“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.
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 traveling there is difficult and expensive.
Early this year (2017), out of the blues I posted about Eagle Hunters of the Kazakh people of Mongolia on my FB timeline and my trekker friend (I met during my last trip) invited me to tag along with his backpacking trip from China- Mongolia- Russia- Europe trip. They planned to explore Mongolia and Russia via Trans-Siberian Railway. I decided to join only for the half of the trip (15 days) covering only Mongolia and Lake Baikal, Southeast Siberia.
After all … I always wanted to explore Lake Baikal too.
The 3 of us started our journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing via flight, took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Ulan Baator, Mongolia and continue to Russia.
My travel companions during that time around were gifts 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 loved 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 good companions while traveling especially when you were stuck on a train for days and when you were traveling in hard places like this was a blessing.
So … we spent 27 hours on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Ulan Baator (rm1340). Explored Ulan Baator and its surrounding in 8 days and continued the journey again to Irkutsk, Southeast Siberia via Trans-Siberian Railway from Ulan Baator to Irkutsk (35 hours for approximately rm822).
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 language barrier seemed to be the major problem as English language was like an alien language here at this side of Russia. (actual cost/ ripped off cost)
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 snow heavily a few days earlier and most of the frozen surface was covered with snow.
We booked our accommodations via online and decided to go easy with our transportation arrangement as booking for transportation through the internet was quite expensive. We stayed in 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?
Traveling as a true traveler (not a touch and go tourist) matures me but I do understand that not everybody is built for an extreme adventure like this. I admit it was tough 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 doing it every day now …
Owhhh … am very sleepy, I need my power nap! gotta run … bye