For some time I had been beating around overland travel ideas, at first i wanted to travel around the world, then I wanted to go from London, England to Vladivostok, Russia and back to London via central Asia. Ultimately I settled on a route that was London, England to Hong Kong. Over seven weeks I traveled through 12 countries on 17 different trains, 4 ferries and a couple unforgettable bus rides. The total time in transit was approximately 8 days and 21 hours. Below you'll see some of my favorite photos from the trip.
London, England seemed like the best place to start a trip like this cause the access to major airports and the connection to mainland Europe.
After a short train ride from England I had made it to Brussels where I was switch trains and head to Antwerp. Before I left Brussels I had the chance to grab lunch near The Grand Place and there was a Pride party happening. I didn't take too many photo but I did get this one i really like.
Once I arrived in Antwerp I was met by a long time friend, Sabine. She was kind enough to let me crash at her place for the night. In the late afternoon we had a walk around the city. I've been to Antwerp many times but this was the first time I had ever seen any of it.
Den Bosch, Netherlands
The majority of my time spent in the Netherlands has been spent in Amsterdam with few exceptions. This time around I got to see some of a town called Den Bosch or 's Hertogenbosch. Here I stayed with my friend, Merel. We've known each other since 2006 I think, its always great when you can catch up with old friends while you travel. After dinner we had a very long walk around the city center. It was full of tiny roads and canals, it might be one of my favorite places I've ever been in Europe.
On the train to Amsterdam I found out the my buddy Josiah was gonna be in town that day and since we both travel for a living its hard to actually hang out. I was stoked. I met with my friend, Joyce who's couch I was crashing on that night and we met with Josiah and wandered around Amsterdam. The next morning I woke up before the sun to snap some photos of what I had hoped was gonna be a pretty empty city, I was right. After taking a nap I learned it was a day later than i thought it was and i needed to be in Sweden the next day but the only train to Copenhagen, Denmark left in an hour and a half.
Once I got on the train from Amsterdam it was a short 11 hour train ride to Copenhagen. I had to make 2 transfers along the way and at one point after leaving Germany the train pulled on to a ferry before arriving in Denmark. Once I arrived in Copenhagen it was night and i was exhausted but i sorted my ticket to get to Stockholm the next day and went to bed. My train didn't leave till early afternoon so i slept in just a little and had a nice walk around Copenhagen.
Stockholm is one of those places I've been but never seen anything. At the train station I met my friend Anthony who now lives in Berlin. When I started planing this trip I reached out to him to see if he wanted to meet up some where and he met me in Sweden and traveled with me to Finland and Estonia as well. The first night we didn't do much other than play catch up. The second day we walked a lot around the water front and through old town we also checked out some of the train stations that are done up like art exhibits. I found Stockholm to be a very beautiful place.
Stockholm to Helsinki
Instead of flying to Helsinki I wanted to continue this trip overland so Anthony and I took the Viking Line Ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. It's a 19 hour ferry ride through the archipelago east of Stockholm and out into the Baltic sea. The ferry has a few bars and restaurants, a dance club, coffee shop and even a casino. We spend the majority of the time on the deck until the sun set.
Helsinki, much like Stockholm is a place i had been a few times but never actually seen anything. So upon arrival we head right to Spun coffee to see an old touring friend by the name of Kal. He gives us the low down on the city and helps us find a place to stay. What was originally meant to be 4 nights in Helsinki ended up only being 2 due to the cost of everything. On the 3rd day we took the ferry to Estonia.
Tallinn was an unexpected addition to the journey. It was a short 1.5 hour ferry ride from Helsinki. The ferry dropped us just a stones throw from Old town which feels like one of the most medieval city centers I've ever seen. My time there was pretty brief, less than 24 hours but I tried to make the most of it.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
2 hours through a storm on the Gulf of Finland, a quick run to the train station in Helsinki and a 4 hour train ride was all it took for me to get from Tallin to Saint Petersburg. I spent 3 nights in St. Pete mostly in the center but i did manage to make it out to Peterhoff which is so incredible I suggest you google it. The new friends I made while in town pretty much walked me all over, it was incredible. Without them i don't think I would have done so much.
I arrived early in Moscow on the overnight train from Saint Petersburg. Instead of taking the subway I walked the 3 miles to my hotel. Checked in and went to Red Square. Later in the evening I met up with a friend of a friend, Arizona. Arizona and her friend who's name escapes me at the moment took me around and showed me some of the other parts of the city that weren't so central. My second day in Moscow was pretty much killed by the rain until the evening and on the morning of the 3rd day I left Moscow.
Moscow to Krasnoyarsk
After Moscow I took a 3 day train ride to a city in Siberia called Krasnoyarsk. After the second day I started to get a little cabin fever. The longest the train would stop was 45 minutes. Thankfully there were stores and people selling things on the platforms.
After 3 days on the train Im sure I would have got off in a city that was soon fire. Krasnoyarsk was a nice city and my first taste of Siberia. houses were made of wood, there were statues of Lenin, and there was a kiddie amusement park in the center. I was pretty happy. Maria, a friend from Saint Petersburg had told me she had some friends in Krasnoyarsk who wouldn't mind showing me around. They were Ariana and Liza. 2 Linguistic student who couldn't have been more hospitably. They showed me the city and then took me to a place called "the beautiful bank" for sunset. It was just the break from the train I needed.
