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Sunday, 25 December 2016

7. Merry Christmas - счастливого Рождества

It is Christmas Day in Australia, and it is now almost 8 o' clock in the evening. This blog being about Russia, here is a Russian Christmas carol.

Villancico Ruso which in English translates as The Forest Raised a Christmas Tree


Monday, 22 August 2016

6. Itineraries - Vodkatrain

A cheaper alternative from Sundowner Overland is the Vodkatrain - a 21 day journey from Beijing to St. Petersburg. You have the services of Vodkatrain Honchos in Beijing, Mongolia, Irkutsk, Kazan, Moscow and St.Petersburg. I'm not sure what Honchos are although I am familiar with the expression - "head honcho" meaning the big boss or the one in charge! Instead of 3/4 star hotels. you stay in hostels, dorms as well as hotels which doesn't bother me. The Vodkatrain tour looks like this:


Advantages:
1. Transfers to and from the train stations are taken care of - you don't have to fight your way being lost to finding a bus or taxi to your hotel.
2. Sightseeing is organised.
3. Help with visas.

Cost: $3945.00



Itinerary
Day 1 - Arrive Beijing
Day 2 - Beijing - Take a wander through the hutongs and bargain in the markets.
Day 3 - Beijing
Day 4 - Depart Beijing for Ulaanbaatar - The first train and an opportunity to spot your first camel in the Gobi.
Day 5 - Arrive Ulaanbaatar - Try your own throat singing.
Day 6 - To Terelj National Park and Ger Camp - Enjoy life on the Mongolian steppe.
Day 7 - Terelj National Park
Day 8 - Return to Ulaanbaatar and depart for Irkutsk.
Day 9 - Trans Mongolian Railway
Day 10 - Arrive Irkutsk and to Lake Baikal - You've arrived in Siberia!
Day 11 - Lake Baikal - Are you brave enough for a swim?
Day 12 - Return to Irkutsk and depart to Kazan.
Day 13 - Trans Siberian Railway - Watch the changing landscapes from the comfort of the train.
Days 14 -15 - Arrive Kazan - Capital of Tartarstan.
Day 16 - Kazan and onto Moscow - Get amongst the locals in Kazan's bustling Bauman Street.
Day 17 - Arrive Moscow - Visit the Kremlin, Lenin's tomb and St Basil's all on Red Square.
Day 18 - Moscow - Explore the glitz and glamour of the GUM department store.
Day 19 - Moscow and to St. Petersburg.
Day 20 - Arrive St.Petersburg - Discover the live music scene - your Honcho is sure to have some favourite spots.
Day 21 - St.Petersburg - Journey concludes.


What is Included?

Visa support for pre-booked services 

Services of Vodkatrain Honchos in Beijing, Mongolia, Irkutsk, Kazan, Moscow and St.Petersburg 

Accommodation on a share basis (twin/triple or dorm rooms, private facilities not guaranteed)

Accommodation in traditional gers in Mongolia

4-berth train tickets Beijing - Ulaanbaatar - Irkutsk - Kazan -  Moscow - St.Petersburg 

All departure and arrival transfers en-route. Please note: Arrival transfer on Day 1 and departure transfer at the end of your itinerary are not included. Please see the ‘Extra Stuff’ section for details on booking these services.

Disadvantages:
Three days in Beijing. Having been to China, I'm not happy about spending money to stay in Beijing, I'd much prefer the extra days in Moscow .
Although cheaper than their other tours, $3945 is still a lot of money, especially considering no meals are provided. At all. Then again, I've noticed their tours don't seem to include meals bar a couple of piddly breakfasts and a lunch!
Surely I could do this by myself for less? More planning and reading up needed.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

5. Itineraries - Grand Trans Siberian Railway

I've been looking at the three train lines - the Trans Siberian, the Trans Mongolian and the Trans Manchurian and really want to see Mongolia. China I'm not too fussed about - I've been to China so it's not that important for me to include it in my itinerary, but Mongolia is different. I'd been thinking of getting off at Ulan Ude, then going to Ulaanbaatar for a few days before making my way back to Ulan Ude and continuing on to Moscow and/or St. Petersburg. I found this one which helps give me an idea of how many days I need to allow.

