Trans Siberia

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Red Square, Moscow

Directed by Bill Bachmann
Postponed to 2016

 

     

St Basil's Cathedral domes - fabulous!

Priceless icons inside St Basil's Cathedral.

Mother of God Kazan in Red Square.


This is truly the trip of a lifetime! It is BTO’s 20th Trip from that little group I started many years ago and it will be the most adventurous & ambitious one we have ever done together!  Are you ready for a real photographic adventure?


Take a map and put one finger on Moscow (where we start this adventure) and run your other finger thru Siberia, thru Mongolia and to Beijing in China.  That is the area we are covering on this 20th Anniversary of BTO Adventures.  We are covering about 1/4 of the Earth on this adventure.  And the good news,….. we are not doing most of it by train.  We are doing some train and then the other legs flying to eliminate days off the trip and to really save money.  I will explain in the next few paragraphs.


I did most of the trip by train last time in 2004 and it was fabulous.  We took the train from Moscow and traveled by train all the way into Mongolia, finally flying the last leg to Beijing. I know the best places to take you to, all the adventures we will do and I have spent literally a total of 12 months fine-tuning this trip and itinerary.  But I have to be honest --- as romantic as the train “sounds”, it was a total of 9 days on the same train traveling & looking out often at trees and land from a window seat.  I think the whole group that went back in 2004 could well have voted to have had less days in that train and not felt at all cheated.  But we did stop at many quick stops for ½ hour and quickly photographed the lady vendors that sell EVERYTHING to people on the train.  These little town stops for 15 or 30 minutes were the only way these people could make money as travelers bought their fruits, candy, wooden stack dolls, etc. etc.  We did stop at three great “cities” on the way thru Siberia --– Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Listvyanka --- along with absolutely beautiful Lake Baikal, home to over 1500 species of marine life.


We had our own First Class train car then, and they took our car totally away from the train and kept it on a separate track with a couple guarding our clothes etc as we went to hotels, on buses with tours and guides taking only our cameras, valuables and an overnight bag off the train to the hotel.  Then after a night or two in hotels, we came back to our “home car” and they hooked our car back to the train for more riding .  But to get to those three wonderful Siberian cities, we had to endure 7 days of riding with only 15 -30 minute breaks at far between stations before we got to the really cool cities.

 
Here is the killer of that trip.  It now is very expensive. We will include all that we did on the 2004 trip (except we will miss Krasnoyarsk this time) and we will do it for less than half what it would cost today. We will do all we did before in Mongolia (wait until you see the itinerary below of the activities!) and we will also do all the things in Beijing we did before plus even more.  That trip in 2004, on our own First Class train (we still had to walk to the normal restaurant & bar cars thru several other cars), was a great price of a little more than $6000 for the whole trip.  So I tried & tried to get that trip – or anything near it – in 2014 and the First Class trip was way more expensive!!  The second Class car is now also much more expensive, and we would have to totally unpack every time we got off the train to a hotel.


I hated that they had made the trip much more expensive. I have worked MONTHS looking thru other channels, other tours etc and I gave up on the trip totally.  I could not see us each spending that much for this trip that I love.  For some reason, the “romance” of the Trans-Siberian Train all the way from Moscow thru Mongolia, then flying on to China has become like Churchill, Canada with the polar bears, Galapagos  & the sea animals and Antarctica & its penguins today --- grown by thousands of dollars more each year because it is in such demand.  The problem in all of those places and the higher prices is simple --- there is NO COMPETITION. If you want to go there, you pay the outrageous price or you don’t go…. Period.


So I gave up on the trip!  I was so disappointed as I have been talking about this trip for all of you for several years.  I had put in so many months of calls, emails, frustrations.  But it was not to be! I was all set to tell you that I just could not get the trip for anywhere near the cost I was comfortable with for all of you. I always fight to save your money on trips much more than I worry about it when I plan a trip expense of my own. I want our BTO Trips to be wonderful, but at a price all of you could afford.


So you were so close to receiving a letter from me saying that “I give up on Russia!” Then a few days later, a thought crossed my mind.  What if I could arrange it so that we BYPASS the train company, skip 7 rather boring days on the train looking at trees  --  passing on the 7 extra days of rail tracks by now flying between Moscow and Irkutsk (where Listvyanka & Lake Baikal are 40 miles away) and then take the train for only  two days from Irkutsk to Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia to get the “feel” of what the Trans – Siberian Train ride experience is like.   Then we can add days and spend more time in Mongolia and then fly to Beijing and spend more time there than we would have.  In 2004, we stopped the train in the capital Ulaan Baatar and flew on to China anyway. 


