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Pics of trip through Siberia, Mongolia, China and Kyrgyzstan

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Jan 9th, 2009, 12:39 PM
  #1
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Pics of trip through Siberia, Mongolia, China and Kyrgyzstan

Last year my wife and I made a seven week trip through Asia visiting Siberia, Mongolia, China and Kyrgyzstan.

I have just put some pictures and notes on the web. If you would like to see them go to:

http://homepage.mac.com/wasleys/

and click on the Asia 2008 link.
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Jan 9th, 2009, 01:41 PM
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Thanks!!! I am so glad (and jealous, of course) to see something about Kyrgystan, and especially about getting there overland from China. I'll be reading with great interest. BTW, some of the links under Facts/Info Index aren't working.
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Jan 9th, 2009, 02:25 PM
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some of the links under Facts/Info Index aren't working

(Says rude word, smiles)

Thanks - can you indicate which ones please? If a lot just the general area.

Michael
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Jan 9th, 2009, 02:36 PM
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If you go to the Planning and Travel page, the last three of the four links under Facts/Info Index don't work. Not a big deal, as you can get to them by other routes...

Just finished the summary - sounds like a great trip - sorry you got so sick.

First questions - did Audley Travel arrange your transfer at the Kyrgystan border? What about visas?

Interested to read that you went to a different market at Kashgar (I loved the Sunday Market, but even in 2001 it was getting fairly touristy) - were there any horses there?

Can't imagine doing a ger camp in snow - I froze at night in September!
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Jan 9th, 2009, 03:02 PM
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Thanks so much for sharing these photos. I especially loved your photos of Mongolia - a place on my list of places yet to visit.
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Jan 9th, 2009, 03:11 PM
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Loved the Irkutsk/Baikal pix! Glad to see the wooden houses seem to be in better shape than 2004. Recognized the Port Baikal ferry, but the Circum-Baikal train is SO different and modern!
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Jan 9th, 2009, 03:18 PM
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Wow, really enjoyed your fascinating pix thru an amazing trip, thanks for sharing!
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Jan 9th, 2009, 03:37 PM
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thursdaysd,

Ah! They shouldn't have been there. I'd forgotten to remove them from that page. Such is the danger of cut/paste etc! On a thorough check of the text pages I found all the Pingyao Index links went to the wrong page (copy/paste!) so they have been corrected. Thanks for advising on this.

Audley arranged all travel and accommodation. We had a car from Kashgar to the border at Torugart. The Chinese and Kyrgyz guides were in touch on their mobiles. The Kyrgyz car came to the other side of the barrier and we walked about 10 yards between the two. All very simple and low key, but not a good idea to start wandering around or waving cameras about. (This was shortly before the attack on the police at Kashgar but even so you could tell this
part of Xinjiang is sensitive.)

Audley will advise on and help you arrange visas. If you say you want to arrange visas through them they will charge you, send you vouchers for a visa agency plus the necessary application forms. You then complete the application forms, get photos and send these to visa agency with passports, vouchers and at right time etc. However the responsibility for checking that the timing, details and so on is totally yours.

You can imagine that getting visas for these four countries was quite a bit of fun. The time taken by all combined was quite long. The timing issue was crucial, we could neither be too early nor too late. For instance our Chinese visas had two periods of validity - three months (I think) from date of issue and also 30 days from date of entry.

The Russian form is quite confusing (eg 'do you have any relations in Russia?', my wife's grandfather was a Russian emigrant to Canada so she almost certainly does - she said 'Niet' it seemed simpler!). The other three were relatively straightforward. One thing then was that for China (bear in mind Tibet was originally on the agenda) you did not mention Tibet as a destination on the visa application, if you did you wouldn't get a visa. So you didn't mention Tibet and then got a Tibet permit when you were in China. I don't know what current situation is.

The Awat market seemed general livestock plus produce. Donkeys being sold but didn't see horses there or around.

No snow at the ger camp but certainly a hard frost. Nice and warm in the ger as the fire is stoked up for you. But because it's wood it tends to get too hot but then cool. I got up in the small hours to refuel it and it soon got warm again. I suspect dung would be better as it would burn more slowly but perhaps they feel it might offend the sensitivities of some visitors.
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Jan 9th, 2009, 03:51 PM
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Although I rarely use this word, I will use it here: Awesome! Thanks for posting!
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Jan 9th, 2009, 04:42 PM
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Thanks for the info, Michael! I really prefer public transport, but that's one frontier where I think some serious support is needed. The visa thing is such a pain - I'd like to do maybe four of the five 'stans in one trip, and I can see that getting all those visas would take a long time.
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Jan 9th, 2009, 05:12 PM
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I keep popping over here hoping for a tidbit on Mongolia. Thanks Wasleys. T

hursdaysd may be jealous of Kyrgystan, but I am jealous of the Khustai. What time of year were you there? Nice job on the cranes and the vultures as well as the takhi, especially the very young one. Some of your landscapes shots had the steppes looking like velvet.

Great work.

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Jan 9th, 2009, 05:53 PM
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Thanks to people for compliments.