Doing this as a tour is $9,600. And you don't get fed much either - it includes 12 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 3 dinners. Considering the cost of the tour, for nearly ten thousand bucks, I would expect to get fed and watered every day, three times a day! I could surely do it a lot cheaper than that and with all meals included too!


Grand Trans Siberian Railway

Departing: Vladivostok, Russia - 24 days
Countries visited: Russia & Mongolia 


Days 1-2. Welcome to Vladivostok!
Once a top-secret naval base of the Soviet Union sealed off from the outside world, Vladivostok now opens its doors for business and the city is booming as Russia’s gateway to the Far East and our starting point for our epic journey aboard the Trans Siberian Railway. Over next couple of days unlock the secrets of Vladivostok at your leisure. Hop on ferries to remote beaches on former navy-only islands or head to higher ground for spectacular views of Golden Horn Bay.

Sightseeing:Day 2-City Exploring and free time.
 Meals: Day 2-Breakfast

Days 3. Vladivostok to Ulan Ude
Gain an insight into the power and significance of this mighty Russian port visiting the Vladivostok Fortress and exploring its sites before we climb aboard the Trans Siberian Railway for this incredible journey.

 Sightseeing: Day 3- Half Day Sightseeing Tour including Local History Museum & Vladivostok Fortress Museum, City Exploring and free time.
 Meals: Day 3-Breakfast


Day 4-5. Aboard the Trans Siberian Railway
Settling into life on board and getting to know our travelling companions, we relax in the comfortable compartment that is our home for this leg of the journey across eastern Siberia to the Buryat city of Ulan Ude.
 Meals: Day 4-No Meals, Day 5-No meals

Day 6. Ulan Ude
Located in the middle of the vast Siberian steppe, Ulan Ude is a centre of Buddhism in Russia, evoking a relaxed and peaceful city vibe. Here you will see the world’s largest Lenin Head and meander around 18th -19th century merchant houses that line the main street, locals refer to as ‘Arbat street’. Later we make our way t o the outskirts of the city to one of Russia’s spiritual highlights, the picturesque Ivolginsky Datsan.

Sightseeing: Day 6-City Tour including Ivolginsk Monastery
 Meals: Day 6-No meals

Day 7. To Mongolia
Leaving the Trans Siberian Railway for the Trans Mongolian Railway we now head south, across the border and into Mongolia, bound for Ulaanbaatar.
Meals: Day 7-Breakfast

Day 8. Ulaanbaatar
Arriving into the capital in the early hours of the morning we have the day to explore the city’s monuments and museums, reflecting on the different cultures and people that make up this quirky city.

Sightseeing: Day 8-City Tour including National History Museum and Sukhbaatar Square.
Optional Activity: Day 8- Cultural evening performance
Meals: Day 8-No meals

Days 9-10. To Terelj National Park
After breakfast we visit the Zaisan Memorial from which the entire city is visible, as well as the country’s largest remaining monastery, Gaandan Khiid, where you can mingle with Buddhist monks. In the afternoon we travel out across the grasslands, through the countryside
that was once the home to Genghis Khan and his Golden Horde, to the pristine Terelj National Park. Here we spend a couple of nights in a traditional Mongolian nomad ger (felt tent), amongst spectacular rock formations and wild rolling hills. Living among nomadic families and their grazing livestock we canexplore nearby valleys or just relax and enjoy the area.

