10-11 March, Moscow

The first thing we noticed in Moscow was the milder weather – it couldn’t have been less than zero as we pulled into the railway station and located the driver who was waiting to pick us up. It took a while to locate our hotel, which had a particularly unassuming exterior, the entrance to which looked like nothing more than the back alley of a run-down apartment block. Walking up the four flights of stairs, we were both curious as to what we’d gotten ourselves into until we opened the door to the small, boutique hotel that was simple but …

8-9 March, Kazan and Train 1 to Moscow

We had chosen to stop over in Kazan to break up the long journey and to see the world-heritage listed Kremlin. At the end of our three-night train trip, we were glad to have made this choice, as another 12 hours on the train to Moscow probably would have been too much for us to endure.

4-7 March, Train 81 Irkutsk to Kazan

Train 81 bound for Moscow was much more closely aligned with our original expectations of a Trans-Siberian train – a comfortable but slightly grimy carriage with two shared bathrooms at either end.  This was our first time in a four-berth compartment and as we boarded at 11pm on Friday night, we found our new companion, a girl in her twenties sitting on lower berth Number 5. We never found out her name or what she did as she did her best to avoid making eye contact with us.

2-3 March, Train 263 and Irkutsk

Train 263 to Irkutsk was very different to our previous train but just as comfortable. This time we had a four-berth cabin to ourselves, but no private bathroom. On the train we had our first encounter with the Russian language but were not yet prepared with any phrases to talk to the provodnitsa. It took a while for everyone to get themselves and their luggage on the train. Some passengers were carrying not only their bags but also boxes of other things that they struggled to fit into the small luggage compartments. Once everyone had finally boarded we were on …

28 February – 1 March, Ulaanbaatar

As expected, the first thing that hit us as we stepped off the train was the temperature: -16°C. Wearing a jacket, thermals, thick pants, a woolen jumper, a scarf and a beanie, I was almost over-prepared and quickly realised that it wasn’t the cold itself that would get to me but the sweat from overheating, which rapidly turned cold. Despite the temperature, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was no breeze whatsoever so it wasn’t as unpleasant as we were expecting and was instantly refreshing after being in a stuffy train carriage.

26-27 February, Train K23 Beijing to Ulaanbaatar

We woke at 5.30am and peered outside at the snow-covered ground, on Beijing’s second day of snow for the winter. Down at the hotel lobby, with no taxis in sight, we tried to explain that we had booked a taxi the night before however our plea for assistance was met with deaf ears as we were told “it’s too early for taxis” and “that’s your problem”. Although we had left plenty of time to get to the station we both started to panic a little after waiting around for 15 minutes. The porter went out onto the road in the …

13-16 February, Orchha

Orchha is favoured by tourists as a quiet place to relax and visit the ruins of the palace and fort buildings. Having done very little research into our hotel, apart from making sure it was affordable, we were surprised to arrive at a palatial looking building with a swimming pool and gardens. It was difficult to drag ourselves away from the little compound to explore the town but on our first afternoon we went to explore the market and town centre. The air was thick with flea-like bugs that were difficult to avoid, so we found a little roof-top restaurant …

11-12 February, Khajuraho

The train between Varanasi and Khajuraho was a pleasant surprise – immaculately clean, half-empty and lacking the little furry friends we had on our previous train trip. We were lucky enough to secure a six-berth cabin to ourselves and had a relatively good night’s sleep, awoken only by the attendant who told us we’d arrived in Khajuraho.

7-9 February, Varanasi

Varanasi is everything we expected India to be – an incredibly spiritual place with a lot of history and a whole host of traditions and customs on display. From our initial arrival at the railway station to the bustling and colourful streets to the ceremonies down at the ghats (the steps leading down to the Ganges), the city has made quite an impression on both of us.

5-6 February, Amritsar

We departed our hotel two nights ago well-equipped for the overnight train trip to Varanasi with enough food, drink and other supplies for what we expected to be a 20 hour journey. While I very closely guarded our bags at the train station, Richard went to check our platform number and returned with the bad news that our train had been cancelled. Over the next half hour we pushed our way to the front of three different queues only to be responded to by shaking heads indicating that we couldn’t be helped. Just when we were about to give up, …

2-4 February, Amritsar and Wagah Border

We set off early from Mussoorie and after an arduous 13-hour journey we finally arrived in Amritsar. Although the distance between the two places wasn’t that great, we had to avoid the entire state of Himachal Pradesh (due to the car being unregistered there) with the only alternate route involving five hours of unmade and very bumpy roads. Needless to say we were exhausted after our arrival and went straight to sleep.

29-31 January, Rishikesh and Mussoorie

Rishikesh is a spiritual centre, settled around both sides of the Ganges at the foothills of the Himalayas. To really immerse yourself in the place, you would need much more time than the three days we had. We did feel a little out of place in jeans and runners while the majority wandered around in pajamas. Staying in an ashram and signing up to a yoga course are definitely the things to do in Rishikesh – neither of which we felt compelled to do this time round. Nonetheless we were thrilled to see the Ganges and those who came to …