On my flight back to North America flying from Zurich to New York City we passed over PEI at which time I had come to realize that I had made a full circuit of the globe on this journey. I thought that was kind of neet (not something I get to do everyday and not something I thought I would be doing this trip). I do much rather westward travel so I am very glad how it worked out for me to make it back in this fashion (the whole jet leg time zone thing treats me better heading west). So after 13 hours of flights from Moscow to Zurich to NYC I got to kick back and relax in the city for the afternoon and evening. I can't say I did anything super special. Visited Time Sq of course then Rockefeller Centre to see the big Christmas tree. I tried to find Gimbles, but was unable to do so unfortunately. Then went back to the hostel in Brooklyn to spend the night and catch up on some sleep (had to wake up at 3:00 am to catch my flight plus 9 more time zones crossed). I arrived in Nashville late morning yesterday (Wednesday) where my parents picked me up and I am now back at Shira and Bobby's new place in Knoxville. To rap it up - It has been a great trip - Sad it is over - But glad to be "home". Merry Christmas to one and all.
Wow, Moscow is a really amazing city. I only wish I had more time to explore it. Walking through the arches into the Red Square. Looking at Lenin's mausoleum then the Kremlin just behind. Walking by the ever colourful St. Basil's Cathedral. To cap it all off the architecture all over the city is wonderful. I do have to say the Metro was incredibly confusing at first since it is all in Russian, but I think I am starting to get the hang of it. I am off since I want to make the most of my time while I have it here in Moscow. (The train ride went great- but stories of that will wait for another day)
It's official. I can happily say that I received both my Russian and Mongolian Visas without any major issues. This means that in the morning I board the T3 train here in Beijing for a 6 day journey through Mongolia then across Siberia till I reach Moscow - The Trans-Mongolian then Trans-Siberian Railway - (just over 127 hours on the train). I'm excited to be moving again after having a wonderful time to really get well acquainted with the booming city of Beijing. Until Moscow...
It has been great to be in Beijing for a number of days to meander around at a gentle pace. I had the opportunity to see the Great Wall yesterday which was very interesting. (There is a bit of a longer story about the tour since they took us to spend more time at jade shops than at the actual Wall). Then today I tried to find the Beijing Baptist Church, but since I did not take the building name in Mandarin the taxi driver did not know where I wanted to go therefore we simply drove around for over a half hour looking without seeing. To say the least I was very disappointed when it did not work out. I was looking forward to going to a Baptist church in communist China (the only official Baptist church in Beijing). I have two more days in Beijing to work out two more visas, if this goes smoothly I will be off again for my last week long journey before the long flights back to North America.
I have to say I spoke way too soon saying that the road was sealed all the way to Lhasa. The majority of today's travel was again on some extremely rough moonscape like terrain. It was of course incredibly scenic. Following the rough "road" we came to the highest pass we had to cross on the journey at well over 5000m then quickly down into the valley to find Lhasa. Lhasa is a part modern - part historic city (thank the Chinese for the modern portions of the city). The heart of the city Potala Palace which is the historic winter residence of the Dalai Lamas (until the Chinese took control of power and the Dalai Lama has been exiled in India). It is an incredible palace (as you can see by the photos). I have to say that I am sad that I have to move on from Lhasa and Tibet tomorrow evening.
After many long, grueling, however beautiful hours on the road I have finally made it from Nepal to well inside of Tibet. The cultural experience of this journey has been wonderful. The locals are as curious of us foreigners as we are of them. I went out to eat last night at a small local restaurant in which they spoke no English which was a truly authentic experience as the few locals that where there gave me their full attention. The man across from me in his traditional Tibetan dress seemed to think that it was funny that I had such white hands that had hair on them. As I was waiting for my fried rice and tea I started to journal and they all were looking over my shoulder trying to make out every word (without any success I am assuming or they would have had to start laughing). While I am talking about food, authentic Chinese really is not anything to be greatly desired. Today we only had a few hours of driving then got to explore a large monastery complex with many monks walking around in their garb waving at us and trying to say hello (then go off giggling). It is starting to get dark out so I better try to find my way back to the hotel (I took so many side streets trying to find an Internet cafe I can't say exactly where I am at the moment).
Early tomorrow morning (Saturday) I start on my overland journey through the Himalayas to Tibet. It is suppose to take about a week to get to Lhasa ("The Forbidden City"). From people I have talked to it sounds like it will be a very interesting journey.