Sightseeing: Day 9- Gaandan Khiid Monastery and Zaisan Memorial, Excursion to Turtle Rock and Monastery.
Day 10- Visit a nomad family
Meals: Day 9-Breakfast, Day 10-Breakfast

Day 11. Return to Ulaanbaatar and to Irkutsk
Returning to Ulaanbaatar we have some time to further explore the city before we rejoin the train again and head back north to Siberia.
Sightseeing: Day 11- City Exploring and free time
Meals: Day 11- Breakfast & dinner

Day 12. Aboard the Trans Mongolian Railway
Continuing towards Russia, leaving Mongolia at Sukh Bator and travelling beyond the Russian border town we then make our way west along the southern shore of the world’s deepest freshwater lake – Baikal.
Meals: Day 12-No meals

Day 13-15. Irkutsk and Lake Baikal
Almost in the center of Asia, Irkutsk is home to beautiful 18th century churches, brightly painted shutters, log houses decorated with intricate wooden lacework as well as a captivating story of high society exile. After our morning arrival into Irkutsk we transfer to the shores of Lake Baikal for a two-night stay in the lakeside village of Listvyanka, visiting the Museum of Wooden Architecture en route. We enjoy a full day at the lake exploring the landscapes as well as Listvyanka with its traditional houses and beautiful wooden church. We also gain an insight into the lake and its inhabitants with a visit to the Liminological Museum.

On Day 21 we return to Irkutsk. Modern administrative blocks and soaring bridges reach out across the Angara River in this beautiful town known as the ‘Paris of Siberia’. Today, on our walking tour you will discover the city’s wonderful historic sights and a visit to the Local History Museum before we board our late night train to Kazan.

Sightseeing: Day 13- Museum of Wooden Architecture.
Day 14- Liminological Museum, City Exploring and free time.
Day 15- 2 hour Walking Tour including Local History Museum, City
Exploring and free time.
 Meals: Day 13- Listvyanka Classic Lunch, Day 14-Breakfast, Day 15-
Breakfast & dinner.

Days 16-17. Trans Siberian Railway
We join the Trans Siberian Railway and travel via Novosibirsk, Omsk and Yekaterinburg booming over the steel bridges spanning Siberia’s nerve system of 5000 rivers to Kazan.
Meals: Day 16-No meals. Day 17-No meals

Day 18. Arrive Kazan
Welcome to the picturesque and historic city of Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan Republic and the Muslim Capital of Russia.

Sightseeing: Day 18- No scheduled sightseeing
Meals: Day 18-No meals

Day 19. Kazan and to Moscow
Built on the intersection of two rivers, Kazan has endured a tumultuous history. Today, Tatars, the descendants of the Golden Horde and the occupants of the city before the Russians, make up about 43% of the population, maintain their own language as well as culture and are extremely proud of their history. This morning we visit Kazan’s magnificent Kremlin Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site before climbing aboard our evening train bound for Moscow.

Sightseeing: Day 19-Half Day City Tour including Kazan Kremlin.
Meals: Day 19-Breakfast

Days 20-21. Moscow
Early morning arrival into Moscow. This city will amaze you, its palaces and public buildings restored to their former glory. Here you will have ample time to explore the echoing vastness of Red Square, the splendid twirled cupolas of St. Basil’s across the cobblestones, and the Kremlin itself – that fabled palacefort of gilded domes where we marvel at the exquisite collection of royal treasures in the stunning Armoury Chamber. While you are in Moscow ride the palatial underground rail system, adorned with chandeliers, mosaics and baroque bas-relief and perhaps enjoy a river cruise or a magical evening at one of Moscow’s great theatres.

Sightseeing:
Day 20-City Tour including Red Square and St. Basils Cathedral.
Day 21- Kremlin including Armoury Chamber, City Exploring and free
time
Optional Activity: Cultural evening performance
 Meals: Day 20-No meals, Day 21-Breakfast

Days 22-23. St. Petersburg
Our final rail journey is a morning train to St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg is the perfect end to this astonishing journey and offers a treasure trove of wonders for you to take in during the final days, including the world-renowned Hermitage Museum, which is housed in the Winter Palace.

 Sightseeing: Day 22-Half Day City Tour, Day 23-Hermitage Museum & Palace Square, City Exploring and free time.
 Meals: Day 22-Breakfast & lunch, Day 23- Breakfast & dinner.

