“If you want to catch a beast you don’t see every day. You have to go places quite out of the way. You have to go places no others can get to. You have to get cold and you have to get wet, too” ~ Dr. Seuss
Love … love .. love that quote by Dr. Seuss about hunting for beast at the most difficult and isolated place. A place where I should get wet and cold. In fact, the place that I went to was far beyond cold but freezing below sub-zero type of icy cold.
Ulan Baator of Mongolia and Lake Baikal of Southeast Siberia via Trans-Siberian railway train.
I would briefly share the details of our journey and the actual transportation cost in this post. Hoping to inspire you to be a little adventurous and travel more.
Definitely the most chilling journey.
I haven’t been to either North or South pole yet …so I am not sure how to compare the difference, but I was informed that here in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia -36℃ during winter is just normal. It’s darn cold enough for a tropical girl like me.
For almost 2 years, I have been wanted to explore Mongolia but friends kept on telling me that travelling to Mongolia and Russia is difficult and expensive.
Early this year (2017), out of the blue I posted about Eagle Hunters of the Kazakh people of Mongolia on my facebook timeline and my trekker friend (I met during my last trip) invited me to tag along with his backpacking trip to China- Mongolia- Russia- Europe. They plan to explore Mongolia and Russia via Trans-Siberian Railway.
Being the green brain with an impromptu mind, I agree to travel together with them. But decided to join only for the first half of the trip (15 days) covering Mongolia and Lake Baikal, Southeast Siberia.
We started in Beijing. I traveled alone from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and met them at the airport. Pick up our train ticket and took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Ulan Baator, Mongolia and continue to Russia.
Traveling in-between boarders is challenging on its own especially in winter. Dealing with the language barrier and the immigration procedure requires a high level of patience.
Having a good travel companion is a bliss.
My travel companions were a gift from heaven … my first time traveling with them but the understanding and tolerance between us were excellent, we wickedly clicked! A blessed again … Alhamdullilah and I have no complaints.
Some people love to travel alone and some just couldn’t.
As I traveled along this trip, I realized that I don’t prefer to travel alone. Having a good companion while traveling especially when you were stuck on a train for days and when you were traveling in hard places like this … a good companion is a blessing.
So, we spent 27 hours on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Ulan Bator, Mongolia (rm1340). Explored Ulan Baator and its surrounding for 8 days and continued our journey again to Irkutsk, Southeast Siberia via Trans-Siberian Railway from Ulan Baator to Irkutsk (35 hours for approximately rm822).
The train ride was comfortable, the heater available at all time along the journey.
Our only issue was on power point. We constantly need to charge our gadgets and the only available power point is in the hallway in front of our room. We were basically hibernating like a little squirrel curled up in its little burrow in winter. Thank God we did not miss our Irkutsk station.
We reached Irkutsk train station at a wee hour, grab a car (200 rubles/ 500 rubles) in front of the station heading to Irkutsk bus station and tried to catch an early bus to Olkhon Island of Lake Baikal, Russia. Never thought that it would be this easy though.
The 10.00am bus to Olkhon Island was right across the road in front of the bus station (800 rubles per person/ 1100 rubles per person). The arrangement was quite easy but the language barrier seemed to be the major problem as the English language was like an alien language here at this side of Russia. (actual cost/ ripped off cost)
Lake Baikal in winter is beyond words.
Totally an alien place for the 3 of us. Amazingly different. It was freezingly cold but the view and experience of spending our moment there is priceless.
We stayed for 4 days in Lake Baikal exploring North (800 rubles) and South (1000 rubles) sides of the frozen lake. When we were there, the weather was a bit disturbing. It snows heavily a few days earlier and most of the frozen surface was covered with snow.
We booked our accommodations online and decided to go easy with our transportation arrangement as booking for transportation through the internet was quite expensive. We stayed in a shared hostel in Olkhlon Island and discovered that arranging for transportation to and from the Island was surprisingly very convenient.
We took a public bus on our way back from Olkhlon Island to Irkutsk for 800 rubles per person and grab a car from bus station to our hostel, which turned out that it was just a few km away (200 rubles/ 500 rubles) lol. Well … opportunist is everywhere and things just happened.
We spent a day wandering around Irkutsk… an industrial city but in winter, there was nothing much to see. I would probably come again one day and wander around interesting places in Russia too. Who knows … right?
Conclusion: Traveling as a true traveler (not a touch and go tourist) matures us but I do understand that not everybody is built for an extreme adventure like this. I agree that the journey from Beijing to Ulan Bator and to Lake Baikal is challenging. To be able to enjoy this type of adventure you need to be healthy and well prepared.
I admit it was tough. Not everybody can do this especially when we have such a comfortable and warm life at home, and for me, if you want to experience and learn more about life, you gotta step out of your comfort zone. I am currently pushing myself out of it every day now …
Owhhh … am very sleepy, I need my power nap! gotta run … bye