Around the world via China
and the ex-soviet countries in 1997
Back in Montreal after my 1996 trip to Australia I looked
at my small globe and realised that the largest area I was not familiar
with comprised China and the ex-soviet countries. I had visited the USSR
a number of times and had spent three weeks in China back in 1973 but so
many profound changes have affected these two giants in the past two decades
that they had become new territories worthy of exploration.
There is no profit exchanging Montreal's cold for Siberia's
so I decided to delay my departure until April and visit the northeastern
corner of South America which I had missed in 1994. As usual, I studied
guide books and pored over maps to plan my route so as not to miss highlights
worth seeing. I don't speak Chinese and my Russian is not much to speak
of so I went one step further in preparing my trip by searching the world
wide web for contacts in the places I planned to visit. This proved to
be a huge success as I found enthusiastic cybernauts almost everywhere.
Meeting congenial web mates made all the difference as I was able to investigate
the quality of life and the attitudes of the people in the countries I
I was fascinated by the differences between booming China
and the depressed remnants of the Soviet Empire. There was so much to absorb
that I had to write down my impressions as I went along to put them in
order and to avoid loosing them. Gradually the mist cleared and I managed
my own explanation for China's
success and the USSR's failure. To better understand, I have had to look into the history of the people concerned and more particularly into the
history of the great asian nomad steppe empires that have marked most of them. I am glad to share these analyses with you and would appreciate getting your feedback to improve my understanding.
The two following maps show part of my route around the
world. You can view the travelogue of my trip in chronological order by
starting with Macao and following the "next" links from page
to page or, if you prefer, you may link directly to those countries that
interest you in the list below.
Many readers have e-mailed me asking for advice on transport and accommodations.
Transport is so volatile that I cannot help much. Lodgings also change but I can offer a
list of the hotels I used and their
prices with all due reservations as to its ongoing validity.
Route in China
China is big, its 9.59 million kmē put it very close to
Canada that has 9.98 million and to the USA that has 9.36 million kmē.
It has however, 6 times more people than the USA and 41 times more than
Canada! That means that there is a lot to see.
On this third trip, I planned my route to see as much
as possible in the time available. This map shows the 16 000 km trail I
covered inside China in 62 days. I have been to Tibet in '96 but there
are still a lot of places I hope to see, such as Yunnan and Qinghai. I will
also have to go back to visit my friends...
China-2 (Yangshuo to Chongqing),
China-3 (Yangzi River),
China-4 (Wuhan & Hangzhou),
China-11 (Beijing cont.),
Siberia (Trans Siberian Train),
China-17 (Pamir Range),
the ex soviet empire
My route covered more than 13 000 km through 14 of the
15 ex soviet countries in 82 days. The evident grey uniformity left by
the soviet regime thinly disguises very strong cultural diversities and
rivalries which, finally free to express themselves, do so in a variety
of ways including armed conflict. During this trip I paid more attention
to the similarities between the various communities than to their differences
in an effort to understand what went wrong with the USSR.