Day 24. Depart St. Petersburg
The last day has arrived too soon. The adventure is complete, the legendary rail
journey that started many days ago has taken you across Asia, through lands
and cultures literally worlds apart.
Meals: Day 24-Breakfast



Saturday, 23 July 2016

4. Sundowners - Grand Trans Siberian Railway

WEll we won't be doing this one, nice though it sounds. $12,050.00! Good God, that's almost a year of rent! It sounds so amazing, and I would love it so much, I have copied this from the Sundowners Overland website Actually, I would love to do it, do this tour, it'd be the most amazing unforgettable journey ever but champagne tastes on a beer budget doesn't work I'm afraid. Alas, that has always been my trouble. (I'm sure an evil fairy waved her magic wand over me at birth and cursed me with expensive taste and no money!)


Countries visited: Japan, Russia & Mongolia
Departing: Tokyo, Japan - 30 days

The original and classic Great Rail Journey. From the Pacific Coast to the nation’s capital you cross the world's biggest country and largest landmass aboard the world's longest railway, spanning 7 time zones & almost 10,000 kilometres, from the Far East to Europe. From Japan’s temples and the Great Buddha at Nara, across the Sea of Japan to the once top-secret port of Vladivostok. Through the spectacular scenery of eastern Siberia, to magnificent Lake Baikal and the historic Siberian town of Irkutsk. Crossing massive bridges over huge rivers, through forests and across plains, aboard the train you experience Russia as few travellers ever can.

ITINERARY

Day 1: Arrive Tokyo An exhilarating city at the start of your adventure and this afternoon you will join your Tour Leader and fellow travellers to learn about the journey ahead of you and perhaps to sample your first foray into Japanese cuisine.

Day 2: Tokyo and depart to Takayama We take in a highlights tour of Tokyo, a modern city of awe inspiring skyscrapers, an impressive modern metro system and limitless technology. We also visit our first shrine before boarding our shinkansen which will whisk us to Nagoya and from there an express train through breathtaking mountain scenery to the tranquility of Takayama or ‘Little Kyoto’. After the hustle and bustle of Tokyo take the time to relax in this town of wooden houses and have the opportunity to stay in a traditional ryokan where samurai would have stayed. We wander the streets and the lattice bayed windows entice us in to sample some sake or view the wooden and Japanese handicrafts traditional of the region. You will perhaps catch a glimpse of one of the many colourful festival floats that are paraded through the streets in spring and autumn.

Days 3: Takayama to Kanazawa We visit the Hida Heritage Folk Village full of hand thatched farmhouses and take a step back in time before boarding our train to Kanazawa. In Kanazawa we visit Kenrokuen, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, once the outer garden of the city’s castle and marvel at the horticultural creativity which renders the garden beautiful in all seasons.

Days 4-5: Kyoto and day trip to Nara In the morning we travel to Kyoto - where one of Japan’s oldest capitals unlocks her treasures of the Golden Temple, the Geisha district of Gion and Kiyomizudera temple set on a hillside overlooking the city. The possibilities are endless and there is never enough time to explore everything. We also journey to Nara, the first permanent capital of Japan to Todaiji Temple, reputedly the largest wooden building in the world housing the Great Buddha. We have time to explore the surrounding deer filled park before returning to Kyoto.

Day 6: Kyoto and ferry to Vladivostok After a memorable journey through magnificent Japan we transfer to the terminal and board our ferry to Russia.

Day 7: Across the Sea of Japan We mingle amongst the guests on board this ferry to Russia, often businessmen travelling between the neighbouring countries and we start to adjust to the change in culture and language allowing time to contemplate what we have already seen and wonder what is still in store on this adventure.

Day 8: Arrive Vladivostok Once a top-secret naval base of the Soviet Union, Vladivostok was sealed off from the outside world. Now its doors are open for business and the city is booming as Russia's gateway to the Far East. For 100 years this has been the legendary eastern terminus of the Trans Siberian Railway, its historic railway station recently restored to its former grandeur.

Day 9: Vladivostok and depart to Ulan Ude Discover the city and port before climbing aboard the Trans Siberian Railway ready for an incredible journey.

Days 10-11: Trans Siberian Railway We settle into life on board, getting to know our travelling companions. Relax in the comfortable four-berth compartment that is home for the three days and nights it takes to cross eastern Siberia to the Buryat city of Ulan Ude.

