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Trans Siberian from Beijing to Yekaterinburg

Trip details:

2 Indian travelers from Dubai. One vegetarian and one strictly vegan. We want to take the Trans Siberian starting Beijing and ending either at Yekaterinburg (low cost flight back) or Vladivostok (ferry to South Korea or Japan).



  • We want to spend max 1 day in Beijing.

  • We want to break our journey in 2 places, in Mongolia for 3-5 days and at Lake Baikal

  • I am very active outdoor adventurer, and looking for borderline adrenaline experiences such as paragliding, sydiving, paramotoring, horse riding, cycling, hiking, trekking open to expeditions, ancient ruins, local experiences, staying in yurts/gers etc

  • how do we manage diet?

  • want to do something meaningful and experience something magnificent do you think 3-5 days is enough?

  • what can we do in and around Lake Baikal do you recommend moving east or west from Irkutsk?

... Show more

Part One - Beijing:

One-day 'old city' Tour


Just in case you do end up staying a day in the city itself, I've added a small one-day itinerary here for Beijing city centre. I've kept it as low-key as possible as I get the feeling you are more adventurous travellers who would rather steer clear of big groups of city-centre tourists. So, this one-day itinerary shows you some of the historic but reasonably low-key sights within walking distance from the four hotel options I've given you in the 'Stay' section. I've also included two lovely vegetarian restaurant options.


Here's a map showing all four of the hotel options I've given you, plus the three sights on the itinerary below, plus the two restaurants I've recommended. As you can see, everything is within walking distance of everything else. This area is rich in hutong (historic narrow lanes) - you could call it the 'old city' of Beijing - and so walking is definitely the most interesting and pleasant way to get around.


Beijing Map:


https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zpOQnrNcM2bw.kVzdefcwZiho


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So, assuming you're staying at one of the four hotels I've recommended, then you'll be walking distance from the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower, both of which are beside each other, and which will be nice easy things to visit for a leisurely first day in China. You can climb up both towers for lovely views of the surrounding hutong (narrow lanes). Don't miss the 10-minute drumming performance inside the Drum Tower, held every day at the following times: 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm & 4.45pm. It's ear-thumpingly good!


Note, the Chinese for Drum Tower is pronounced "Goo Low".


Note, the Chinese for Bell Tower is pronounced "Jong Low".


The Drum Tower 


The Drum Tower


Both towers are around 300 years old and used to be the official time-keepers of the city, with bells and drums sounding out the time of the day.. long before Beijing's citizens had such luxuries as clocks or watches! There's a small square between the two towers, which is a favourite spot for line-dancing come evening time, when you'll see dozens of elderly residents joining up for a spot of group dancing. 


The Bell Tower


The Bell Tower


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In the afternoon, you could visit the Lama Temple, Beijing's largest Buddhist temple, and walking distance from the Drum & Bell Towers.


But en route, stop for lunch at Xu Xiang Zhai Vegetarian Restaurant. It has an English menu and a good-value, eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet for lunch (from 11.30am to 2pm) and dinner (from 5.30pm to 8pm), which costs ¥68 per person. Outside those times, it's a la carte, so more expensive, but still good value.


Xu Xiang Zhai Vegetarian Restaurant:


Xu Xiang Zhai


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The Lama Temple (in Chinese; "Yong He Gong") is about one hundred metres walk from the restaurant. It's a large temple, considering it's in the middle of a big city, so there's lots to see, including small exhibitions of Buddhist-related museum pieces. But it's also a working temple (despite all the tourists!), so you'll see resident monks wandering around here as they get on with their daily routines. Don't miss visiting the final hall at the far end of the complex. It houses the world's largest sandalwood Buddha!


Lama Temple (Yong He Gong) 


Lama Temple


----- 


For your evening meal, you could try the lovely Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant. It's about 10-minutes walk from the Lama Temple (in the same block of hutong as the temple), and so also walking distance (or a short taxi ride) from all four hotel options. It's housed in a converted courtyard and does standout vegetarian food in a peaceful atmosphere. I often see monks from the nearby Lama Temple coming here for lunch, or just for some tea (the Chinese tea menu is also excellent here - in fact you can just come for tea if you like). The menu is in English, and has photos, but there's no English sign outside, so pay attention to what it looks like in the photo below. The address is:


23 Caoyuan Hutong (which is a hutong off a larger road called Dongzhimennei Beixiaojie).


In Chinese, the address is: 


东直门内北小街


草原胡同23号


百合素食


Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant:


Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant

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Part Two - the Great Wall:

The Great Wall


Make sure that you've booked a room at Great Wall Box House (see the 'Stay' section), because that's where you'll be staying for your Great Wall adventure. It's a fabulous place that was renovated from an old chessboard factory, and is now a lovely rural courtyard guesthouse. 