From there, I have spent two more months looking to “piece” this whole trip together.  And GOOD NEWS …. No, GREAT NEWS …. I have pulled the whole trip off thru hard work doing absolutely everything we wanted and I got the price under $8,000.  Is that great or what???


Since we cut 7 days off the long train ride from what was a 24 day long trip, I was able to add another grand day with our guide in and around Moscow (total of 4 days there), add another day in Irkutsk, Listvyanka and Lake Baikal (total of 4 days), add a day in Mongolia (total of 5 days, two of which we will all sleep in nomad & toasty Gers on the prairie and one day where will even have a horse ride over the Mongolian terrain).  Then finally I added another day of activities in China (5 days now) and fly home.  So instead of a total of 24 days (many of which were in a train car looking out), we added a lot of activities at the various stops and by getting rid of the long track days, it is now a 19 - day trip. Some of you are planning on going to India rather than home, but that is separate and you can still do that. 


It has been such an Up & Down time for me to plan this trip.  I have NEVER worked harder to make this trip all that I wanted, and equally important, KEEP THE PRICE DOWN.  But, now that we do not have our “own car”, I do not have to limit it to 17 people and me only.  I can now take 23 plus me on this trip.  You MUST have a roommate on the two days of train, but you can split up and pay the single supplement for all the rest of the hotels if you desire.  I can help with the joining of roommates for the 2-day train part. I would strongly suggest that instead of single we all try to get a roommate for the whole trip to avoid the really high charge for single supplements on this trip. I was suprised how high it was, but they said it is because of the expensive rooms in Russia & China.


Let me tell you one fact about the Lake Baikal area of Russia.  It is so serene and beautiful, but it also is the biggest lake in the world because it is the deepest (over 1 mile deep).  You could take all of our 5 Great Lakes and pour them into Lake Baikal.  And here is an AMAZING statistic.  It has one-fourth of ALL the fresh water on Earth!  Wow…  I told you that before, but it is sure worth repeating!


What have I done by piece-by-piece organizing this trip?   Well, two things:


1. Drove myself crazy for sure!  Nothing has ever been as hard to arrange as this trip – or as frustrating often.  All the ups & downs of a year working with these Russian people (HELP!) on making this itinerary thru begging, anger, sweet talk, persistence (probably the most important thing) and sweat & tears.  I gave up once and I was ready to say… “Sorry, I can not get the price manageable for this trip”.  Then I figured out a way to make it happen.  I do hope you are as happy as I am about that…


2.  I have given you all the best of the Trans Siberian experience, Russia, Mongolia and China that you can find anywhere.   And you get to do this trip with me, someone who wants you to experience everything on Earth -- along with our grand BTO Family!  If you EVER want to do this Trans-Siberian trip and see this wonderful part of the world, I would suggest you fill out the form on my site and sign up right away so you don’t miss it. 

HERE IS THE DAY-TO-DAY ITINERARY OF THE WHOLE TRIP AND LATER THE PRICE, WHAT IS INCLUDED AND WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED.  I AM ABSOLUTELY SURE YOU WILL NOT FIND ANY TRIP LIKE THIS ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD AND NOTHING EVEN CLOSE TO THIS PRICE JUST FOR THE RAILROAD ADVENTURE TRIP WITH STOPS.  Some of the itinerary is subject to change.

ITINERARY:


Day 1    Fly from wherever you live to Newark, NJ and meet at the gate to fly United  Airlines straight to Moscow, Russia, all night.  This International flight is not included, but I will try real hard to get us a good group rate.  If you want to fly on your own (paying with cash, FF points, coming early, etc) that is no problem as long as you meet the group that flies together on Day 2 at our Moscow Hotel. Those in Florida, I will do my best to get us a better fare from Orlando to Newark to Moscow  also to fly together.

Day 2  Arrive In Moscow in the morning after we, hopefully, sleep some on the plane.  We will be met by our guide & bus.  This is when the included trip really STARTS.  Since it will be morning, and our hotel rooms will not be ready, we will do a short city tour and stop for the first time at the famous Red Square with Lenin’s tomb and St Basil’s Cathedral.  I have been to Moscow many times since the 70’s and this always excites me walking on the old cobblestones of Red Square.  Reading about it as a child with all the fear of the Cold War…. it seems so strangely wonderful to stand there!  I still see the memories of the May Day missiles and parades in Red Square.

Lunch is included. We will do as long of a tour as time permits and then check into our Hotel Park Inn Radisson Sadu for three nights.  An early dinner will be on your own in the hotel as we all will need to rest.

