Tag Archive | "Beijing"

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Transsiberian: Where to stop along the way

Posted on 06 August 2016 by Dreidel Regala

Transsiberian

Week 2

Transsiberian

Direction: East to West
Transsiberian lines: Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Siberian
Number of train changes: one
Major stops: Beijing, Ulaanbaatar, and Moscow
Time in train: Approx 127 hours
Visas: Chinese, Mongolian, and Russian

While the main (and probably longest at approximately 7 days) transsiberian route runs from Moscow to Vladivostok, there are other branching routes which goes through China and Mongolia. I would say doing the whole Moscow-Vladivostok vv train is quite extraordinary but I’ll probably be train exhausted in the other end. So the tolerable version is to make stops along the way and enjoy some scenery.

That is what I did when I took the railway last year. I passed by three countries (China, Mongolia, Russia) and made a stop in all three in a span of almost 20 days. The actual time spent in the train was around 5 days. Of course one could easily spend a longer time on each.

Transsiberian

Transsiberian

Terminus #1 | Beijing

Beijing is a destination in itself that is why I don’t see the reason not to make time and see some of it when passing through the city. There’s actually quite a number of things to see there but it’s no question that at the top of it is the Great Wall of China. This should take at least a day out of the train. Tip, don’t go there on a holiday or weekend.

Great Wall of China

Another one is the Forbidden City. This was a palace in the old days but is now a museum. The place reminds me of Chinese movies with kings and queens or royalties in red robes and women in silk dresses. On the flipside, what I didn’t like though are the unbelievable amount of visitors it gets.

Forbidden City

Terminus #2 | Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar or Ulan Bator is the capital of Mongolia. I have to admit I didn’t quite experience much of UB save for the Naadam festival that I got to watch when I got back from the desert. The festival happens in July wherein competitions in wrestling, archery, and horse racing take place. It’s a weekend affair so allot 3 days out of the train for this.

Naadam festival

Now I’m sure UB has it’s own charm too but what you’ll really like is a roadtrip in the Gobi desert. It’s a rough drive because the Gobi is mostly rocky instead of sand. There are wild horses, lone gers, sand dunes, vast landscapes etc. And if you really want to go deep in the desert you have to at least have 8 days.

Gobi desert

Terminus #3 | Moscow

The transsiberian starts or ends in Moscow and here is maybe a good place to get to know Russia, the creator of the railway. The Red Square is pretty much where you’ll want to be. From here you can walk to Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral.

Red Square

Here’s something interesting, the Moscow metro has some gorgeous stations. Hop on a train and discover the underground architecture.

Novoslobodskaya station

There is also the Cafe Pushkin which first appeared in a song and was later built into reality but that is only after a lot of people have mistaken that it existed even before the song came out. And the setup, let’s just say you can either eat in an old library or a pharmacy.

Cafe Pushkin

Extra | Other possible stops

The stretch from Ulaanbaatar to Moscow is 4-days long. This can be further cut by adding stops in the Russian side.

  • Ulan Ude – Ulan Ude is in Russia but there is a strong Mongolian influence.
  • Irkutsk – If you want to go to Lake Baikal, this is where you should stop.
  • Yekatarinburg – Also called Ekatarinburg. Yekatarinburg is an urban city but it has monuments, churches, and even a Mafia cemetery for the curious.
  • Kazan – Kazan is predominantly Muslim. If you want to see how this looks inside Russia then head there.

Transsiberian ticket

It must be noted that all train tickets are point-to-point basis. This means it is only valid for the duration of your ride. If you plan to get off the train for a day of sightseeing in Irkutsk, you will have to purchase another ticket for the succeeding ride. Think flight tickets. Of course it is a different case when you go down the train to just stretch your legs for a few minutes.

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Beijing: Mutianyu Great Wall

Posted on 20 September 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Mutianyu Great Wall

Week 1

Beijing, The Great Wall

“Walk up to the highest point tower 23 for a nice view”

She tells us this as we drive on a sunny Friday morning to the Mutianyu section of the wall. What we didn’t know was that from tower 14 where the cable car ends it was going to be a test of legs to tower 23. It took us around two hours back and forth I think. Difficult but doable.

Mutianyu Great Wall

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The view was spectacular paired with blue skies.

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At some point I was surprised to find empty sections considering what I’ve read about the wall getting really crowded. To be fair I did go on a weekday morning.

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Walking a little further out of tower 23, the wall is crumbling a little and trees growing in which could be a sign that it’s unrestored.

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Although it’s not necessary to walk all the way to tower 23, doing so is rewarding. Just bring water because the ones sold in the wall is triple the price. And there are no toilets up there so do your business before going up.

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Transsiberian: Beijing to Ulaanbaatar

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Transsiberian: Beijing to Ulaanbaatar

Posted on 28 August 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Transsiberian

Week 2

Beijing to Ulaanbaatar

She stuck her head in my cabin’s doorway then pulled out without saying anything. She did this a couple of times that I knew she wants to say something. I want to talk to her too but I don’t know what language she speaks so I just smile to her everytime.