It's located in the village of Gubeikou (古北口; "Goo Bay Kow"), which is a delightful village where a number of stretches of the Wall meet in a kind of Great Wall 'Crossroads', meaning there are lots of choices for hiking. The village itself is nice to wander around. The Wall here is rugged and unrestored, making it a more authentic experience, but it does mean it's more dangerous to walk on than the sections that have been opened up officially for tourism, so do take care when hiking here.


As I say, see the 'Stay' section for details on the hostel.


Their website has details on how to get there from central Beijing, and once you've booked a room they will email even more detailed directions, but I'll give them to you here as well:


Take the subway in Beijing to Dongzhimen (东直门), and follow the signs to the "Bus Transfer Hall". Then take Bus 980快 (the 快 ("kwai") means 'fast') to Miyun Bus Station (密云汽车站; "Mee Ywoon Chee Chur Jan") - it's the last stop, and takes about 90 minutes, and costs ¥15. 


When you get to Miyun Bus Station, walk out of the bus station, cross the road and walk to your right, where there are a couple of local bus stops. Find the one with the placard for Bus 密25 (the 密 - "Mee" - stands for Miyun); it's about 100m walk at the most, then take that bus to Gubeikou (古北口; "Goo Bay Kow"; 70 minutes, ¥9). You want to get off at the bus stop just before the Gubeikou Tunnel (don't worry if you miss it, because you can walk back through the tunnel from the next stop - it's not far).


Assuming you get off just before the tunnel, on your right you'll see an archway, leading to a village beside a stream. Instead of going under the archway, walk along the road to the south of the stream, which runs parrallel to the village, and keep walking, with the stream and the village to your left, until you see a sign for the guesthouse (see pic). it's only about a 400m walk. 


Great Wall Box


Hopefully, you'll have made it here for lunch. If not, they'll rustle something up for you. Joe, the Chinese guy who runs the place, recently converted to Buddhism, so the food is all vegetarian.. and it's delicious. Joe and his friend (perhaps his girlfriend, I'm not sure - I didn't ask!) both speak good English, so while you're having lunch, you'll be able to discuss which part of the Wall to visit in the afternoon, before you come back to the hostel for your free (yes, free!) vegetarian dinner.


There's a nice two-to-three-hour loop which you could do in the afternoon on a stretch of the Wall called the Coiled Dragon Wall. Ask them for details.


Coiled Dragon Great Wall


Coiled Dragon Great Wall


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...more Great Wall


The great thing about Gubeikou is that there are numerous stretches of Great Wall nearby, so if you have time, or if you decide to stay for another day, you'll have the chance to walk on a different section of the Wall. Ask Joe how to get to the Crouching Tiger Great Wall. It's through the other side of the tunnel (although you don't have to walk through the tunnel to get there). It's a very steep section of Wall, so you might not want to climb all the way to the top - hike as far as you feel comfortable doing, then come back.


Crouching Tiger Great Wall 


Crouching Tiger Great Wall


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Gubeikou Village


If you fancy a more leisurely stroll while you're here, then the village of Gubeikou is an historic village in its own right; it used to be a military garison, protecting the northeastern route into Beijing. There are half a dozen ancient temples to visit (with a ¥20-ticket for the group of them), so you could wander around the village, looking for them (there are some English signs), before heading back to Beijing city centre.


Gubeikou Village


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If you're feeling super adveturous, and want to stay yet another day, ask Joe about a six or seven-hour hike to another part of the Great Wall called Jinshanling. He can give you all the details.