Day 3  Moscow   From 10:00 till 20:00 a Panoramic city tour, lunch included, tour of the Kremlin & Lenin’s Tomb, NSD Armory Museum, GUM Department store, etc.  I am trying to get us also to see Nikita Khrushchev’s grave out in the country and perhaps an optional famous Moscow Circus performance or a Balalaika Concert either this night or the next.  Dinner will be somewhere on the way, but not included.  Perhaps we will visit a factory where Russian “Matryoshka“ stack dolls are made and even see the beautiful large University of Moscow on the hill overlooking the city.  Bill gave an important lecture at that University when he was a grad student in England many years ago and has visited it several times since in his frequent visits to Russia.

Day 4  Moscow   From  9:00 to 17:00  City tour again with lunch included to the famous Museums of Russia, Tretyakov Gallery, the fabulous Pushkin Museum with all its European Art & Rodin statues. We will shoot the beautiful Bolshoi Theatre. Later, we will ride the super clean & decorated Moscow Metro (don’t laugh – this is FABULOUS!).  At twilight, we may take taxis to Red Square to shoot night shots of the famous Red Square if we didn’t do so on  Day 3.

Day 5 Moscow   Check out of the hotel and visit the Izmailovo Flea market in the morning.  Everything in Russia is available to buy for souvenirs including “Matryoshka” stack dolls, hats, art, etc and it is a fun place to wander around taking pictures.  Lunch included.  In the afternoon we will do other activities depending on time & weather. Transfer to airport for flight to Irkutsk at 11:05 pm.

 

We will view Lenin's tomb next to the Kremlin. Here a Russian actor pretends he is Lenin welcoming visitors. A neat photo opportunity.

We can buy & photograph nesting dolls everywhere.

 

 

Soliders high step marching at the Kremlin Wall Unkown Solider Grave.

A Fountain at the famous Bolshoi Theatre.

 

 

You will love all the old wooden houses around Irkutsk & Listvyanka.

Great photos available of wooden homes. Bring lots of memory cards!

 

 

Day 6  9:45 am Arrive in Irkutsk , an important city in Siberia.  This old and quaint city is the main crossroad for the Trans-Siberian Railroad in Siberia, and is a wonderful city to explore.  There will be opportunities to visit museums and the many old neighborhoods in the city.  Irkutsk has so many old colorful, run down and restored wooden houses from its pioneer days to photograph.  It is known for its wooden buildings. Hotel in Irkutsk.

Day 7  After breakfast, take the bus to Listvyanka, the town on the shores of beautiful Lake Baikal, and only 25 miles away. Visit the Museum of Wooden Architecture on the way.  Hydrofooil Listvyanka to Bolshye Koty.    Walk around Bolshye Koty and included lunch in a guest house as there are no restaurants or cafes there.  Walk along Lake Baikal shore. Hotel Mayak in Listvyanka for the night.

Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world at over 1 mile depth.  All the Great Lakes would fit into Lake Baikal.  And an amazing statistic – one-fourth of all fresh water on Earth is held there.

Day 8  Excursion in Listvyanka includes museum Shaman Rock, St Nicholas Church, local market, Baikal Limnological Museum.  Enjoy lunch on your own with VERY fresh fish from the lake at small cafes on the water of Lake Baikal.  Drive back to Irkutsk. Leisure time and go to supermarket for food to take on the train. Dinner on your own. Transfer to board Trans-Siberian Railroad #362 departs at 10:15 pm towards Mongolia.

Day 9  On train all day with short stops in stations for photographs.  Breakfast, lunch & dinner on train on your own in dining cars.

 

Old Taltsy Wooden Museum in Listvyanka.

Russian Orthodox priest posed for my picture. You'll get lots of great people.

Wait till you taste the fresh Omul fish from Lake Baikal!

The small village of Listvyanka nestles romantically on beautiful Lake Baikal.

An old solider (very drunk, by the way) posed for my picture.

You will always have memories of traveling on the Trans - Siberian Railroad in Russian & Mongolia.

A cool photo of the train in the station!

One quarter of the freshwater in the world is in this beautiful Lake Baikal.

You'll be able to photograph from the train as the Russian and Mongolian world passes by.

We'll stop at train stop markets for half an hour or so to shoot the vendors selling EVERYTHING!

You'll have many photographs of symbols on this trip from 3 countries.

A close up of windows on the wooden houses in Siberia.

Day 10  Stop at Mongolian border and then go on farther to arrive in capital of Ulaan Baatar.  Go on city tour, Sukhe-Bator Square, Gandan Monastery.  Lunch included.  In afternoon National History Museum followed by free time to shoot city neighborhood, local people & downtown. Overnight at Hotel Ulaanbaatar.

