2 - Trans-Manchurian Adventures (19/7/2005) - Steven Martin

2 - Trans-Manchurian Railway (19th July 2005)

I travelled from Estonia to Hong Kong overland over the course of approximately six weeks in the summer of 2005. The journey began with an overnight flight from London to Tallinn, and continued with an overnight bus from Tallinn to St Petersburg, passing grim-faced Russian border control guards in the dead of night. Unfortunately 48 hours with no sleep eventually caught up with me outside of the Hermitage museum, where I forsook some of the world's great art for a snooze on a bench in a nearby park. The next night I finally got some rest, on an overnight train from St Petersburg to Moscow. And then I was off - a week on a train to China, armed only with copious snacks and supplies, a quirky Swiss cabin mate called Yann, and a desire to drink all nine numbered beers in the Russian Baltika range. This photograph was taken during my only break in the journey - a night spent in Irkutsk, next to the world's largest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal. And then it was on to China - a month moving around that vast country in various combinations of a total party of five travellers - a week spent alone in Shanghai and Huang Shan, group climbing of Tai Shan, Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Yangshuo, and finally on to Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The Trans-Manchurian Railway itself was a great experience, but something that - if I'm honest - I feel that I didn't make the most of at the time. I'd love to do it again, and spend more time in Irkutsk, as well as the other Russian cities on the route. And - with a desire to visit Mongolia - I could always take a slightly different route through Ulan Bator. What is satisfying is looking at a world map and following the enormous line I took from one small, Baltic city, to a glittering neon island of lights and noise in the South China Sea.