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Part Three - Mongolia:

Train from Beijing


There are three train options to get from Beijing to Ulaanbtaar, or UB, as everyone calls it. The cheapest way is to catch local trains up to the Chinese border town of Er Lian, then cross the border in a bus/minivan, then catch a local train from the Mongolian border town of Zamyn-Uud to UB. However, this is a real hassle to do if you don't speak Chinese or Mongolian, particularly as you cannot pre-book normal Chinese trains without a Chinese bank card, and you cannot pre-book Mongolian trains online at all. If you do want to take this option, I'd recommend getting in touch with the guys at China DIY Travel (www.china-diy-travel.com), a trustworthy Australian-run train ticket agency who will be able to help you get to the Chinese border. From there, though, you'll have to sort everything out on your own (ie cross the border, and buy a train ticket to UB). Given your timeframes, I don't recommend this.


The other two options are the two direct trains which run on the Trans-Mongolian section of the Trans-Siberian Railway network. One of these trains is the K3. This leaves Beijing every Wednesday at 11.22am, and arrives in UB at 2.20pm on Thursday.


The other train is the K23. This leaves Beijing every Tuesday (and sometimes also every Saturday) at 11.22am, and arrives in UB at 2.20pm on Wednesday (and sometimes Sunday).


Unless you go through a special Trans-Siberian travel agent (Monkey Business - www.monkeyshrine.com - is one in Beijing that I can recommend), which will obviously cost a lot more, then you will have to buy your tickets for either of these two trains in person in Beijing from a special branch of CITS (China International Travel Service). The branch you need to go to is five-minutes walk north of Beijing Train Station (where both trains leave from). 


Tickets are easy to come by, so you'll be fine simply buying these tickets when you arrive in Beijing. Just make sure you buy them as soon as you arrive (ie before you head off to the Great Wall).


The CITS office is open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 9am to noon on Saturday and Sunday. It's housed round the back of the lefthand side of the lobby of the Beijing International Hotel (北京国际饭店; Beijing Gwor-jee Fandian). The CITS office telephone number is 6512 0507. They speak some English in this office, but note; you will have to pay in Chinese cash.


Here's a map for the Beijing International Hotel:



--


Trains tickets to UB cost as follows:


Hard Sleeper (4-berth): ¥1584


Soft Sleeper (4-berth): ¥2137


Deluxe (2-berth): ¥2311


The hard sleeper tickets are best value and, despite the name, they are very comfortable (they are not literally "hard"!).


--


In Mongolia


Terelj National Park


You will be spending your time in Mongolia in Terelj National Park, a huge national park with seemingly endless grassland hills - perfect for horse riding - cut through by rivers and streams. It's a great place for camping, if you have your own equipment. But if not, there are dozens of tourist ger camps you can stay at. The one I've recommended (Ecotourism Ger Camp) is quite deep into the park, and quite a hike from any roads or villages, so it's lovely and peaceful without being ridiculously remote.


I can't find a photo of Ecotourism Ger Camp, but here's one of another camp in Terelj National Park, just to give you an idea: 



Hopefully by the time you arrive in UB you will have already been in touch with Bert, the Dutch guy who runs Ecotourism Ger Camp. With a bit of luck you might be able to catch the 4pm bus from UB straight to Terelj (see the 'Stay' section for bus details). Alternatively, he might be able to help you arrange a private car to take you out there. A third option would be to spend one night in UB and then catch the noon bus to Terelj the following day.


I'd recommend spending at least two nights with Bert so that you have at least one full day in the park to do a decent horse trek.. but obviously this is up to you. Email Bert and see what he recommends.


If you want to spend more time in the region, and are looking for something a bit different to do, you could also consider a rafting trip. These tend to cost around US$50 per day, so if that's within your budget then consider contacting Nomadic Journeys (www.nomadicjourneys.com), a well-run Swedish-Mongolian outfit which does rafting trips on Tuul Gol (a river which traverses Terelj National Park).


Bert may also have information about rafting trips, so it might be worth asking him.


--


Ulaanbaatar


Although you'll hopefully be spending most of your time in Terelj National Park, you will obviously have to spend some time in UB. Here's a map pinpointing the key places I've mentioned in this section of the itinerary, including all three guesthouse recommendations, both restaurant recommendations and the railway station and international railway ticket office:


https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zpOQnrNcM2bw.kN0v-dTbUbWI


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For potential places to stay in UB, see the 'Stay' section.


