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Olkhon Island – Damo is a dirty liar

June 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Ok so ignoring the fact that we didn’t catch a goddamn hovercraft like Damo promised, Olkhon Island was a lot of fun. It´s some kind of perennial second or third placed um… place? It´s (I think) the third largest lake bound island in the world, sitting in the second largest lake in the world; so it´s nothing special almost by definition.

Nice ukelele LIAR

Looking towards Olkhon Island

Here´s the usual quick summary:

Olkhon Island seems to be a very poor (by Siberian standards) area.

To the extent that Anna wasn’t allowed to pay for 89 rubles of groceries at the store with a 100 ruble note because they couldn’t afford the change.

The only thing that makes money at all on Olkhon Island is wood (basically old – growth evergreen pine forests that fill 90% of the island).

So everything, everything on Olkhon Island is made out of wood.

There seems to be a lot of deforestation on Olkhon Island (ok hands up, who is surprised by this?).

The main town (where we stayed) in Olkhon Island is called ˝Main Town˝ in Russian. The main road in ˝Main Town˝ is called ˝Main Road˝ in Russian.

Not as slippery as you would expect

We found this ˝slide˝ in the school playground

We stayed at a place called Nikita´s Homestay at Olkhon, which was apparently set up by a former Ping Pong gold medallist, (called Nikita, I guess?), the place was filled with amazing woodwork, but unfortunately not filled with ping pong tables.

Nikita 1

Nikita 2

A bit hard to see, but this little hut is actually filled with old fashioned sewing machines. Sorry mum, I couldn´t fit one in my bag!

After lounging around for a day or two we went to:

The somehow still functioning docks

Docks

Seriously Dilapidated

The beach for a swim

Beach

Seriously Cold

Some kind of sacred shaman site

Shaman site

Seriously Sacred

And for a general walk around the coast

Coast

Seriously Beautiful

I´ll leave everyone with a photo of almost the entirety of Main Town

Main Town

Seriously Tiny

 

After 2 nights at Olkhon we hopped in a minivan driven by a James Bond henchman look-alike (no photos, because I did´t want to be killed) were on our way back to Irkutsk, for a 4 day train to Moscow!

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Categories: Olkhon Island, Photos

Sneak Preview 4

May 25, 2011 Leave a comment
Hovercraft

LOOK AT ALL OF THAT ICE

Does this look like a hovercraft to you Damien?

DOES IT?!?!?!

Categories: Photos, Sneak Preview

Irkutsk – This flag is incredible

May 25, 2011 1 comment

We got off the overnight train at Irkutsk station and tried to follow the directions given to us by the hostel – “Take any tram for 3 stops, then get off and go into the alley behind the “OPTIKA” sign”. Helpful.

Through great skill and ingenuity we managed to make it to the hostel pretty quickly and dumped our bags before going outside for a walk around the city. To our surprise Irkutsk was actually much, much warmer than Mongolia and it was pretty much T-shirts and shorts weather the whole time we were there.

View of Irkutsk

View of the river

Our hostel was on Lenin street, which was right around the corner from Karl Marx street, so that was exciting for me. What confused me was that there was a statue of Stalin on Lenin street, and a statue of Lenin on Karl Marx street; there was, however, a  statue of Yuri Gagarin on Gagarin street, so at least that one made sense.

Lenin statue - Irkutsk

Irkutsk is full of fantastic looking and old fashioned wooden houses. Apparently this is a hangover from the time of the Decemberists, it adds a nice touch to the city and gives the whole place a nice vibe and a unique look.

Wooden house

Another amazing thing about Irkutsk is that their city flag is of a cat eating a mink. Yes, you read that right.

Amazing flag

See, I wasn't lying

To quickly sum up Irkutsk, it’s a nice place to visit, but there isn’t a great deal to do there. After two days, and too many birazkhi/pirozkhi (puns!) we ran out of things to do and left for a 3 hour drive to Olkhon Island – complete with hovercraft to cross the frozen ice of Baikal lake.

More photos here.

Categories: Irkutsk, Photos

Sneak Preview 3

May 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Here are some things I found in stores in Irkutsk:

Duran Duran

Duran Duran

Fake Turtles

At least Raphaela's still green

And two hints: Cats and Mink

Categories: Irkutsk, Photos, Sneak Preview

Ulan Baatar – Home of the original G Unit

May 25, 2011 Leave a comment

After taking an overnight train from Erlian to Ulan Baataar (the capital of Mongolia) we got set up in our hostel and then went out on the town to see the sights. The sights turned out to be just one

Statue 1

or two

statue 2

statues of Ghengis Khan. Apparently they are trying to revise his memory a little bit and turn him into a real national figure, so dozens and dozens of statues like this have been put up in the last couple of years.