And then she finally sits beside me. It got akward for a while cause we don’t know how to start this friendship. So I did what gets everyone going – I take us a selfie and the rest was history.

“Do you speak Chinese?”

Ha! She speaks English after all.

“No, English. You?”

“Yes.”

She mumbles something in Chinese but she saw the question mark in my face so she ran back to her cabin. I thought I blew my chances of hanging out with the coolest kid on board but then she came back.

“Do you speak Mongolian?”

“No. You?”

“Yes.”

This kid is only eight so I can only be stunned to know she speaks three languages! No wait, that’s wrong cause I just remember that she also speaks Russian. A real transsiberian girl ha. So I made her my cute little teacher of all sorts Chinese, Mongolian, and Russian for the next 30 hours in exchange for some English and Tagalog. Of course when I got off the train I was shooting “San banu” and “Bayarla” to every soul in sight.

Transsiberian

With our friend Pauline

***

The Trans Mongolian K23 travels from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar for approximately 30 hours. This train ends in Ulaanbaatar and does not continue on to Moscow.

Transsiberian

Transsiberian

It is manned by a Chinese crew so communicating in English may not be easy.

The inside were classier than I expected. And there is power outlet inside the cabin.

Transsiberian

For food, I packed some cup noodles but there is also a small grocery in the Chinese border “Erlian”.

The border crossing took a long time, around three hours I think, especially on the Chinese side because the wheels had to be changed too. I missed seeing the action though when I got off the train.

If I had the chance I will definitely do it again because I know Mongolia is on the other end.

***

For information about tickets, pricing, timing, etc you may check CITS or Seat61.

I bought my soft sleeper class ticket from CITS for US$344. Once they confirmed the payment they gave me a voucher. The voucher was used to pickup the ticket in Beijing.

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Philippines: Entry Points

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Dreidel Regala

For a country with many islands that offers a lot of varying attractions, figuring your best entry point is a BIG puzzle. Most travelers come in via the capital city Manila which has most airplane access to popular provinces. On the other hand, some like to avoid it because of the crowd, pollution etc – this is of course the best strategy especially if it brings you nearer to your stop. With that in mind I tried researching on where are the other possible entry points to the archipelago. Do note that some of these will have lesser to possibly no direct access to some of your choice destinations but don’t worry you can still get to them using a ferry, train, bus, jeep or van although availability of such still depends (yup it may not be one easy ride but could be adventurously fun!).

  1. Province: Clark, Pampanga (Luzon)
    Airport: Clark International Airport
    *Local flights to: Cebu, Caticlan
    *Point of Origin: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Seoul-Incheon, Singapore
  2. Province: Davao City (Mindanao)
    Airport: Francisco Bangoy International Airport
    *Local flights to: Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Iloilo, Manila, Zamboanga
    *Point of Origin: Singapore
  3. Province: Kalibo, Aklan (Visayas)
    Airport: Kalibo International Airport 
    *Local flights to
    : Manila
    *Point of Origin: Beijing-Capital, Busan, Hangzhou, Shanghai-Pudong, Seoul-Incheon, Taipei-Taoyuan
  4. Province: Cebu City (Visayas)
    Airport: Mactan-Cebu International Airport
    *Local flights to:
    Bacolod, Bantayan, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin, Caticlan, Clark, Davao, Dipolog, Dumaguete, General Santos, Iloilo, Legazpi, Manila, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa, Siargao, Surigao, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, Zamboanga
    *Point of Origin: Busan, Doha, Guangzhou-Baiyun, Hong Kong, Shanghai-Pudong, Seoul-Incheon, Singapore, Tokyo-Narita
  5. Province: Bataan (Luzon)
    Airport: Subic Bay International Airport
    *Local flights to: Cebu, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa
    *Point of Origin: Seoul-Incheon
  6. Province: Manila (Luzon) 
    AirportNinoy Aquino International Airport
    *Local flights to: Bacolod, Baguio, Basco, Busuanga, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Calbayog, Catarman, Caticlan, Cauayan, Cebu, Cotabato, Davao, Dipolog, Dumaguete, El Nido, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Laoag, Legazpi, Marinduque, Masbate, Naga, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa, Roxas City, San Fernando, San Jose (Mindoro), Surigao, Tablas, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, Taytay, Tuguegarao, Vigan, Virac, Zamboanga
    *Point of Origin: Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Bahrain, Bandar Seri Begawan, Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Beijing-Capital, Brisbane, Busan, Dammam, Darwin, Delhi, Detroit, Doha, Dubai, Fukuoka, Guam, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta, Jeddah, Kaohsiung, Koror, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Macau, Melbourne, Nagoya-Centrair, Osaka-Kansai, Port Moresby, Riyadh, San Francisco, Seoul-Incheon, Shanghai-Pudong, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei-Taoyuan, Tokyo-Narita, Vancouver, Xiamen

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airports_in_the_Philippines

*Airlines may change/update their route map

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