If, for what ever reason, you cannot get hold of Bert, and you do not end up making it to Eco Tourism Camp, then ask at your guesthouse in UB about a possible trip to Terelj National Park. Most UB guesthouses run day trips and/or overnight trips to Terelj, so, as a last resort, you will be able to arrange something through them.


--


For food in UB, I'd recommend Luna Blanca, famous for being Mongolia's first-ever fully vegan restaurant. It's clean, healthy and great value. And also very central.  


Loving Hut is another decent vegan option nearby.


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For train tickets to Irkutsk, your guesthouse in UB may be able to help. Otherwise, you need to go to the International Railway Ticketing Office, which is near the train station (but not actually at the train station). Come out of the train station, cross the road and turn left, then walk between two buildings on your right to find the yellow-painted ticket office set back from the main road. It has an English sign on it. You'll need your passport (with the relevant visa in it) and Mongolian cash to buy tickets here. It's open from 8am to 8pm.


As far as I know, there's a daily train from UB to Irkutsk. Train number 263. It leaves at 9.10pm every day and takes 36 hours. But make sure you double check this when you get to UB as train schedules do change.

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Part Four - Lake Baikal:

Listvyanka


Assuming the train times haven't changed, and you leave UB at around 9pm, you should arrive in Irkutsk, two days later, at around 9am. This means that, if you really don't want to spend any time in Irkutsk itself, you'll have plenty of time to head straight to Belka Hostel (the one in the lakeside village of Listvyanka)... See the 'Stay' section for details.


Note, from Irkutsk you can get to Listvyanka by bus from Irkutsk's main bus station, or, between June and September, by hydrofoil. Either way, it takes just over an hour.


In Listvyanka, as well as hiking along part of the Great Baikal Trail, you can also take boats trips, go mountain biking, jet-skiiing and even diving. Ask Jack, the guy who runs the Baikaler guesthouses (http://baikaler.com), for more details on possible activities. You can also ask him or his staff about recommendations for whether to head east or west when you continue your journey from Irkutsk.


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The Great Baikal Trail


This volunteer initiative started in 2003 with the aim of creating a 2000km-long network of eco-friendly hiking trails right around Lake Baikal. Every summer volunteers meet to help build more trails. They now have around 600km of trails which hikers can follow. For more info, see the GBT website: http://greatbaikaltrail.org/en.


Given that you'll probably being staying in Listvyanka, one possible trail you could do is the Listvyanka to Bolshie Koty trail. It's around 22km long and takes around 5-8 hours, depending on how fit you are. There are more details about this particular section of the trail here: http://greatbaikaltrail.org/en/node/938. If you are just spending one day in the Lake Baikal area, I'd recommend you spend it doing this (assuming you enjoy hiking, of course).


--


Irkutsk


If you do decide to spend some time in Irkutsk, most fun is to be had simply wandering around the attractive city centre on foot. Some of the architecture is very impressive. There are a number of museums that may take your interest. Arguably the best of them is City History Museum (address: ul Frank-Kamenetskogo 16a), housed in a palatial 19th-century school building. Note, it's closed on Wednesdays.


For food, I think I'm right in saying that there's only one vegetarian restaurant in Irkutsk. It's called Govinda and is, as you can guess from the name, Indian-themed. There are two branches; one on either side of the river. The one on the railway station side of the river is at: 2-ja Geleznodorognaja ul, 66, 3rd floor. The other is at: ul Furye 4, off ul Karla Marksa, one of the city's main streets.


(as you may have guessed, "ul" means street.)


To help you get your bearings, I've put together a small Baikal map, which includes all the places mentioned here:


https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zcJlOMC_CiHY.kc7Eq6VI-g2U

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initial thoughts By Daniel McCrohan
Replies (+)

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for choosing me as your Travel Ninja! Looking forward to helping you plan an amazing trip. You've chosen a very cool part of the world, I have to say.

Given that your time is so short (you've paid for a 5-days itinerary, yes?), here are my initial thoughts:

Beijing - one day isn't enough to even scratch the surface, but if it's adventure you're after, rather than a trip visiting world cities, then there's no point spending more time here than you need to. So, yes, I can give you a cool one-day Beijing itinerary to follow before you hop on your train or plane to Mongolia. The one thing I need to know is whether or not you want to see the Great Wall? It's top of most people's China wish-list, but you need to bear in mind that seeing it will take a whole day and so won't leave time for you to see anything else. That said, if you like a bit of an adventure, using your one night in China to stay in a village by the Great Wall would be pretty cool. So, let me know; Great Wall or Beijing city.

