Archive for the ‘Costs’ Category

Singapore to Saint Petersburg

Posted: June 26, 2014 in Costs, Travel

The land trip from Singapore to Saint Petersburg took me 5 months. For the number savvies, here are the stats!

Total Distance: 15,834km

Total Cost: S$1,418.80

Total Time on All Transports: 307.75 hours (12.82 days)

Total Time on Bus: 34 hours

Total Transfers: 14 Trains and 5 Buses

Total Number of Hostels Stayed: 17

Total Number of Times Chased by Drunkards: 1 (Malaysia)

Total Number of Times I Had My Stuff Stolen: 1 (Russia)

Total Number of Dead People Seen: 3 (Kim Jung Il, Kim Il Sung, Lenin)

Total Number of Items Lost: 2 (1 cover for my travel pillow and 1 cover for my international adaptor)

Total Number of Times My Breath Was Taken Away: Dozens

Total Number of Friends Made: Countless

 

In comparison, the cheapest flight from Singapore to Saint Petersburg would cost $1,162 on Korea Air for a time of 20 hours. Not that bad, considering that I was only over that amount by $300. The land trip to Saint Petersburg is certainly not the cheapest. I could have skipped certain cities and travelled the span of the entire country (China, Russia, Vietnam) by a direct train, but what’s the point in that!

Here’s a link to all the individual trips. I recommend that you click on the following links if you need information on going from place to place!

Singapore to Penang – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/in-the-beginning/

Penang to Bangkok – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/penang-to-bangkok/

Bangkok to Siem Reap – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/bangkok-to-siem-reap/

Siem Reap to Phnom Penh – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/siem-reap-to-phnom-penh/

Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/phnom-penh-to-ho-chi-minh-city/

Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat to Nha Trang – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/ho-chi-minh-city-to-da-lat-to-nha-trang/

Nha Trang to Hanoit – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/nha-trang-to-hanoi/

Hanoi to Nanning – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/hanoi-to-nanning/

Nanning to Guangzhou – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/nanning-to-guangzhou/

Guangzhou to Hangzhou – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/guangzhou-to-hangzhou/

Hangzhou to Tianjin – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/hangzhou-to-tianjin/

Tianjin to Beijing – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/tianjin-to-beijing/

Beijing to Ulan Bator – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/beijing-to-ulan-bator/

Ulan Bator to Irkutsk – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/ulan-bator-to-irkutsk/

Irkutsk to Yekaterinburg – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/irkutsk-to-yekaterinburg/

Yekaterinburg to Moscow – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/yekaterinburg-to-moscow/

Moscow to Saint Petersburg – https://bucketlistsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/moscow-to-saint-petersburg/

 

And if you can’t find any good reference, use this blog to get more information: http://woodlandstowoking.wordpress.com/

 

The trip created a lot of firsts for me. It was the first time i stepped into Vietnam, China and Russia. On the sides, I did a trip to India and North Korea as well! I learnt how to speak a few words of Russian and Korean, brushed up on my Chinese (tremendously), taught English to many and learnt how to play International Charades.

International Charades is the most amazing game ever, aka the chicken and the duck talking, where both parties do not have a common language. Surprisingly, I received the most gifts from people that do not share the same language as me.

I had cuts, bruises, overworked leg muscles, shoulder aches, fever, flu, drowsiness, jet lag and food poisoning. I had people hustling me for money but thankfully no robbing at knife point stuff. Going through this trip was an adventure and is certainly tiring, but I would not have done it any other way.

If there is one thing that i have learnt, home is still the best place to be.

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Moscow to Saint Petersburg

Posted: June 23, 2014 in Costs, Travel

Moscow -> Saint Petersburg
Cost: S$77
Time spent travelling: 8.5 hours

As the sun sets on Moscow, I embark on my last leg of this journey. Late sunsets and cloudy skies create spectacular sunsets!

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An overnight train later, I’m in St Petersburg! The locals would call it petersburg in short. As the biggest western most city of Russia, the city is influenced by the Europeans. Finnish flags are prominent and Sweden’s Ikea is the leading company for furniture sales in the area. Architecture has a stronger European flavor than Moscow.

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I have always thought that travelling in Russia would be tough and it certainly didn’t disappoint me. From the metro to the language, the country threw hurdles after hurdles at me. I got lost in the metro, got hustled by the locals and simply felt tired from the constant lack of familiarity that I can find in other cities.

