Russia Diary x Irkurtsk : Sunny Side Up

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Every few hours on the train, I can’t help but wonder what Russia is like. This could easily be the first time I’m experiencing travel-paralysis where I’m intimidated and nervous on what’s coming for me. Thankfully I met a couple of people that drained all that tense away.

I came nearly to the end of 3rd quarter of the Hunger Games book. So I was thankful that I got up from my bunk and looked out at the empty fields. Makoto Morinaga happened to be doing the same thing. We both got to the talking and I didn’t hesitate to sit when my back hurts. He is a Japanese teacher teaching at Mongolia, but loved Russia. I genuinely enjoyed our conversation and we shared about Japanese & Chinese cultures. That itself took 3 hours off my train ride!

Later that evening, our carriage had a little gymnastic ‘performance’ by this 7-year old Mongolian girl. She even sang ‘Ten Little Indians’ in her native language, and I French braided her hair in return. 

I remember spending quite some time in Kali & Susie’s berth. Susie taught me how to play 500, a card game which I totally forgot about now. I also got to meet Thomas Bret, the dreamy French backpacker and Mohammed Ali, the boy who has the brightest smile in our carriage!

With our evening filled with endless conversations, laughter, beverage bottles that took too much space on the table and then later giving goodbye hugs, the train ride came to an end. 

And that is where my journey at Irkutsk began. 

We were greeted by Ivan at the train station. The journey to our home stay at Lake Baikal took more or less 1.5 hours drive. Of course, when we are in a new place, time passed rather quickly. 

Lake Baikal is known as the deepest and cleanest lake in the world. There are few home stay about a 15-minute walk from the lake and we chose U.Nikolaya's. The rooms are clean, spacious, cozy and I could picture how I’d like to spend my Christmas there. The owner, Nikolaya (we called him Nicholas) is a friendly, funny, and responsible handy-man. He actually waited for his guests until they are safe at home. And did I mention that his wife makes the most delighting breakfast spread?

If you ask the locals there on where to get the best food, the street market will always be their choice. They are all proud of their local produce, especially the Omul fish which can only be found at Lake Baikal. 

Despite the small population in this district, we could see so many things going on at the same time--tourist going on boat rides, information booths filled with excursion groups, local vendors selling their signature smoked Omul, young parents taking breezy strolls with their toddlers and the list goes on.

I’m really starting to miss that little spot of heaven!

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