Mongolia (getting there) - if you take the train from BJ to UB (Ulaanbataar; capital of Mongolia) then that will use up another full day of your trip. It's a cool train journey, but bear in mind that it takes 27 hours. Also bear in mind that the train only leaves two or three times a week, depending on the time of year, so you'll have to time your Beijing arrival to fit with the train schedule. The alternative is to fly from BJ to UB. More expensive, of course, but quicker and more convenient. Again, let me know.

Mongolia - Unless you just want to see UB, then you need at least three days here. I know a cool little ger camp run by an eccentric Dutch cheesemaker and his Mongolian wife. You can stay in their gers, help them make cheese and head out into the beautiful surrounding forested grasslands on horseback. So, one night in UB, then two days and one night at their ger camp, then leave for Baikul.

Baikal - So, unless you want to extend your trip a bit, you'll be left with one day here. I imagine you'll want a couple of days at least, but that's up to you. I can put you in touch with a guy who runs a couple of great hostels in the Baikal area, and you can discuss with him how long you want to stay. I guess it depends what activities you want to do whilst there. You can hike for miles around one side of the lake, if you have enough time, for example. The hostel owner can also advise on whether it would be more fun to head east or west from there. I've never travelled along either of those routes, so I can't tell you myself, I'm afraid.. although I imagine the eastern route would be far more off-the-beaten-track.

Hope this helps.

As I say, for now, please confirm that you're happy for your 5-day itinerary to include one day in Beijing, followed by three days in Mongolia, followed by one day by Lake Baikul.. and please confirm whether or not you want that one day in Beijing to be a trip to the Great Wall or simply a day exploring the many wonders of the city of Beijing itself. Oh, and please let me know whether or not you want to take the train or fly from Beijing to UB. 

Cheers for now

Daniel

Ryan Gazder wrote:  

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for your email and apologies for the tardy response.

Well the highlight of our trip is the trans-siberian train journey - so all of our of our travel will be by train.

We are planning a trip for 10 - 12 days, with a 1-2 days in beijing - then 3-5 days in mongolia and about 2 days in Baikal. After Baikal we are yet to decide if we should head east or west to catch a flight back to Dubai. 

So with Beijing - yes, the great wall is on the agenda - i like the idea of the little village by the great wall! If we do decide to spend two days in Beijing then we could consider also your one day itinerary to explore the city a bit.

3-5 days in Mongolia - Not too keen on spending too much time in UB - interested to explore the Mogolian grasslands, culture/history & adventure. Yes, I like the idea of the Cheesmakers ger camps - would love to know more about things to do in Mongolian grasslands- we want to spend most of our days here & make most of it!

2 days in baikal - Yes, would like to connect with the hostel owner. We want to know more about things to do here

Cheers,

 

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Ryan,

OK. Great. Will get an itinerary drawn up for you over the next few days, and will get back to you as soon as it's done.

All the best for now

Daniel

Ryan Gazder wrote:  

Sounds Good - looking forward to it!


Itinerary ready By Daniel McCrohan
Replies (+)

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Ryan,

Just to say that I've finished your itinerary now, so feel free to go in and take a look. I hope it's what you were after.

As discussed, there are details for a day on the Great Wall, for two or three days in Mongolia and for one or two days in and around Lake Baikal.

I've also added a free one-day itinerary to Beijing itself, just in case you decide to spend an extra day there.

I've included a number of sleeping options for each destination. See the 'Stay' section of this website for all the details.

Where relevant, I've also included a small map for a destination, with pinpoints for any places I've recommended.

Let me know if there are any further queries. And if I don't hear any more from you, have a wonderul trip!

--

Oh, and don't forget, if you have an iPhone or iPad or any similar i-device then don't forget to download my Beijing app. It's called Beijing on a Budget and is full of my own personal recommendations and money-saving tips for Beijing. You can read more about it here: http://danielmccrohan.com/#/app/63

..or download it from iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/beijing-on-a-budget/id440431617?mt=8

--

Safe Travels!


