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Cross countriesRide the rails across Russia, China and Mongolia: the longest - and most epic - train journey in the world ight, I'm overwhelmed by the sheer size and scale of everything around me. "Skyscrapers seem to defy gravi , their upper limits hidden by the ci 's famously hazy atmosphere.  e sheer number of people jostling on the roads and pavements outside of the car window is simply staggering. "I'm staying in a  adi onal, family-run guesthouse at the heart of the ci 's hutong dis ict and this makes for a peaceful re eat  om the hustle and bustle of the ci . "It's a really authen c experience - my room is  adi onally furnished and set around a garden cour ard that once would have been home to several genera ons of the same family." Exploring Beijing and the Great Wall Jo" e last two days have been simply wonderful. I've not only seen the modern side of what Beijing has to o er - visi ng the ci 's Olympic Park and wandering down Wangfujing market s eet, (star sh on a s ck anyone?) TRANSSIBERIAN RAILWAYBeijingJo "Beijing q is like no other ci . Outwardly modern and  ene c, it holds pockets of its long and fascina ng history deep within the very heart of the ci limits. "Met on arrival by my charming guide  omas, and somewhat feeling the e ects of my nine-hour overnight AUDLEY TRAVELLER | 21 e Trans-Siberian Railway, linking Moscow to Beijing, is the longest con nuous rail line on earth. Spanning seven  me zones, and covering almost 6,000 miles and over one third of the globe, this is one of the world's most epic journeys - with a number of fascina ng places en route where you can get o board and explore for a few days. Regional manager Jo Hoban and Russia specialist John Cole dig out their diaries and share some of their most memorable experiences.

22 | AUDLEY TRAVELLER | www.audley.co.ukthe magnificent scenery. After the noise and life of Beijing, it's a stark but tranquil contrast. When the horses do finally come down onto lower ground for food and water as the sun begins to set, the sight is simply beautiful and very moving."My accommodation for the evening is a warm and cosy ger with a wood-burning stove at its heart, which is kept well attended by Degii, my host. Although she speaks little English, she's fascinated to see an English girl travelling on her own and ensures that I am kept well fed and warm throughout my stay, even slipping in at 5am to relight the fire before I wake up. For someone who strangely does not sleep well abroad, it's one of the most peaceful and restful nights I've ever spent away from home and leaves me refreshed and ready to Holding one-fifth of the world's fresh water - more than in North America's five great lakes combined - crystal-clear Lake Baikal is a highlight of any journey along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and impenetrable Siberian woodland, the lake creates a mild microclimate around its shores, making it the perfect home for over 2,500 different species of plants and animals, over half of which are unique to the area. For those travellers who have a little more time to spend exploring Baikal, we would highly recommend a visit to Olkhon Island, the largest of the 27 islands that can be found within the lake. Summer and autumn days here are usually long and warm, and consequently life is lived at a slow pace, with locals spending their days fishing for omul and escorting visitors on tours of the island. Activities here include walking, offroad cycling, horse-riding and canoeing, making it the perfect destination for those who like to combine their relaxation with exploring the great outdoors.Lake Baikalof history. It's also almost devoid of other visitors, which makes for excellent photo opportunities as well as allowing you to walk along it untroubled but for a few persistent souvenir-sellers." MongoliaJo"After a day spent practically glued to the window and a peaceful night listening to the sounds of the train (which I boarded yesterday in Beijing), I arrive in Mongolia. Whilst Ulaan Bataar w is not the most picturesque of cities, the sights here contain a wealth of history and a certain dilapidated charm. The highlight, however, is heading into the vast steppe beyond the city for an overnight stay in a traditional ger (felt tent) and the chance to spot the world's last living prehistoric horse species, the Takhi, in Khustaii National Park."Those that have had the privilege to visit Mongolia say that they are struck by its breathtaking scenery as well as the warmth and welcome of its people - and my stay in Khustaii does not disappoint. Heading out into the rolling hills beyond my camp accommodation on horseback is a wonderful way to take in - I've also immersed myself in its history."Standing at the gates to the Forbidden City amidst the hustle and bustle of Tiananmen Square is an experience I'll never forget. If you can ignore the noise and the interested stares of the nearby Chinese tour groups and simply focus on the history that surrounds you, you will realise that you are standing at the foot of a complex that required the efforts of over a million workers to construct and subsequently played host to emperors, concubines, servants and slaves for over 500 years. By comparison, at the same time all of this was going on in China, the British royal family were celebrating the wedding of Henry V, dining off stale bread in place of plates!"I've also fulfilled a lifelong dream of standing on the Great Wall of China. We recommend a section an hour's drive outside of the city at Jinshanling and it really is well worth the journey. Here the wall is at its majestic best, stretching out over the hills and mountains beyond, restored to allow easy access but yet still ramshackle enough to convey a sense