Epilogue: looking back 6 months later

Beijing Travel Blog

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Finishing this blog almost half a year after returning, I am still on a high. This was such a wonderful experience, such an adventure. Which is strange really when you consider this was the most 'planned-in-advance' trip I'd ever done. It had seemed so unnatural to pre-book the largest chunk of the trip, but it had been necessary as we wouldn't have gotten our Russian visa without booking the hotels and train in advance.
Similarly for China it had been recommended to have a hotel reservation in advance in case the visa situation would deteriorate further. Only in Mongolia did we have nothing booked in advance, but what did we do? We basically booked two week-long tours for our time there.
And yet it never felt like as we were on a group tour, Siberia and Mongolia just seem so undiscovered and even though thousands of visitors pass through each year, you hardly meet any other travellers.
Yes, plenty of group tours visit Mongolia, but somehow they manage to keep those people locked well away from the rest - only at the train from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing did we come across tour groups (and a lot of them), whereas in the two weeks in the country we never saw any.

I always like to reflect back on the countries I visited after a trip, so for those who didn't read the whole blog, here's a little summary of the best and worst these three countries have to offer:

The best and worst of Russia:

The best:

  • Moscow Metro: the best (and cheapest) attraction in the whole city. Beats going to a museum!
  • Listvyanka fish market: I am not a fish person, but boy did those fishies taste good
  • Lazing on the train: 77 hours straight on the train and loving every moment of it. I am sure I will do the trip to Vladivostok some day in the future as well.

The worst:

  • Irkutsk: even though it is a nice city when the sun is out, it's a waste of time to spend more than a few hours here
  • Unpredictable weather in Siberia: seems an obvious one, right? Although it is something we had anticipated it advance, it still ruined our day trip to lake Baikal.
  • The people: never before have I visited a country where people are so indifferent and unwelcoming to visitors...

The best and worst of Mongolia:

The best:

  • Everything really: the people, the countryside, the desert, the nature, the wildlife, the tours, the adventure, the culture, every single thing!! This list could be five pages long and I still would not have summed up every highlight there is.
  • Gobi desert: ok, I included it in the previous entry, but I do have to make a(nother) special mention of just how stunningly beautiful and diverse that place is!

The worst:

  • The food: though not as bad as some make you think, the mutton does get boring rather quickly.
  • Ulaanbaatar: probably the ugliest city in the world, which sticks out like a thorn in such a beautiful country. I also heard from some people having had bad experiences with pickpockets and muggers. Still worth a day's visit though :)

The best and worst of Beijing:

The best:

  • The food: hands down, this is the best experience of China, and Beijing may well be the best city for Chinese cuisine in the whole country
  • Hutong: lovely old neighbourhoods still showing a very traditional way of life despite being surrounded by a metropolitain city. See it before they disappear!
  • Temple of Heaven park: see locals congregate and having a good time. Oh, and some nice temples too.
  • Dong Cheng night market: yeah I know, more food again. But even if you don't eat all the exotic critters that are being served here, it is still one of the most fun experiences to have in the city.

The worst:

So... with that out of the way, now I have to figure out what I am going to do next :)

EricaDawn says:
Posted on: Feb 08, 2011
naj81 says:
Great blog Biedjee...planning to do this some stage next year, tks for sharing :-
Posted on: Jan 31, 2010
nobaddays says:
Thank you for this terrific blog. I'm at work and made the time more enjoyable to lose myself here.
Posted on: May 10, 2009
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