Beijing - city centre:

For Beijing city centre, here's a map showing all four of the options below: 


https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zpOQnrNcM2bw.kVzdefcwZiho


---


Beijing Downtown Backpackers


www.backpackingchina.com


(85 Nanluoguxiang; 南锣鼓巷85号)


Rooms ¥160-300


Long-time backpacker favourite. located on the trendy, and very popular, hutong (narrow lane) called Nanluoguxiang. The area is excellent, and very historic, although Nanluoguxiang is crazy-busy these days, so it's not the quietest location. Mind you, it's only pedestrians, not vehicles in the street. Staff speak good English, and are helpful. Rooms are simple, but clean.


----


161 Lama Temple Courtyard Hotel


beijing161lthotel@hotmail.com


Tel: 8401 5027


Address: 46 Beixinqiao Santiao


Rooms ¥440 and ¥550


This hotel-cum-hostel, located on a hutong which comes alive with restaurants in the evening, has 11 rooms, each themed on a different tourist sight in Beijing (so there's a Great Wall room, a Drum Tower room etc etc). Rooms have a huge photo-mural to match their theme, and are small but spotless; the bathrooms likewise. The higher category rooms come with a traditional wooden tea-drinking table, which can double up as an extra single bed. No website, so email them to book, or phone. English spoken.


---


Nostalgia Hotel


www.sgmbhotel.com 


Rooms ¥388-408


This is a good-value option if you don't fancy staying in a hostel. It's a funky hotel housed in a small arts zone on trendy Fangjia Hutong. Rooms are dotted with retro knicknacks, and have a different hand-painted mural in each. The bathrooms sparkle. Staff on reception speak English, and there's lift access, but no restaurant (although there are loads of cafe and restaurants nearby). To find it, enter the small arts zone named after its address (46 Fangjia Hutong) and walk to the far left corner of the complex.


---


Orchid


www.theorchidbeijing.com 


Rooms ¥700-1200


If you fancy a bit of a splurge (without completely breaking the bank), this small boutique courtyard hotel is a lovely option. Opened by a Canadian guy and a Tibetan girl, it lacks the history of other courtyard hotels, but it’s been renovated into a beautiful space, with a peaceful courtyard and some rooftop seating with distant views of the Drum and Bell Towers.


Rooms are doubles only (no twin rooms or singles or dorms), and are small for the price, but are tastefully decorated and come with Apple TV home entertainment systems.


It's hard to spot. It's off Baochao Hutong, down an unnamed, shoulder-width alleyway opposite a traveller-friendly restaurant called Mr Shi’s Dumplings. 

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Beijing - Great Wall:

Great Wall Box House


http://en.greatwallbox.com 


Room rates: weekday/weekend dorm ¥180/200, twin ¥500/550


(Rates include dinner)


This is a relatively new place I found recently, and it's fantastic. Make sure you stay here if you can.


Not only is Gubeikou a really cool village to stay in if you want to visit a non-touristy part of the Wall, but this place is a lovely guesthouse, run by a young, friendly Chinese couple (I'm not actually sure that they are a couple, but they are friends, at least) who speak good English. They are called Joe and Sophie, and Joe - the guy - renovated this place. It a 100-year-old courtyard building that used to be a small chessboard factory before it was abandoned for a while. Rooms surround a long, well-tended garden-courtyard, and are large (the dorm is enormous - which means it's a great option, even if you don't normally like staying in dorms), and they are bright and spotlessly clean. Incredibly, a small, overgrown section of the Great Wall runs right along one side of the property!


The shared bathroom is modern (with hot showers and sit-down toilets), there's a small kitchen-dining area, and 12 adorable cats. Joe and Sophie dish out reliable hiking advice and rent mountain bikes (per hr/day ¥10/40). They also do tasty vegetarian meals. Joe recently converted to Buddhism, inspired by his travels to India.


See the Itineraries section for how to get here. Their website also has details. Or they can email you more. 


It's only small, so book early.


But don't worry if it's fully booked. There are dozens of small guesthouses in this village. No English is spoken in any of them, so you won't be able to book ahead, but there are so many, and they are almost always empty, that it's not a problem. Each has an English sign outside, so they are easy to find. And if you stay in one, you'll still be able to come here to ask Joe about advice on hiking on the Wall.


