Monday, February 13, 2006

Fun Fact

Until 1999, the beauty cream Americans call Oil of Olay was marketed in Asia and Australia under the name Oil of Ulan--as in Ulan Bator.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Itinerary Coming Together

I think we’ve nailed down our stops on the Trans Siberian. I initially wanted to stop just about everywhere, but then I realized there’s only so much I can absorb. On top of the fact that I’ll be visiting Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Moscow, and maybe St. Petersburg, I’m afraid my head will explode if I try too many stops along the way. Of course, it might explode if I don’t stop, too. It’s a fine line kind of thing. But I think we’ll just make two major stops: Ulan Bator, and Lake Baikal. That ought to be enough wide-open space to keep me sane.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

This Might Help

One other thing it’s been pointed out I ought to do: Set a departure date. I’ve gotten as far as figuring out what day I’m leaving Beijing on the Trans-Sib: May 23.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

All I Have to Do

  • Buy airplane tickets
  • Buy train tickets
  • Tell friends in Beijing I’m coming
  • Pack

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Making a List

I’ve already made a lot of progress toward planning my trip. For instance, I’ve already accomplished these important tasks:

  • Started reviewing my rapidly deteriorating Chinese textbooks from college
  • Duct-taped my rapidly deteriorating Chinese textbooks from college
  • Listened to my Cui Jian tapes to figure out which ones to replace with CDs in China
  • Bought a map of Tokyo
  • Told everyone I’m going (so now I have to)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Um, Because It’s There?

Why? What makes me want to take a train all the way across Russia? I’ve actually wanted to take the trans-Siberian railroad since I backpacked through China in 1992. A lot of other backpackers I met had gotten to China this way, and they made it seem really cool.

So yes, there’s a sad suggestion of reclaiming lost youth. I won’t deny that.

Mostly, though, I just really like trains. Not in any special train-spotting kind of way. I don’t mind flying. It’s just that I like the idea of being still for a week, but not actually confined to a seat. I like the fact that you can really see the countryside rolling by. It’s kind of like a road trip without actually having to get behind the wheel in a foreign country. I like that in one trip, while mostly sitting down, I can experience three countries, two of which--Mongolia and Russia--will be new to me. (Don't worry; I do plan to get off the train and walk around.)

I like chatting with people while I travel.

I also like being able to walk away from a conversation if I sit down next to a power-talker by mistake.

Okay, I like vodka, too. So sue me.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Around the World in 30 Days

I appreciate all your concern, but yes, I am serious. I really do plan to take the trans-Siberian railroad this spring. The plan so far is that my partner, Pipi, and I will first travel to Japan, where we have a friend. John is a professional travel photographer I met at the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference one summer. He moved to Kamakura, Japan in the fall of 2005, and we plan to visit him there. Kamakura is about an hour from Tokyo by train. Tokyo, quite frankly, frightens me (call it Akira damage), so that sounds about right. We won’t have a lot of time in Japan, so I’d rather save the Neo-city for a trip where I have the time it deserves.

From Japan, Pipi and I will fly to Shanghai. Pipi has always wanted to see Shanghai because she’s interested in city planning, and this city is in the middle of enormous growth. I’ve been there before, and am very curious to see how it has changed.

Pipi probably will have to fly home from Shanghai--it’s the curse of being steadily employed. I’ll continue on to Beijing. Beijing is another city I visited in 1992, and I’m told it is barely recognizable now. I can’t even imagine it full of cars--I remember bikes for days--so I think I’m in for a bit of a shock.

John and I will meet up in Beijing and take the trans-Mongolian train line from there. The end of the line is Moscow, but I hope to also see St. Petersburg. If on the way home I’m routed through a Baltic city, or a Scandinavian capital, so much the better. But I probably won’t mind going straight home by then.

I don’t know exactly what the air route will be, but I assume I’ll be sent west from Moscow, meaning that I will have completed a whole circle around the globe. A pretty neat trick to pull off on a low budget.