Day 11  Visit Zalsan Memorial, other local attractions and possibly the Railroad Museum although it may be closed for restoration.  Lunch included. Free time to roam and explore on your own to photograph the Mongolian local people. Dinner on own.  Overnight at same hotel.

Day 12  Drive to Hoyor Zagal Ger Camp, about 170  miles, stopping in the remote countryside for photos of interesting places & farmers.  We visit a horse breeder and ride horses with wooden saddles.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.  Overnight in their Ger Camp to experience the nomad existence.

Day 13  After breakfast drive 60 miles to Karakorum, the ancient capital of the Great Mongolian Empire.  Photographic excursion in Karakorum. Breakfast, lunch & dinner included.  Overnight in another Ger Camp: Munkhtenger tourist camp.

Day 14  Return to Ulaanbaatar, distance of 220 miles, stopping again for pictures in remote places.  Lunch included.  Free time in afternoon.  Then a great photo opportunity with a traditional dinner & evening folk show included.  Throat singing, acrobats, native costumes, etc.  Overnight again in Hotel Ulaanbaatar.

Mongolian people have a distinct look and are very willing to model for our photographs.

 

 

We are spending two nights in differents Ger camps. Again, great photography opportunities everywhere.

I rode horses with this boy & his family. He loved when I gave him American dollars.

 

We will see a folk festival dinner with playing & throat singing.

A grandfather & granddaughter in front of their Ger. We will be able to photograph inside several Ger homes.

Colorful Mongolian monks are willing to pose.

Gentle Mongolian woman modeled for me.

Inside a Ger with a fire stove in the middle to heat and cook.

 

Day 15  Breakfast then transfer to airport and 11:50am flight to Beijing arriving at 2:00 pm  Transfer to Qianmen Jianguo Hotel in Beijing.  Lunch & dinner included.  Go to photograph the impressive Temple of Heaven and local people.

Day 16  Sightseeing  at Summer Palace grounds with lots of photo opportunities.  Then we drive way out in the country to see a lonely area of the Great Wall that Bill loves called, Mutianyu. Lunch included. We spend several hours with no people around us to photograph this major monument on Earth.  Drive back into Beijing for a relaxing evening free.

Day 17  Explore the wonderful Forbidden City for several hours shooting everything!  Also spend time in Tiananmen Square, scene of so much history.  Lunch also included. We will go to parks and photograph the local people, music, dancing and all the activities.  A special Peking Duck Dinner included at a restaurant in the city.

Day 18  Go to the old area of Beijing, experience local family tour of their home followed by riding in rickshaws around the Hutong area.  Lunch included. If time allows, we will drive out to see the “Birdcage” Olympic Stadium.  Some free time and then our traditional Farewell Dinner.

Day 19  Free time until we head to the airport to flights home.  United people will fly direct from Beijing to Newark, arriving the same day.

Colorful people on bikes are everywhere in Beijing, even in the rain.

One of our spots to photograph is the historical Temple of Heaven.

The Chinese people & children are willing to pose for Western photographers. I shot this cover.

Peace and quiet at the Summer Palace.

Two of our BTO travelers take a picture in front of the Forbidden City. This picture of Bobbie & "Fisheye" Don has been published often.

How does one describe the Great Wall of China?? Words just do not do it justice!

A glamour shot of the entrance to the Forbidden City. We will spend several leisurely hours exploring through the 9,999 1/2 rooms.

We will climb up the Wall and spend several hours photographing this wonderful monument.

You know BTO! If there's farmers working, we're stopping to take pictures.

_

Total Cost:  $7950 pays for the trip including everything on the itinerary and the two days on the train.

Single supplement is $1225. ** All single hotels in single supplement except two nights on train we must pair up and have a roommate.  Cabins in train will have 4 beds in each cabin, but we will only have two people in them, second bed above each bed for storage of luggage, etc. The hotel rooms in Moscow, Mongolia & China are expensive, so it would be better to "pair up" and not have to pay the single supplement!

** We will do all we can to “double up” to get you a roommate if you want to save on the single room supplement.  It usually works out evenly for those who want to share a room.

Included in the price: All land and train itinerary as indicated, breakfast each day and many meals noted and all programs, horse rides, etc.  Internal flights from Moscow to Irkutsk and from Irkutsk to Beijing included.  