This was a city I wasn't really sure about what to do here but i knew it was kind of the gateway to Lake Baikal. I had booked a room for one night in hopes of finding a way to get to the lake and all i found was a touristy place called Listvyanka or a day trip to an island called Olkhon for something like $500. Just before I was about to give up I asked the people working the front desk and they informed me of mini buses that will pick you up and drop you off for $20 each way, which isn't bad for a 5 hour ride. before all this nonsense I had a nice long walk around the city and I fell in love, it could have been because it was a Sunday but it was quiet and beautiful.
Olkhon Island, Russia
The town was dirt roads, no indoor pluming and exactly what I needed. I spent 2 very peaceful nights in a cabin 5 minutes walk to Lake Baikal.
Ulan - Ude, Russia
After another night in Irkutsk I took the train to Ulan - Ude which was to be the last town on my journey through Russia before heading south to Mongolia. The train ride was short but most of it was along the southern shores of Lake Baikal. In Ulan - Ude I didn't do much other than walk and drink coffee. It was at this point in the trip though I noticed people had started to look less european and much more asian.
Ulan Bator and Northern Mongolia
It was 6:45am and I had jus got off the train in Ulan Bator when i spotted a man holding a sing for the hostel I was staying in. There was a van to the hostel with only one other person in it, an english kid named Basil. After we checked in and showered Basil and I roamed the city looking for interesting things to do. By the time we were tired we realized it was only noon. I had a nap and looked into the "tours" the hostel offered. I found out in the morning a 10 day tour of the North and center of Mongolia was leaving at 9 am and I wasn't sure i would be able to take another day in the city so I signed up and was off the next morning. The First day we drove for hours to a monastery, the second we drove for hours only stopping for food, gas and to camp. That night we ended up camping next to a dormant volcano. Day 3, 4, and 5 We spend at a yurt camp on the shores of Khovsgol Lake.
Day 6 - We left the lake and had a drive day, some 400 KM on dirt tracks through mountains, Deserts and small towns. We camped that night on top of a hill overlooking a valley filled with Nomadic farms. Day 7 - was much more driving. We would stop for breaks and for food but we were on a mission to get to our ger camp. About an hour after we arrived the sun set. Day 8 - We rode camels, played in sand dunes, and hiked up and on giant rocks that reminded me of Jumbo Rock at Joshua tree National Park in California. Day 9 - We hiked some in the morning. Our driver and I hiked up quite a high pile of rocks and could see the entire valley. Later that day we went to Hustai National Park. Apparently the park is the only place in the world with wild Takhi Horses. We saw dozens of these horses as well as a few heard's of Red deer. We ended up pitching our tents just outside of the park. Day 10 - Was just a day to drive back into Ulan Bator.
Ulan Bator, Mongolia......AGAIN
After 10 days out in the wilds of Mongolia with no shower the first thing I did was get coffee and then shower. I spent 2 nights in Ulan Bator just decompressing after the trip. the first day the only things i did was have coffee, walked to the train station to get a ticket to Beijing and then got dinner with the people who were on the tour. The second day I did laundry and repacked all my things to get ready for the train the next morning and then walked to the Zaisan Monument. It was a bit of a walk across the city and up a hill but totally worth it.
Train to Beijing
The train was about a 26 hour train ride which was mostly uneventful. The train passes through a large part of the Gobi desert stoping only a couple times before hitting the Chinese Border. The crossing into China was interesting to say the least. First they come on and take your passports then the train backs up and then pulls forward into a garage then back and forth until each car is disconnected from each other. Then they lift the train cars and disconnect the wheels and replace them with new wheels. In china the gauge of the rails is a different from Mongolia, Russia and else where in the world. Once the wheels are swapped they lower the cars and reattach the cars to each other and pull back to the platform. Immigration then brings back your passports and depending on how long the swap takes you have some time off the train. We had 45 minutes before the train left the station. By the time we left the for Beijing it was 1 am.
Beijing was kinda miserable. The smog really messed with my throat but the sights were pretty incredible. The first day I was there I went with some of the guys from the train to the Forbidden City. On the second day i just walked and checked out the hutongs. I was trying not to spend too much time out side as it was really doing a number on my health. Day three was pretty insane though. Went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. The First part of the day you couldn't see a thing but after a couple hours the clouds began to break and made for an incredible hike back to the bus.
It was in Xi'an that I realized my Chinese plan wasn't gonna really be doable and after I would finish my journey and head to Hong Kong. The Plan for Xi'an was to see the Terracotta Warriors and to hike Hua Shan Mountain. On the first night I went to hot pot with Will (one of the guys from the train to Beijing). The next day we went to see the Warriors. Getting a ride to the train station was pretty I'm possible so we walked in the rain. It was so easy to find the buses and actually get to the warriors. There were so many people there that we were only there for about an hour. The extra exhibits weren't super interesting anyway. There was a Burger King and a Starbucks incase you needed to indulge. Back in the City we checked out a part of town called "muslim quarter" it felt like a totally different country, people hawking bootleg merchandise and selling incredible street food. We tried not to stay out too late cause we had plans to wake up early to head out on the hike but didn't realize you needed your passport to buy a local train ticket and wasted the whole morning. The last day in Xi'an was basically a bust.
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
By the time I got across the border and into Hong Kong it was after 10pm. I was exhausted from the 9 hour train ride from Xi'an. My 4 nights in Hong Kong consisted of loads of Popular photo spots, Loads of walking and TONS of delicious food. I hit up a bunch of the housing estates, The peak, the water front, and the temple street night market. It was a wonderful end to an incredible trip.