Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Trans-Siberian

So we finally arrived in Mongolia today, after four days on the Trans-Siberian. To our surprise, it wasn't really the scenery that was the highlight of our trip. This can partly be blamed on the dirty windows of the train, which we tried multiple times to clean, with little success. The highlight was really the interesting characters we met on the train.

Our first night, we shared a place with Andrej and Oxana (I think that's spelled wrong) from Kirov. After we were settled in, they started bringing out all sorts of food and really treated us. We had biscuits, bread and caviar (which I really didn't like, a bit too salty.) Afterwards they tried for hours to teach us some Russian, which was somewhat successful but I don't think I retained much. At about 1:00AM we were getting really tired but Andrej kept going. He was really adament that we learn some Russian. Eventually they gathered from our yawning that we wanted to sleep a little. Andrej got up at once and started making our beds for us! He went on about how he was in the army and that he knew how to really make a bed well. We slept well that night, despite the intense heat of the cabin. I thought the carriages were going to be cold but they were really hot.

If my memory serves me right, it was the second night that we met our most-awesome Scandanavian friends. Johanna is from Finland and Kristin is from Sweden. We hung out with them pretty much the whole day, if I remember correctly. I read a bit of my Brothers Karamazov, but not much. We had a warm beer in the restaurant car, and were forced to pay for pistacios we didn't want.

It was the third day that we met Sergei. However, we first met grumpy Dmitry. He barged into our room at 10:00AM at one of the stops and demanded the bottom bunk that Austin was sleeping on. Because he did have that on his ticket he was able to get it. We learned later that he was only on for a couple hours, so he was just being a big baby. He was really unfriendly, but later warmed up just a little. He even gave us some old Soviet money. We said goodbye to him and hello to Irina. I don't recall what stop we picked her up at but she was on her way to a small town in northern Russia to visit her daughter. She was really sweet and even left us some chocolates the next morning! Anyway, Sergei was a really cool guy. At 16 years old, he seems to me to be a genius of some sort. He is studying physics at Novosibirsk University and was on his way to visit his parents in Ulan-Ude. He tried at one point to explain some time travel concepts, the topic generally not for beginner English speakers and did an alright job. You could tell his brain was moving very fast but he was unable to get everything out at once. We kept the piece of paper he wrote some formulas on because we are fairly sure it will be worth millions one day.

The fourth day was as well interesting. We had some New Zealanders on board and talked to them about all sorts of things. They had started their travels in Finland and were going to Asia and then to South America and on and on.

This morning we arrived in Ulaanbaatar and were greeted by Idre from Idre's Guesthouse, where rooms go for about $5.00. The service is probably much more than what you could normally get for $50. The coolest thing is that we're basically staying in their home. So as we are walking around, Idra's little son is running around and his daughters are singing and laughing. It's a really neat environment. The city itself is quite impressive too. We met up with Lawrence and Susan Savage, who are working as missionaries in Mongolia. After being treated to tea and cookies, we drove around town (driving is insane) and saw some Ger towns and a large Soviet Monument which looks over the city.

Tomorrow we are going out of town to do some horse-back riding and such in the national park nearby. It should be quite fun. I would fully recommend staying at Idre's when you go there for the obvious reason of a nice place to stay, but also because he can organize tours very, very inexpensively. Tomorrow's tour, which includes horse-back riding, hiking, gas (it's 70km from UB) and a driver, only costs about $20 each.

Thanks again for reading,
Will

8 comments:

Julie said...

Woah WIll!
Sounds like you guys are having an amazing experience. I hope you took pictures of all these people...it would be pretty awesome to see who they are. They all sound like very interesting characters.

Where are you going next?

YourOtherDianeFriend said...

I hope you realize that I will NEED to see that Soviet money when you get back. That's like...my life's work, in currency.

Sounds like you guys are having an amazing time. And the Trans-Siberian. Wow. You know that railway was originally completed in 1916? Old! And awesome! And wow my head is filled with useless facts...