Day 12: Arrive Ulan Ude Welcome to Buryatiya, centre of Russia’s Buddhist community. Reminiscent of old Siberia, Ulan Ude is located in the middle of the vast Siberian steppes, on the 5640th kilometer of the Trans-Siberian railway. It is a very unusual and charming city. The local open air ethnographic museum tells an interesting story about the life and traditions of the native Siberians (Buryat and Evenks) as well as the colonisers (Cossacks and Old-believers).

Day 13: On board the Trans Mongolian Railway Onwards we travel, enjoying the company of our fellow passengers and a picnic in our cabin. The train arrives at Naushki, the Russian border town where formalities are completed, and then continue across no-man's land to Sukhbaatar where Mongolian officials board the train before we journey on to Ulaanbaatar.

Days 14-17: Ulaanbaatar and Mongolian Steppe After breakfast we visit the Zaisan Memorial from which the entire city is visible. Also to the country’s largest remaining monastery, Gandan Hiid where you can mingle with Buddhist monks. In the afternoon we travel out across the grasslands through the countryside where we spend 2 nights in a traditional Mongolian nomad tent or ger set amongst spectacular rock formations and wild rolling hills in the breathtaking Terelj National Park. Among nomadic families and their grazing livestock we can explore nearby valleys or just relax and enjoy the area. We return to Ulaanbaatar and visit the National Museum before joining the train north to Siberia.

Day 18: Aboard the Trans Mongolian Railway Continuing towards Russia, leaving Mongolia at Sukhe Bator and travelling beyond the Russian border town and then west along the southern shore of the world's deepest freshwater lake — Baikal.

Days 19-21: Irkutsk and Lake Baikal (Siberia) Almost in the centre of Asia, Irkutsk — 18th century churches, bright painted shutters and log houses decorated with wooden lacework. Modern administrative blocks and soaring bridges reach out across the Angara River in this beautiful town known as the "Paris of Siberia". On our walking tour you will discover the city’s wonderful historic sights. We also enjoy two nights at Lake Baikal and stay in the village of Listvyanka with its traditional houses and beautiful wooden church and nearby Limnological Museum. To gain an insight into the traditional lives of Siberian people we also visit the Museum of Wooden Architecture. We return to Irkutsk and board the train for an evening departure to Kazan.

Days 22-23: Aboard the Trans Siberian Railway We join the Trans Siberian Railway and travel via Novosibirsk, Omsk and Ekaterinburg booming over the steel bridges spanning Siberia's nerve system of 5,000 rivers. Through the Ural Mountains and onto Kazan.

Day 24: Afternoon arrival into Kazan Welcome to Kazan! The Capital of the Tatarstan Republic and the Muslim capital of Russia.

Day 25: Kazan Spend the day exploring the fascinating city of Kazan and its UNESCO World Heritage Listed Kremlin, before we hop back on the train bound for Moscow.

Days 26-27: Moscow We arrive into the capital at daybreak. Moscow will amaze you, its palaces and public buildings restored to their former glory. The echoing vastness of Red Square, the splendid twirled cupolas of St. Basil's across the cobblestones, and the Kremlin itself — that fabled palace-fort of gilded domes where we marvel at the exquisite collection of royal treasures in the stunning Armoury Chamber. We ride the palatial underground rail system, adorned with chandeliers, mosaics and baroque bas-relief and perhaps a river cruise or a magical evening at one of Moscow's great theatres or State Circus.

Day 28: Moscow to St. Petersburg Today we farewell Moscow and travel to the former capital of Imperial Russia. Home of the Tsars and one of the most beautiful cities in the world — St. Petersburg.

Day 29: St. Petersburg It is the city on the water, the "Venice of the North", standing resplendent on the delta of the Neva River. St Isaac's Cathedral, richly filled palaces and museums, wide boulevards and canals. The gilded halls of the Hermitage Museum hung with the works of Da Vinci, Rembrandt and many other great masters, and beyond the city lie the incomparable summer palaces of the tsars at Petrodvorets. Yet for all this, St. Petersburg remains one of Europe's best kept secrets.

