OR THE NIGHT OF HELL, AND HOW NOT TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL WELCOME IN YOUR COUNTRY.
Alert: Off to Colombia in a couple of days so I will only be posting from there and my ongoing journey. Will be back on this journey through China (Forbidden City, Great Wall and Terracotta Army), Vietnam (Hanoi and its great museums and its scooters and bikes, Halong Bay, and Nha Trang for a rest and snorkelling), Kota Kinabalu for R and R and finally Thailand (Retreats by rivers and Ayuttera for amazing temples and history). I thought this was a good stopping point, a cliffhanger if you will. So OVER AND OUT and an intermission from this trip xxxx
OR, THE INCREDIBLE GOBI DESERT AND THE LAST PART OF MY TRANS SIBERIAN EXPRESS ADVENTURE.
Again, I had a feeling I was never leaving this bitterly cold and amazing place but as they say, all good things must come to an end. As usual I was up at the crack of dawn to catch my last connection by train to Beijing. Sad to leave but also wildly excited to see the Gobi Desert from the train. On this last train journey I only bought high hopes and windy biscuits for the trip. (I was all done with things meaty or so I thought!)
I only spent four days here but I fell in love with it and it’s people. I arrived at six in the morning and got a cab using some euros I had (you can’t get currency outside) The drive to the central square was about three minutes! The cabby was a ruddy faced lovely chap and I was impressed at how helpful he tried to be with very little English! My hotel, the Khuvsgul Lake Hotel was a sheer delight. A tall building overlooking the square, a brand new no frills place that had frills!
Should have known it was all too jolly. I was welcomed by some people who had stayed on the train since Moscow and were not getting off at all until Beijing- the fools. They all had a twitchy feel to them, like people who’d had too much coffee, and there was a reason. They hadn’t had any external input since Moscow they hadn’t had anyone new come into first-class so hadn’t had any fresh blood since Moscow.
They weren’t getting off the train in the near future and they were in that strange state that I had been in when I arrived in Irkutsk… feral and somnambulant. They cross-questioned me on what Lake Baikal and Irkutsk had been like and I told them how amazing it all was and started to explain how cold, cruel and magnificent it was, then I asked them about the diner. With that, they lost interest and scurried off barely answering my questions (they probably no longer equated there was a world outside the poor lost souls) and like a group of junkies wandered glazed eyed up to the diner with cups of tea and grubby UNO cards clutched in their fists like a fix. I followed them but they were fast, when I got there, they were already hunched over their cards at a table playing what I can only presume to be their millionth game since Moscow.
It’s no good pretending we are as fit as we used to be, and frankly, if you’re going it alone you must get as fit as you can. You obviously should always follow a sensible health regime but hey, we’re not going to be goody gum drops at our age are we? So to rectify the gobbling of heavy meals and the slurping of too much booze and try to get as fit as possible before leaving. For me it’s swimming and the gym and a slightly more sensible diet and dwinky regime.
OR NOT THE PARIS OF SIBERIA. LET’S GET BACK ON THE TRAIN AGAIN:(
I wanted to love Irkutsk, so many times labelled the Paris of Siberia. However I ended up feeling apathetic about it. The cab had been late picking me up from Listvyanka so I was all of a tizz and had made my plans in a shoddy anxious way having expected to have the full day there and seeing it slip away from me.
Cautiously getting off the train in the early light of a freezing Siberian morning in February, I immediately saw my name on board clasped to a mans chest. Seeing as I was the only person getting off he stepped forward to grab my little suitcase and drive me off to Listvyanka on Lake Baikal.