Not Included in the price:  International flights to Moscow and from Beijing to home.  Bill will attempt to get a special price for those flights as a group together if you desire.  Also not included in price:  Costs for Visas for Russia and China (we will be collecting passports & forms and doing that for you in a group, but the fee will be extra), meals not included in program, all alcohol  & drinks, any incidentals you may purchase, travel insurance and tips for guides & drivers.

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UPON RECEIPT OF DEPOSITS, BILL WILL WORK ON ROOMMATES AND MAKE SURE WHO IS GOING, ETC. NO CHECKS WILL BE CASHED UNTIL YOU ARE NOTIFIED AND WE ARE SURE WE HAVE A TRIP FULL. THEN YOU WILL BE SENT SEVERAL OTHER FORMS TO FILL OUT AND RETURN.


THIS IS AN UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT THIS SPECIAL PART OF THE WORLD AT AN UNBEATABLE PRICE.

PLEASE PRINT ALL OF THESE PAGES FOR YOUR REFERENCE. BILL WILL RETURN YOUR EMAILS WITH ANY QUESTIONS OR SPECIAL NEEDS.

WE WILL NEED A DEPOSIT OF $1000 THIS TIME INSTEAD OF THE TYPICAL $500 BECAUSE OF ALL THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE THAT MUST BE PAID TO HOLD ALL OF OUR SPOTS.

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To reserve your space on this exciting trip, you must do the following quickly:

1. Check made out for $1000 to "Bill Bachmann."

2. Must print, fill out & include the Registration Form - CLICK HERE -

3. Photo copy of your passport photo page..... make sure it does not expire by April 30, 2017.

4. Email Bill at bill@billbachmann.com so that he can keep track of spaces filled even before your check/reg form arrives.

 

To help Bill organize our group and to make sure to hold a spot, mail all of this RIGHT AWAY to:

Bill Bachmann
PO Box 950077
Lake Mary, FL 32795-0077

 

Any questions email me at the studio RIGHT AWAY!

EMAIL: bill@billbachmann.com

Note from Bill: 

This is a fabulous opportunity for each of you if you want to experience this once in a lifetime trip across Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and into China.  The cost of this trip is really below anything you could do on the Trans-Siberian Railroad to even come close to what we will see & experience.  This is our special 20th Trip and I want to make it the best & most memorable one ever!

*** Some of you may be concerned with the recent developments between Russia and Ukraine. I will personally keep an eye on what is happening and will not cash your checks if it looks at all like a problem for us traveling. I can tell you from my many trips to Russia that this conflict in the Ukraine is something that Putin does to flex his muscles and it should not be a problem at all in the country of Russia. Putin has done this in Georgia & Armania, and other satellite states as he tries to "pretend" the Soviet Union still exists in some way. He usually brings his troops home with his tail between his legs after his huffing and puffing. But rest assured I will keep a real close eye on all that is going on. The best news is the troops leave Russia and go elsewhere: there are never troops in Russia. And Siberia is as safe as can be because nobody will ever invade there! ***

I have worked over a year into making this trip affordable and wonderful for all of you.  I do hope you take advantage of this fabulous place, experience and price.  I look forward to a toast of Vodka sometime on this trip to all we have done in 20 BTO Trips. You will have memories & photos you will never forget!

Please fill out the form and send in with your deposit check for $1000, made payable to Bill Bachmann.  I will not cash the checks until I am sure I have enough people for a trip and I will communicate with each of you that send in a deposit when and if there is a problem with you going for any reason.  Everyone must pair up on the two days train ride in the cabins, and I will help with that if I can. It would be a good idea to have a roommate for the whole trip (including the train) to save on this unfortunately high single supplement cost.

I speak form the heart in saying I have taken this Trans - Siberian Trip and it is amazing and so interesting.  The train is not luxurious, but you will experience something that almost no one you have ever met has done – the TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILROAD and traveling across Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and into China.  If you put pins across maps in your home -- as I do of all the places I have traveled -- you will really fill some space with those pins!  Counting planes to Russia and home from China, you will have LITERALLY gone around the world in this one adventure!

So looking forward to leading this trip after over a year in the planning stage and I am sure not done yet!  I will be driving across country starting next week, but I am having my studio manager, Michele, get the mail from my Post Office box, open them and I will keep a record as the trip fills up.  So don’t delay on this one.  It is a little more expensive than other trips I have directed (except South America & Galapagos Islands together), but it is definitely the most ambitious in the amount of ground we are going to cover. And even though this trip is more expensive, it is less than any trip covering Russia & Siberia on the train. You will know so  much more about the world after we go all these areas.  And you can cross this off your “Bucket List” of the Trans-Siberian Railroad trip thru Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and China with an adventure that will definitely be a trip you will talk about forever!

Bill