I understand there is a bus service between Bishkek and Kashgar but I have heard it is not available to foreigners.

We were in Mongolia in early May and were very lucky with the weather as there was a lot of sun but a cold wind and cold nights. We had one unpleasant morning around freezing with snowy rain as you can see in some of the Gandan Monastery pictures.

The bird pictures were due to luck and the camera more than skill. They were a long way off, taken from inside the van with the camera at maximum zoom. A lot were taken and only a few were worthwhile, but that's the way. The trouble with animals is that just as you get a decent shot lined up they turn round or something moves in front of them.
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Jan 9th, 2009, 06:12 PM
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Wow, I just went through the Kyrgystan galleries - great pix, and lovely, lovely mountains. I had read that the Torugart pass was flat, but guess that's just the road, certainly plenty of mountains in your pictures. BTW, loved the balbals!

Karakol really does look Russian - are there still many ethnic Russians living there, or did they leave after the breakup?
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Jan 9th, 2009, 07:13 PM
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Torugart is 'quite hilly' on the Chinese side but not really wild. Once into Kyrgyzstan it is high plain with steep but rolling hills. Not many pics up there because once past the customs post you're not supposed to stop and cameras need discreet use until you get near the actual frontier when we were advised to keep them out of sight. Having said that if we had had longer there I might have been tempted to ask permission to see if we got a result.

Quite a lot of ethnic Russians around. Apparently some moved to Russia after the break up of the USSR but many came back to what they saw as 'home'. Some said the climate was better. We got the impression that while the Kyrgyz people were please to get independence they also miss the investment that they got in USSR days. It was clear that a lot of things that had been buit were just not being maintained.

I think one reason for the 'Russian look' is that the Russians settled in villages and towns whereas the Kyrgyz were nomads - until collectivisation that is.
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Jan 10th, 2009, 03:12 PM
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This trip looks fabulous, I'm so jealous. How did you feel after traveling for 7 weeks? Are you over 40? Over 50? Just curious. I am planning a 4 week trip to China and just wondering how exhausting it is?
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Jan 10th, 2009, 03:52 PM
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sdtravels,

Over 60. In our prime.

We were a bit worried about the duration. The agent specifically asked if we had made a trip that length before and were we sure about it all. The short answer was that we weren't but we had done 5 weeks before so thought it was worth a go.

We didn't find it so much tiring as just that somewhere along the line there comes a point at which you realise you would quite like to be at home. However the variety was so great the stimulation overcame those feelings.

We had the easy option. All our arrangements were made beforehand. We had transfers everywhere and our own transport during most days. There was only one flight during the trip (we tend to find flying - or rather airports - tiring) which helped. Overnight trains were in compartments with just the two of us. We had kept luggage light.

The heat got through to us a bit, but fortunately where we were it was generally a very dry heat.

My wife had spent a lot of time beforehand getting detailed information about what there was and deciding what we wanted to see. We don't have a 'zoom round to cram it all in' mentality (or perhaps we do which was why it was such a long trip) and were prepared to keep the number of sites per day down to a reasonable number. We like to take our time to look at things, get the right spot for pics without people (difficult in China) and ask questions. This led to reasonably relaxed days.

We hadn't planned and we didn't do any evening activities such as theatres. We are early risers so knew that going out in the evening would probably be tiring and we'd go to sleep in Act 2. Having said that we did usually go out for a gentle wander in the evening to see life and get some fresh air.

We don't do shopping or fancy restaurants. Evening meals were what ever we felt like be it simple restaurant, hotel or buy in a supermarket and eat in our room.

We only drank alcohol on two occasions. Certainly much less than at home and on some other trips (eg we just had to sample local produce in NZ). I think that probably helped quite a lot!

On the subject of fresh air we were lucky with air quality in Beijing, Xi'an and even Lanzhou, which has a bad reputation for industrial air pollution. It was May and whilst city air was not crystal clear it was certainly no worse than you might expect in London. We were not conscious of any breathing or eye issues. Later in the year may have been different, some pictures we have seen look horrendous in terms of smoggy conditions. I think our pics give a general indication of quite clear air.

Long answer I'm afraid but I think the points mentioned all contributed to our ability to cope with a long trip.
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 05:15 AM
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Wasleys- Quite enjoyed the photos. Mongolia and New Zealand are on "our list". My husband has heard that the fishing is terrific in Mongolia! I would have loved to read a day by day musings about the trip. Thank you for putting this together. Now I am off to see Greenland via your photos.
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Feb 2nd, 2009, 05:32 AM
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lynclarke,

Glad you liked the pictures. There are some daily thoughts in the Facts and Information pages.

Michael
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Jul 27th, 2011, 01:26 PM
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CHANGE OF URL

There's a new domain and server for those pics which are now at:

http://wasleys.org.uk/Asia_websites/..._mw/index.html
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Aug 5th, 2011, 08:32 PM
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Thanks very much for posting all this information, especially the pictures. I have applied for a position with an American agency in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and think it would be very interesting to live there for a couple of years.
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