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To Hong Kong via Public Toilets Can’t be Worse than Aircraft Ones, Can They ?



A Russian train the couple boarded during the journey / SWNS

The 12,000 mile journey took them eight weeks


A retired couple decided to visit their son in Hong Kong using only public transport to complete the 12,000 mile journey from their Oxford home.


While Phil and Emma Whiting could have flown to the autonomous Chinese territory from London in just shy of 12 hours, they instead opted to spend eight weeks travelling to their final destination, hopping on trains, buses, ferries, taxis, horses and a cable car to get there.


The aim was to reach their son Oliver, who teaches in Hong Kong, by 6 November – in time for his 30th birthday.


“My wife Emma, 61, took early retirement four years ago from her job as a social worker and we have often planned a big journey like this,” Mr Whiting told SWNS.

“We decided it was important to us that we actually travelled to get there, and that we stopped off in various places.”

The journey saw them catch 16 trains, starting with the Eurostar to travel across to mainland Europe,

before continuing on and stopping off in Berlin and Belarus en route. 

They also travelled through Moscow, Suzdal, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan Bator, Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guilin, Huangshan, Yangshuo and Xiamen on the epic itinerary, which took the pair a year to plan.

After arriving in Moscow the Whitings jumped aboard the Trans-Siberian railway for a four-day journey across Russia to Mongolia.



The couple took 16 trains (SWNS)

“It seems like you could get bored easily, but you just don’t,” said Mr Whiting. “You’re travelling through endless landscapes of Russian history.

“There were also lots of other travellers on the train doing similar journeys to us, of all different nationalities, so after a couple of days you gel as a community.”

The couple then trekked through the Golden Triangle in south-east Asia, horse-riding and sleeping in yurts along the way, before arriving in China.


Phil Whiting made sketches along the way (SWNS)

Mr Whiting said: “China was a place that really, really impressed me.

“Everything is bigger and better there than everywhere else. There’s 3,000 to 4,000 years of history; of engineering projects. It’s mind-blowing.

“It calls itself a communist country, but it’s actually one of the most capitalist places you could go to.”

And despite relying on public transport, the couple were impressed with the speed of their journey. He added: “We were never late once, in eight weeks of travel. It was just superb.”

Mr Whiting is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and sketched some of his favourite moments during the trip; he plans to recreate the best ones when back in his Oxford studio.

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