Anyway, here are some pics of Great Wall Box House.. and their cats..


 


GW Box


 


GW Box


 


GW Box


 


GW Box


 

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Mongolia - Terelj National Park:

Ecotourism Ger Camp


Tel: 9973 4710


email: bergroo@hotmail.com


GPS coordinates: N47° 58.722’, E107° 28.907’


Price: €35 per person, including meals 


This is the ger camp run by the eccentric Dutchman named Bert, who I mentioned before. Bert and his Mongolian wife make Dutch cheese at the camp, and if you want to get your hands dirty, you can get up at the crack of dawn and help them milk the cows! The meadow location here is gorgeous, and there’s great hiking opportunities in the surrounding hills. Ask Bert about organising a horse trip up to Günjiin Süm (a Buddhist monastery around 25km away), or else he can just help you arrange a quick ride on a neighbour’s horse (per hour €5). 


The best thing to do is to email Bert and arrange to meet him either in UB (if he's there when you arrive) or in Terelj Village, near to where his ger camp is located. He will then be able to give you details for how to get there.


To find the place on your own, you need to catch the bus from UB to Terelj. It leaves twice a day (at noon and 4pm) from Peace Avenue, from the bus stop opposite Narantuul Hotel. Here's a map for the bus stop:


https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Narantuul+Hotel/@47.915627,106.895893,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xaf62a6091c694058


The bus, which is bound for Terelj National Park (although the sign is in Mongolian only), takes around 90 minutes and costs 2500 togrog. You need to get off just before Terelj Village at the UB-2 hotel, which is about 10km into the national park. You then need to walk around the righthand side of the hotel building. From behind the hotel, cross the iron bridge over the river, follow the path to a second river, cross the wooden bridge, and then walk east (right). You then simply follow the electricity pylons for about 2km, crossing streams on fallen tree trunks a number of times, until you get to pylon number 35 (the pylons are all numbered); from there you should be able to see Bert's gers off to your right. In total, the walk from the UB-2 Hotel to Bert ger camp will take about 40 minutes. 


However, as I say, if you call or email Bert ahead of time, he or his wife will meet you, either in UB itself, or at the UB-2 Hotel in Terelj.


 

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Mongolia - UB:

Lotus Guesthouse


www.lotuschild.org


Tel: 11-325 967 or 9909 4943


price: US$30 per room, or US$10-15 per dorm bed


Run by an NGO which helps orphaned children, this guesthouse has a boutique feel to it and is one of the best-value places to stay in UB. It's popular, though, so book ahead.


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UB Guesthouse


www.ubguest.com


Tel: 11-311 037 or 9119 9859


price: per room US$20-25, per dorm bed US$8


This place is even more central, and a cheaper option, although it's more cramped so less comfortable than Lotus.


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Khongor Guesthouse


www.khongor-expedition.com


Tel: 11-316 415 or 9925 2599


price: per room US$18, per dorm bed US$8


Another cheap central option, this place is a backpacker favourite and runs recommended tours.

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Baikal:

For great-value places to stay in and around Irkutsk and Lake Baikal, look no further than Baikaler (http://baikaler.com). This well-run establishment has three guesthouses; two in Irkutsk itself and one in the lakeside village of Listvyanka.


Baikaler Hostel is the original one in Irkutsk and has dorms as well as twin rooms.


The newer Balalaika Hostel is the other city-centre guesthouse, and has the advantage of being walking distance from Irkutsk railway station (although Baikaler Hostel, just across the river from the train station, isn't all that far either).


But the one which I think will appeal most to you is Belka Hostel, given its location close to Lake Baikal.


The easy-to-use website has all the details you need for each of these hostels. As you can see they also offer plenty of tours and activities, including hiking tours around parts of the lake.


It goes without saying that you should try to book your place in one of these guesthouses as early as possible, as they are a favourite for many Tran-Sibbers.


The man behind Baikaler is an English-speaking Russian guy called Jack Sheremetoff. You can contact him or one of his staff through the Baikaler email address, info@baikaler.com. Make sure you specifiy which hostel you wish to stay at.


These guys can also help you with your Russian visa (again, see the website), and whilst they do not sell train tickets, they can put you in touch with a trustworthy train-ticket agent.

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