I’m glad that this was my last country, a country that tested my boundaries (trust me, it’s way easier to travel in North Korea) way beyond what I can imagine. Unsurprisingly, Russia turned out to be the only place where I got my stuff stolen.

At the edges of Europe, I’m glad to say that the journey has come to an end!

Yekaterinburg to Moscow

Posted: June 15, 2014 in Costs, Travel

Yekaterinburg -> Moscow
Cost: S$107
Time spent travelling: 27.5 hours

Train rides are starting to get monotonous after a while. The view isn’t as great as what they picture on posters and adverts. You don’t get to see mountainous views to die for, or take postcard pictures out of trains. I’m sure the places the trains go pass looks great from the outside, but the inside of the train would really get on your nerve after a few days.

Taking the train at one of the less touristy towns along the trans-Siberian is challenging. Try deciphering the following!

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Language was a constant issue and it didn’t get any better in Moscow. The young may have studied English in school for years and are pretty proficient, but be prepared to get dirty stares from the elders when you say that you do not understand Russian.

Upon arrival, I realised that there are more than 1 stations in the same area. They have totally different names and most of them serve other cities as well. It is that big!

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Metro stations are not any better, with multiple stations in the same area on different lines. In Singapore, you change from the red to green line at the same station but in Moscow, the stations are different at different coloured lines, even though they are in the same area and you do not need to leave the stations. Try adding everything in Russian and you get one hell of a metro ride.

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Sights are aplenty in Moscow, home of the red square, kremlin, st basil’s church and a few others. Sightseeing is a must in Moscow!

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And of course, do visit the Moscow circus if you have the chance too!

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I had 5 days in Moscow, so I could even catch a movie in English! It’s rare to find theaters that shows movies in English. Most American blockbusters are dubbed over in Russian and although it’s not the original voice, the voice actors are pretty darn good for some movies.

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Given a chance to go to Moscow again, I would choose to have a skate scooter as my main mode of transport in the region. Most sights are within walking distance (less than an hour) but when you add a few places together, you will end up with countless hours of walking.

Nonetheless, I fulfilled my childhood dream of visiting Moscow!

Irkutsk to Yekaterinburg

Posted: June 4, 2014 in Costs, Travel

Irkutsk -> Yekaterinburg
Cost: S$278
Time spent travelling: 49 hours

Yes. 49 damn hours on the train. I’m glad that the train ride was a surprise this time round as it was starting to get monotonous with all that balancing of battery power, food, water, sleep and social space. Especially social space. I didn’t expect class 3 (the lowest class for Russian sleepers) to be so cramped!

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I was on the train with a group of pekhota (infantry) soldiers returning home after a year in service. Yes they were rowdy but what else can you expect from a group of 18-19 year olds?

At first they seem hesitant and indifferent towards me. Some taunted me for being Chinese, with calls of ‘cheena’ along the walkway. When we really talked and I told them I was in the pekhota as well, there were handshakes going all around. Respect was immediately given. Being a corporal amongst the corporals brought another round of handshakes as well. I felt the mutual respect, and I think they felt it too. Instantly we were talking about infantry and army, with our limited vocab of 50 overlapping words, a mix of angliski and russian.

It kind of got me thinking.. being in the military means that we might someday be enemies on the battlefield. But somehow, knowing them makes it all that harder to fight them. Maybe that’s what the modern army is about, knowing thy enemy and being hesitant to fight. The real reason being having an army and deterrence.

That aside, I can say for sure that only 2 things interest army men. Food and women.

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They did take my charger when they left, something I would say it’s closer to a mistake than theft. I didn’t want to undermine all their efforts of making an effort to get to know me with just a charger. And that’s the story of how I lost my first item of this trip.

The trains have different classes, evident even from the corridor.

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The restaurant is slightly pricey and some food are not available, but is decent enough for a simple meal.

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Arriving in Yekaterinburg, I didn’t know what to expect or see. Not known as a touristy place, Yekaterinburg used to be an industrial powerhouse of the Russian empire.

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Having stepped into a Russian metro for the first time, it struck me how similar it is to the metro is North Korean. Extremely long escalators, dark tunnels for noisy trains and chandeliers lighting up the platform.

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Yekaterinburg has tributes and monuments to the famous Russians but what struck me was it’s quirkiness. Along the main shopping district, you can find a statue of Michael Jackson. Further down the path and near the river, you get a keyboard monument.