Day 30: Depart St. Petersburg The last day has arrived too soon. The adventure is complete, the legendary rail journey that started many days ago has taken you across Asia, through lands and cultures literally worlds apart.


ESSENTIALS
Group Size 
15 maximum, plus Tour Leader. 

Accommodation 
Hotels - 12 nights (twin share) 
Mongolian Ger - 2 night (shared) 
Siberian Guesthouse - 2 nights (twin share) 
Trains - 10 nights (4 berth) 
Ferry - 2 nights (shared) 
Ryokan - 1 night (traditional Japanese Inn dating from the Edo period (1603-1868)) 

Meals 
28 in total. Breakfasts (19), lunches (4), dinners (6)

Travel by 
Train: Comfortable 4 berth sleepers
There are 6 rail sectors on this journey 
- Vladivostok to Ulan Ude (3 nights) 
- Ulan Ude to Ulaanbaatar (1 night) 
- Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk (2 nights)
- Irkutsk to Kazan (3 nights) 
- Kazan to Moscow (1 nights) 
- Moscow to St. Petersburg (day train) 
Other: For ‘Scheduled Sightseeing’ we generally use a small minibus, and for ‘City Exploring’ we use local taxis, public transport, underground metro and go on foot. 

2 Berth Rail (Optional) 
Available for a supplementary price only when two people book and travel together. Available on all rail sectors between Vladivostok and Moscow. 

Sightseeing 
Scheduled Sightseeing is part of the itinerary and includes all transport, entrance fees and English speaking local guide. This journey enjoys a greater number of included sights than others. 

Tokyo: City tour

Takayama: Hida Folk Village

Kanazawa: Kenrokuen Garden

Nara: Todaiji
Kyoto: Kinkakuji, Sanjusangendo, Kiyomizudera, walk of Gion

Vladivostok: City tour and museums

Ulan Ude: City Tour including Ivolginsk Datsun

Ulaanbaatar: Zaisan Memorial, National History Museum, Gandan Hiid Monastery, Terelj National Park

Irkutsk (Siberia): Walking tour of city, Museum of Wooden Architecture, Limnological Museum, Lake Baikal

St.Petersburg: City tour, Palace Square, Hermitage Museum

Moscow: City tour, St.Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Kremlin, Armoury Chamber


City Exploring is further sightseeing outside the itinerary guideline but with the Group Leader

Visas 
Required for Japan (depends on nationality), Mongolia & Russia. Sundowners Overland will provide all required invitation letters and full visa support including detailed visa guidelines.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

3. Ballet

Whatever else I may do or see on this journey, one thing I really cannot miss is the Ballet - the Bolshoi Ballet and the Kirov, the latter being at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. As a small child, I learnt ballet (and later, Irish Dancing and Ballroom Dancing) and my best friend and I lived in a sort of dream world where we would grow up to be famous ballerinas, we'd practice dance at each other's houses on a Saturday afternoon and looking back we were living in fantasyland. A good place to be for very few children and youngsters of today have the innocent world of fantasy like we did.



I had a book called, "The How and Why Wonder Book of Ballet" by Lee Wyndham with illustrations by Rafaello Busoni. (Copyright 1961 by Wonder Books, Inc.) It had 48 pages and was approx 11" x 8 1/4". I remember there were a lot of coloured illustrations and some black and white ones. It was this book where I first learnt about Nijinski and his marvellous jumps.


The book depicted the history of ballet - did you know the word "ballet" comes from the Italian ballare - to dance?

I've just read the Bolshoi theatre shows around 3-4 different operas and 2-3 ballets each year, so I will have to time my train journey with the ballet if possible.

I've always loved the ballet and was fortunate enough to see Nureyev and Fonteyn dance Swan Lake. Russian ballet and its dancers are famous and I am putting some ballet videos on this blog, not in a post but either in the side bar scroll down. The vids are short excerpts of my favourites.


Today's quote: Dancers are made, not born ~ Mikhail Baryshnikov

2. Currency and Exchange Rates

Latest Exchange Rates: 1 Australian Dollar = 47.457 Russian Rouble.