Anonymous said...

Hey Uncle Will,
Glad to hear you made it to Mongolia. sounds like you are getting a taste of it all! Now, you know Mongolians are tough, so they might not appreciate the fact you went to see the Cinderella play, (wasn't there a play about The Terminator...read as The Willinator?). We recommend you tell everyone you worked in Canada as a rough and tough forklift operator at a roofing distibutor. We think this might be more impressive. Enjoy the horseback riding and do not pet the yaks, they might bite. Rob says make sure you do not wear pants with zippers. If you need explanation please ask. We are having a bit of a cold snap, Steve is having fun shovelling snow.
Enjoy the cows eye soup.
Take Care,
Kevin and the Enercon Gang

Terra Incognita said...

Hi Will. I'm sure glad you posted such a thorough description of your rail trip. Have you arrived safe and sound in China? If you can, ask your travel companion, I forget his name, if he still wants his film because unless his mom knows in the next day or two he will be SOL. Terra aka Tarzana, aka hexakali, aka Larissa, aka Lori.

Kristin said...

woho. I found your site.
Yesterday i bought a camera, so soon my blog will be interesting even to non-swedes again:) We've had a great time in beijing so far, and if everything works out alright we're going to Pingyao tomorrow night, arriving the day after that. We're gonna be hardcore and try the hard seats for the whole night :) (sleeper seets doesn't guarantee sleep anyways, we learned that on the trans-siberian.. haha. ) Take care, and hope to see you soon!

Anonymous said...

Hi Will, so glad that you are having so much fun and seeing so many awesome places, I guess we all get to enjoy these places with you. Look forward to seeing the latest updates, Oma says hello and that she loves you and to be safe. Look forward to the next update.
Love
Aunt Sue, Tom and Zeke

kevin said...

Hey Will,
Guess what we found at the office today? The third season of arrested development DVD. It was in with the SNL-Chris Farley disc we bought. Oops! I will make sure your parents are aware of the mix-up. Mystery solved! Now you can relax for the rest of your journey.
Take Care,
Kevin

Will said...

Okay I've finally got some time to respond to your posts.

Yes, we are having an excellent time. We are now in Tianjin, which is right next to Beijing, and we are staying with my cousin Kevin and his lovely wife and kids.

Hey Diane, I will show you the Soviet money for sure. It's pretty cool, in fact. It seems you know more about the railway than I do! I guess that's what an education at the U of C will get you!

Hey Uncle Kevin,
Mongolia was quite incredible. You would think they wouldn't be into Cinderella and all that, but they had actually all seen the show several times before. Some of the guys could dance the show step for step, and the one guy did, with a tutu! That was definately an odd experience. However, the Chinese don't like that I went to see a ballet and I tell them about my forklift experience. I did have pants with zippers but nothing bad came out of that, although I can see what could possibly happen. Have fun shovelling the snow Steve! As for the DVD, that puts my mind to rest. Now I can spend that $30 on cheap Chinese booze! Only joking of course, but really we saw beer for about 1 RMB a cab (large can)! The Canadian dollar is worth 7 RMB. You do the math!

It seems we meet again Terra Incognita! Haha, the travel partner in question, who will not be named, does desire to have his film. However, it seems that UPS is having some issues with the address here in China. Perhaps the travel partner in question can try to sort it out with UPS.

Hey Kristin,
Great to hear that you weren't swallowed up by Beijing! Have you seen a lot of the sites in Beijing? Can you recommend any hostels? Is Pingyao the place where you can do the English teaching? I hope we can all meet up again in South East Asia or in China somewhere. We are having a great time in Tianjin. Talk to you soon!

Hey Aunt Sue, Tom, Oma and of course Zeke, I'm glad you've been following up on my trip. Hopefully today I can post some photos so you can see where we've been. When I get back and get accepted to McMaster, I can show you all the photos. Tell Oma that we are totally safe and that when I get back we will play some Frustration.

-Will