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Vandalism is rampant in the city, with even an art piece that resembles vandal sprays.

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It was a pity that I couldn’t get to see the Russian circus though! (Another reason to come back to Russia)

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Yekaterinburg will always be a place that is quaint and quirky, a good place to stop and rest before my next big one, Moscow!!

Ulan Bator to Irkutsk

Posted: June 4, 2014 in Costs, Travel

Ulan Bator -> Irkutsk
Cost: S$119
Time spent travelling: 34 hours

And so the Siberian portion of the trans-Siberian begins! Unlike most of my trip, a visa is required for entry into the country.

Before stepping into Russia, a (tedious) visa must be obtained. Unlike most other visas, an invitation from a hotel or agency must be given to you before an application can be made. You would need to provide details like cities that you would visit and the duration of stay. Once that is completed, you can finally apply for a visa. Hence, the entire process requires you to plan out the trip before going. It is rare that people travels to a city in Russia without knowing how long they would stay there for. Once in the city, you are required to register with the hostel and state the number of days you will be staying there for. Yes, it is that tedious if you wanna stay safe.

The train from Ulan Bator to Irkutsk does not have a restaurant on board, unlike most other trans-Siberian trains.

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The cabins are typical 4 people per cabin and power plugs are usually located along the corridor.

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I was lucky to travel with an English speaking group and could steal a photo of the train’s plan for the crossing. Hur hur.

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There were frequent stops along the way and the longest ones are usually at the border towns where carriages are being rearranged.

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The city of Irkutsk is known as the border town of Russia that is located along the trans-Siberian route, as well as the main city beside lake Bikal.

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Apparently the Russians do not issue parking tickets in the no parking zone. They simple take your car…

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I didn’t manage to catch lake Bikal (which is an excuse to come back again) this time round, but nonetheless managed to catch a good sunset!

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Beijing to Ulan Bator

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Costs, Travel

Beijing -> Ulan Bator
Cost: S$240
Time spent travelling: 29 hours 15 mins

My highly anticipated virgin trip on the trans Siberian railway! The actual trans Siberian is not just a one way train from Beijing to Moscow. It can be separated into many different stops (and highly recommended). Stopping at multiple places allows you to have a breather from all the train rides and you get to see all these wonderful cities!

From the main Beijing railway station, the train departs at 08:05 in the morning to Ulan Bator.

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We tend to take little things like language for granted. It helps that you can read in both Chinese and English when it comes to train tickets!

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The cabin is quite like any other Chinese sleeper trains. At 4 a cabin, it is sufficient for us Asians… The same can’t be said for huge burly Caucasians!

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Sights are aplenty on the train. The landscape changes from the mountainous regions of northern China to the plains of Mongolia.

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An added bonus is the restaurant on the trans Siberian! With seats, hot food and water, it helps ease the pain of long train rides. They accept the main currencies like USD, GBP, EUR, as well as the local CNY/Mongolian Tugrik.

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At 8pm and a full 12 hours later, the train stopped at the border Chinese city of Erlian. It has a small supermarket and cleaner toilets as compared to the train. However, the 4 hour wait is annoying as they rearrange the train carriages. Some carriages stop at Erlian, while others like mine continue on to Ulan Bator.

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Border checks typically consists of big men walking into your cabin and going through your luggage. You can stay on the cabin the entire time as the passports are stamped separately and checks are all done on your bedside.

Almost 30 hours later, Ulan Bator!! The simple train station for a capital city with a little more than a few tracks. Simple, but cosy enough!

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Tianjin to Beijing

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Costs, Travel

Tianjin -> Beijing
Cost: S$11
Time spent travelling: 30 minutes

The trip from Tianjin to Beijing can take anything from a half an hour to a few hours. I decided on the high speed rail that goes up to 300km/h and arrived at Beijing in half an hour.

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A short intercity ride with a standard seat (no they do not have sleeper cabins for obvious reasons), you cannot expect anything more especially when it’s relatively cheap. The train does not go to the main train station in Beijing though. It arrives at Beijing south station and a short metro transfer is needed to go into the main city.

Much has been written about Beijing so I shall not dwell too much on it. Enjoy the pics of Beijing!

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It was certainly fun to travel on a day tour with an English speaking tour guide once in a while. As an added bonus, I get to ask my tour guide questions in Chinese as well! It certainly helps when a bilingual tour guide explains to you about the different emperors and the story about the monkey god. Beats learning all these in the classroom!