Break 2 – Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

Day 9:
25.10.2009 (Sunday)

Due to time difference and day light saving time change, we got confused with our arrival time. Thanks to Max and our carriage attendant, we managed to wake up on time and was ready before we arrived. Everyone was excited and perhaps abit sad that we’re all departing to do our own thing. They have been good traveling companion.

We arrived at around 0615 and have arranged for the hostel (Baikal Hostel) to pick us up from the train station. Surprise, surprise… they never showed up. When we called the hostel, they totally forgot about us and told us there’s no transport available. So we had to take public transportation. Since it is still dark and the bus does not operate until 0730, we decided to take a taxi, which was cheaper than the original quote given to us by the hostel.

When we got to the hostel, we were surprised to see the hostel is located in a housing area about 15 mins away from the city centre and it is actually a converted flat with 3 bedrooms. We had to wake the hostel lady to open the door for us. Then we were shown our bed before she went back to bed.

The first thing we did after we settled down was to take a shower. It was extremely heavenly to be able to wash my hair after 4 days!! hehehehehe

After shower and breakfast, we were prepared to head to town for a walk. The guide book didn’t have much recommendation except for the odd few looking building. Instead of checking out those building, we decided to head to the central market. The market is huge. We spent the whole afternoon walking around the market and bought some fresh food to bring back to the hostel.

One strange thing we noticed was that there’s a lot of Chinese traders in the market. We could tell they are Chinese because i heard them speaking mandarin. I guess it’s pretty normal to find Chinese community everywhere.

When it was late afternoon and we were too tired to continue walking, we decided to head back to the hostel using the bus. It was very easy to take the bus from the hostel as the bus stop was situated just outside the hostel. But it was far from easy to find out the bus stop from the market to head back. It took us almost 3o minutes walking around the market to identify the correct location to catch the bus to the correct direction.

Back in the hostel, we meet a few travelers, again exchanging stories. We were quite impressed at how everyone we meet can dropped everything and travel for a few months. When it was dinner time, we went next door to a local restaurant with a German traveler to try the local food. We tried Russian dumpling with beer of course. It was very yummy. I went back to the hostel after dinner while Dav stayed on and joined our Russian room mate for more drinks.

Apparently after I left, they had more beers and smoke until David teased them for not drinking vodka. Immediately after making that statement, one of the them took out a bottle of vodka and continue on their drinking session. Not surprisingly Dav and one of our room mate went to bed really drunk. I think he had a good time drinking with them. I’m just glad that I didn’t get involved but was annoyed that I was woken up by the amount of noise they make, especially when our room mate had to make several trips to the toilet to vomit! By now I thought I must train myself to sleep through any level of noise for future traveling…

Day 10:
26.10.2009 (Monday)

After spending one day in Irkutsk, today is the day we head to Listvyanka to visit Lake Baikal. It is the most voluminous fresh water lake in the world. To get there, we took a van/bus from the city centre. The journey took about 1.5 hours. As we took a van/bus, we have to wait for the vehicle to be full with passengers before the driver would start the journey. Another peculiar thing about this mode of transportation is that the driver is willing to stop anywhere along the route to Listvyanka. So there were people hopping off and on in the middle of nowhere.

We are staying in Listvyanka for one night to walk around the Lake. After we reached we realised the village is too commercialized. It looks more like a tourist town with lots of hotel and souvenir shop. Even the market in the centre of the village mainly sells souvenirs. Also the scenery is kinda spoilt with hotel constructions. We reckon if we come back next time we will definitely choose another village to visit. Luckily the view of the lake with its background of snow capped mountain is simply amazing. No doubt we took lots of photos.

Food has been good too. We tried a local delicacy, a local fish call ‘Omul’. We were told this fish is only found in this lake. It tasted quite nice. We also tried another local soup (Borsch) which tasted like ABC soup.

Our accommodation in Lake Baikal is somewhat more posh compared to the other places we have and will be staying. I’m not sure why but I selected this hotel for the night 3 months ago when I was planning and making booking. Although it was slightly more expensive than the others, it turns out to be a good decision. We have been sharing rooms with strangers and haven’t had our own privacy. On top of that, most importantly I have not been getting a proper sleep due to all the noise (i.e. snoring). So I am happy with my decision. 🙂

Click to read on: Train journey 3 – Irkutsk to Ulan Bator


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