• Tiger by the Tail

    Tiger by the Tail

    Outside Para, Bhutan.  February 21, 2015. I had a tiger by the tail. Or it had me. In the last few years I’ve hiked far greater distances....

  • Burial, Emily’s Ashes on Water

    Burial, Emily’s Ashes on Water

    Crouched on the diving platform at the aft of  boat, I held one fourth of a dead human in my hands. Several crew members were moving just...

  • Eating Thailand

    Eating Thailand

    We were eating Thailand.  We ate from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, from Sukhothai to Chiang Rai, from Chiang Mai back to Bangkok. February 2015 As one guy remarked...

  • Thai Dancers with unexpected grace

    Thai Dancers, Unexpected Grace

    Two of my worlds collide in Bangkok, saved by Thai dancers, unexpected grace, and continuing a centuries-old tradition of royal Thai dance. February 2015 First, I love...

  • Siberian Express Dreams

    Siberian Express Dreams, #7 Meeting People.

    Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and China, late December, 2014. Part 7: I’ve had Siberian Express dreams for years, taking a train across the vast stretch of Siberia, leaving...

Siberian Express Dreams

Siberia, Russia, late December, 2014.

Part 4: I’ve had Siberian Express dreams for years, taking a train across the vast stretch of Siberia, leaving Moscow headed constantly on, day and night, to distant places in Asia. December 2014 was our opportunity to make dreams real. I didn’t know how much we would depend on our provinistas.

Before we could board the train in Moscow, we stood in line as the “provinista”, usually a woman on the Russian and Mongolian trains, men on the Chinese one, collected and verified our tickets and passports, and directed us to our cabin. Each car had a provinista who would live on board that car. She would be busy keeping the public areas and the rooms clean; minding the samovar, fueled by coal, to keep hot water ready 24 hours a day; selling snacks and hot drinks from her cabin which was stuffed with provisions for sale and just enough room remaining for her to sleep; and keeping an eye on things. She would hold our tickets and passports until our arrival.  In the mornings we would ask the provinista for coffee, and she would deliver two large steaming glasses.  Once, when we misjudged the hours of the restaurant car, the provinistas’s cache of candy bars helped make the wait until the breakfast serving tolerable.

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Siberian Express Dreams

Russia, east of the Urals onward, December, 2014.

Part 3: I’ve had Siberian Express dreams for years, taking a train across the vast stretch of Siberia, leaving Moscow headed constantly on, day and night, to distant places in Asia. December 2014 was our opportunity to make dreams real . . . but what would Siberian Express dreams life aboard be like?

There are frequently three different classes of cars on the train. There’s little difference between the first and second class cabins except there are two beds in first and four in second, so in second class you may be sharing your compartment. Then there is the third class car which has open bunk beds stacked perpendicularly on one side and laterally on the other, with an aisle down the center. Train #362 from Irkutsk to Ulan Bator was a second and third class train. We found several cars of Russian soldiers in rotation to the border and riding in the third class section.

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Siberian Dreams

Out of Moscow, Russia, December 21, 2014.

Part 2: I’ve had Siberian Express dreams for years, taking a train across the vast stretch of Siberia, leaving Moscow headed constantly on, day and night, to distant places in Asia. December 2014 was our opportunity to make dreams real. But there is no Siberian Express or there are several–none of which are the antique train show above which I saw parked next to a depot.

There really isn’t a Siberian Express, or there are several, depending on how you look at it. They all run across Siberia. Each train has both an eastbound and a westbound number.

Our train, the Vostok, #20 would become #19 on its return to Moscow; it is sometimes known as the Manchurian Express for its route which turns just past Lake Baikal and skirts Mongolia, to enter China at its Manchurian state border further east and continuing to Beijing.

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