This graph shows the exchange rate for the previous 120 days -


(Looking at that, I'd say we would have had more bang for our buck back in May)!

Looking at this site, The Money Converter, it tells me the latest exchange rate for the Australian dollar is AUD$1 = 47.457 Russian Rouble.


I have no idea if that's a good rate or not, but it will be interesting to see how our Australian dollar compares six months down the track and when the time comes for me to travel (to Russia). I remember when I went to Viet Nam in 2012, the Aussie dollar was high - it was on a parity with the US dollar, and the dong was 21,000 dong to one dollar Australian. Pretty good seeing as how in the LP travel guide of a few years before that, the rate was 16,500 dong = AUD$1. Those heady days of 2012 have gone and the Aussie dollar is 16,700 VND.

I found it easy to get used to the Japanese currency, the yen was easy to understand, the coins and notes easily identifiable, so no confusion there. Did you know I was a Millionaire several times over back in 2011? Yep, I certainly was - $125 bought you a little over one million kip (LAK) and we joked how we were millionaires. Well we were, there is nothing that says your millions must be in dollars! Ah, those were the days. Of course you couldn't do anything with the money any where else outside Laos, being an inconvertible currency you were rather stuck with it. Same applied to the Vietnamese dong. I travelled up through Viet Nam then flew into China from Hanoi to Xian, only to find I was stuck with thousands of dong - the Chinese banks wouldn't change it, but I was fortunate that a couple staying at the same hostel were crossing into Viet Nam in two days and needed to get rid of their Chinese money, so we worked out the going rate and swapped.


Above: Russian Banknotes

Will have to have a hunt around for their coins, from what I have seen so far, there are kopecks and rubles, and so many kopecks make so many rubles. Unless I got that wrong. Mm. better go do some checking now. Don't go away, now ......back soon.

The ruble is subdivided into 100 kopeks (sometimes written as kopecks or copecks; Russian: копе́йка, kopeyka; plural: копе́йки, kopeyki)

This is probably the best photo I could find of the coins - in fact there weren't that many around. OH there were umpteen pictures of coins but not all were today's ones.


This is a good graph, easy to read and understand, you can calculate at your finger tips. No more having to work out well if one dollar is x rubles and ten dollars is xy rubles, then 250 dollars would be ... and then waste time trying to work it out.






Monday, 18 July 2016

1. Planning the Trip

My last trip was two glorious weeks travelling around Japan last month and I am ready to begin my next one. I was going to break my golden rule of travel and return to Japan, but suddenly from somewhere I thought, wouldn't it be great to travel across Russia by train?

This trip will be a long time in the planning, but that doesn't matter because the kitty is empty and will take time to refill. A journey like this will take more work than my previous holidays, this one will involve much detailed precision planning due to the type of trip - the Trans Siberian Railway! Rattling along by train across China, to places one only hears about on travel shows, or see written on maps - where people wear funny clothes and sleep in round, white tents, or ride camels and race across the Gobi desert or wear big fur hats in a snowy white world and say “Na Zdorovie”!

Just from my foray into the world of Trans Siberia websites, there are many and varied ways to do this. The easiest way would be to do a tour (normally I do not do tours, I book everything myself and plan everything myself, I like to travel independently, I can stay as long or as short as I like and choose the places to visit). But ... this one would, I think, be better executed as a group tour. I wouldn't want to get stranded in Outer Mongolia all on my lonesome or get lost in the middle of Russia on my pat malone! Getting lost in Japan or France is one thing, but getting lost way, way far away, thousands of miles away could put a damper on things a bit. But, and here's another but, the tours are not cheap, some costing thousands and thousands of dollars. For someone who doesn't even own a house, spending thousands of dollars riding a rain for two weeks - I can hear the family now, "You want to do what"? "You want your head read"!

There are cheaper options and these are what I will be exploring while I'm saving. But there, this is really only the first day and I have a long way to go before it becomes a reality.

I will probably post some useful website in the side bar at some time or other. As they say in Russian - До следующего поста (Do sleduyushchego posta)