Other than Ghengis Khan (called Chenggis Khaan here) statues, there wasn’t really anything else to recommend Ulan Baataar for. It looks like the Soviets showed up with some concrete moulds and a boatload of concrete powder and went to work. The city really is just concrete soviet apartment block after concrete soviet apartment block, sometimes this is punctuated by the odd glass skyscraper but those are well and truly few and far between.

Mongolian school

Because there wasn’t really much to do in the city itself, we went on a drive to a close by National Park. Overnight the temperature had dropped by at least 30 degrees Celsius so I went from T shirt to two T shirts, a hoodie and a jacket over the top in the space of about 10 hours. Our driver told us that this is normal in Mongolia and the weather changed really really rapidly. Anyway here are some photos of the National Park.

National Park

David freezes to death

Giant rock

After freezing to death we hopped back in the car and drove for an hour or so to a giant (and I do mean giant) statue of Ghengis Khan. The photos really have to be seen to be believed because this is just a huge statue in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Apparently they built the statue as the first part of a huge museum and tourism complex, but no tourists actually came. Ouch. We were the only people at the statue besides a couple of construction workers that seemed to be having lunch in their van.

Super Ghenghis

David v Genghis

And that’s really all there was to see of Ulan Baataar. Off to Irkutsk on the train!

As usual more photos are stored right here.

Categories: Photos, Ulan Baataar

David the 8 year old visits Dinosaurs

May 14, 2011 6 comments

Dear Ms. Teacher-lady,

One time I caught a BIG train from Beijing with my friends. It was exciting at first because trains go really fast! But then it got boring and we saw lots of sand and windmills.

Beijing-Erlian Scenery

After a loooooong time (it was so long that I tried to stay awake but I just couldn’t!) we stopped at Erlian station and got to leave the train yay!

I got to sleep in a proper hotel room with my favourite friend Oli and it only cost me $7.10 and I got to sleep in a big bed by myself and everything. But I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited about seeing the dinosaurs that live in Erlian that I had to get up and go for a walk with my friends at night time. It was way past my bedtime but they said it was ok!

Hotel Rooms

Every building was lit up with neon lights and it looked like the future! Not a bad future like when the planeteers had to give up their rings, but a good one like when the ninja turtles finally beat shredder, yay! I tried to take photos but I was so excited that I forgot my camera! How silly! It was really pretty though, they even had a carnival with dodgem cars in the main square!

In the morning we went back to the main square and there was a park next door that had statues of all my favourite dinosaurs! I got my photo taken with every single one and sometimes my friends joined in. Some old man even gave Oli a hat! Old people are weird.

Comradesaurus

Dino statues 1

Dino statues group

Cool old guy

My favourite one was the T Rex though

Raaaaaargh!
Raaaaaargh!

The next day we got in a taxi and went to the Dinosaurs Fairyland museum. They had real dinosaur bones there, as well as statues we could climb. They even had stegosauruses and baby dinosaurs and a t rex head and dinosaur eggs and I saw some dinosaur rocks that looked like a tree! Dinosaurs fairyland is my favourite place ever!

Dinosaurs Fairyland

Erlianasaurus

Damo being eaten

Dino tree

My friends took me to a place called Macro’s to eat lunch because I told them it was lunch time and we have to eat or teacher-lady will get mad. Macro’s is a KFC/Mongolian take-away store that was founded my a Chinese fighter pilot that was brainwashed by the Americans before going back home to his parent’s house to make hamburgers. Or something? I tried to follow the pictures but it was confusing. I hope Macro’s story had a happy ending.

Macro's

After lunch we went to see a giant statue of two brontosaurus kissing over a road. I was scared at first but then our taxi driver said that the brontosaurus fell asleep a long time ago and they can’t hurt us now! I took some photos but not too many because kissing is gross and it can make you sick!

Kissingsaurus 1

That’s me standing on the road. I hope mum doesn’t see!

Kissingsaurus 2

Kissingsaurus 3

The next day my friends made me catch a different train to a place called Mongolia. I hope that dinosaurs live in Mongolia too!

Bye bye,

David.

PS
Devolution of man

Sneak Preview

May 10, 2011 1 comment

Next week on Phineas Fogg:
Plummeting ratings

What the?

Prepare yourselves