear from the beginning, Paul Theroux is a dick. Or a misanthrope or whatever else you want to call him. Now that we've got that behind us, this is one of the best books (and especially best travelogues) I have read. Written in 1975, Theroux traveled for four months by train from London across Europe, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia to Japan, and then back to London along the 6000 mile Trans Siberian Railway. Theroux managed by luck to be in Iran just before the Shah fall, ...more
Phuong Vy Le

*Review Bản Tiếng Việt*

Du Kí - Cá tính của những hành trình

"Mỗi chuyến du hành, rong ruổi, thám hiểm đều là một thực thể riêng, chẳng chuyến đi nào giống chuyến đi nào. Chúng có cá tính, tính cách, sự cá biệt, sự độc đáo riêng." - John Steinbeck, "Tôi, Charley & hành trình đi tìm nước Mỹ"

Tôi thích du kí, một phần vì sở thích dịch chuyển, một phần từ trải nghiệm. Tôi tin tính cách mỗi người thể hiện rất rõ qua những chuyến đi. Mỗi một hành trình, thậm chí dẫu có cùng điểm đến, đều mang cá
Jul 26, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing
A great read -- no review here, but will comment when I've read (soon) Ghost Train..., which is The Great Railway Bazaar redux, 30 years later.
May 16, 2012 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
The novelist and travel writer rides by train from France to Turkey (via the now-shabby Orient Express), through Pakistan, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Siberia, and back. 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 ...more
Mar 14, 2012 Philip rated it really liked it
When, some thirty years later, Paul Theroux repeated the journey that he had described in The Great Railway Bazaar, he declared travel writing to be ‘the lowest form of literary self-indulgence.’ His original journey in the early 1970s was a deliberate act, a ruse upon which to hang a book. The travel featured was nothing less than an occupation, whose sole product was to be collected and recorded experience. We, the readers, must thank him for his single-minded devotion to selfishness, for The ...more
Lindsay Roberts
Allright, so I'm in the middle of the book so far, but so far my reactions, both positive and negative have been quite strong. Theroux's unabashed narrowness of mind (I guess 'misanthropic' would be a nicer way of saying that he's kind of an asshole) combined with sweeping statements like, "Afghans are lazy, idle, and violent" (87 in my 1979 Penguin edition) piss me off! I keep setting the book down in a huff, but his writing is so good that I find myself coming back to it a few days later.

Mike Rogers
Jan 16, 2012 Mike Rogers rated it it was ok
Writer Paul Theroux goes on a rail journey that must be at least five times longer than the one I just completed. He starts in London and travels through Europe, Turkey, the Middle East, India, China, Japan and Russia. I disagree with Theroux's travel style, which seems to consist of taking the train just for the sake of taking the train. He spends little time in cities and towns along the route and spends most of the book describing the trains themselves and the people that ride them.

The best t
Aug 18, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This probably should have five stars. It is gritty, meaty and pure Theroux. Apart from a hopeful start, there is nothing of the romance of travel except for one passage where, in Vietnam, the exquisite beauty of mountains, sky and ocean move the author to lyrical description. Rather, it is a chronicle of torrid conditions on overcrowded third-class carriages crammed with desperate humanity eating unspeakable food, alternated with, less frequently, weird fellow travellers sharing luxurious old co ...more
Jun 24, 2008 Molly rated it liked it
I dont think this book is entirely memorable in anyway, although I think it was really good at capturing the feeling of traveling (for travel nerds,anyway). while reading it I got the sense of the sort of vacant yet full-of-possibilities feeling that comes from directionless travel. this is an experience I value almost as much as the destination itself, because when else can you feel so unattached and unburdened as when your sole responsibility is to make it to some arbitrary destination in some ...more
The vast majority of travel writing is bullshit, unreadable trash written by pretentious windbags about their supposedly "unique" experiences...

But Paul Theroux pulls it off. Perhaps it's shitty of me to say this, but he does an awfully good job of vocalizing my own misanthropic perspective better than I ever could. I suppose that makes me no better than a Rush Limbaugh listener, but oh well, it's cathartic, especially when one is moping around through Thailand and Burma. It's also good to know
Jan 18, 2016 Franc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: wesley neal
“I had learned what I had always secretly believed, that the difference between travel writing and fiction is the difference between recording what the eye sees and discovering what the imagination knows. Fiction is pure joy – how sad that I could not reinvent the trip as fiction.” While Theroux may be sad about it, we’re all the luckier. For what he does instead is bring his novelist eye and, more importantly, his novelist’s ear with him on his slow train circuit around Asia.

I can remember in
Mar 19, 2016 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It wasn't the book I expected. I picked it on the back cover blurb's mention of the Trans-Siberian Express, but actually it focuses more on Asia: India, Vietnam, Singapore, etc. (See the subtitle, Ruth: "By train through Asia". Duh!). Anyway, I absolutely loved it. Paul Theroux has a very dry sense of humour, and unless you pick up on this, you may find him curmudgeonly. I found it absolutely fascinating, as it wasn't only a trip through space, but also time, because it's an account of a journey ...more
Thao  Tran
Oct 28, 2014 Thao Tran rated it it was ok
.....Thành thật mà nói, tôi đã phải vật vã lắm mới đọc hết cuốn này. Giống như người lữ khách “tôi”, tự cuốn sách trôi đi bằng lời văn tàng tàng, những sự kiện không đầu không đuôi. Nhưng tác giả hẳn không viết để làm tôi ngỡ ngàng vì bất cứ điều gì cả. Ông chỉ ghi lại những gì mình thấy trong suốt chuyến đi ấy: cái hoang tàn nguy hiểm ở iran iraq, sự lộn xộn ở istanbul, sự trống vắng hoang sơ ở Miến Điện, và cả sự vòng vo ở Việt Nam…….. Tôi chẳng lạ gì mấy điều ấy cả, như một thứ đặc sản của cá ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
May 05, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was ok
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List
I’m told this is a benchmark in travel literature, a must read, but I couldn’t honestly rate this even three stars. It’s the kind of book that instead of causing you to yearn to see new places makes you want to stay at home. The book would seem to have all the ingredients of a classic; in print after 38 years, this is the account of Theroux’s travels by rail across Asia in the mid seventies, beginning with the Orient Express. Each chapter is named after a train taken: The Orient Express Direct, ...more
Apr 28, 2013 Elaine rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Three stars. In some ways I feel unkind to Paul Theroux, but when I think of the books I've given 4 stars to they have entertained me far more or engaged me better. This book is undeniably well written and Theroux is an observant and entertaining chronicler of human behaviour and culture. I found parts of it much more interesting than other parts and at times wanted to put the book down for rather longer. He is better at describing people and their amusing conversations than making the long desc ...more
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more
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“travel [is] flight and pursuit in equal parts.” 23 likes
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