Sunday, July 29, 2018

Packing List. Trans Siberian Railway.

A Richard Limoges porcelain box, a miniature suitcase, from Rochard.  This tiny thing is so beautiful!

Our Russia trip is just a few short weeks away and pretty much all the logistics (accommodations, train tickets, and tours) have been worked out.  Both Chantale and I got our Russia visas last week so we know for sure we are going to Russia!  We can now turn our focus to packing.  This is not an easy trip to pack for!

To start with, we are basically traveling by train.  If you've ever done any train travel, you'll realize there's not a lot of space inside a train compartment for luggage.  Not to mention that we have to be dragging our luggage to and from train stations, up and down train station steps and and up and down trains so we have to go as lightweight as possible!

This time, we will also be bringing along some food items for the overnight train journeys of which we have four.  I know for certain we will get a meal....only one, on two of those journeys but otherwise, we have to make our own meal arrangements.  Most certainly, we will pick up items - either from local markets or from the vendors on the platform.  But, we also want to bring along some familiar foods with us.  This means we also need to be ready to prepare meals on the trains.  Every train will have samovars of hot water available which means a lot of instant meals (e.g., breakfast cereal and instant noodles) as well as tea.   So I am preparing a food kit and we already have quite a lot of food items picked out - everything from packets of instant rice, miso soup and rice seasonings to Chantale's breakfast cereals and two small jars of Marmite and Nutella.  If I have space, I might also bring along packets of instant Pho noodles.  And last but not least, several packets of my home made dehydrated veggies which include carrots, corn, cucumbers, mushrooms, and onions.  I also have a packet of dehydrated rice.  Those were all my kitchen experiments 😁

For now, I'm packing the food kit with me but if she has space in her suitcase, I'm handing half of it over to Chantale so we share in carrying the load 😁

I'm also packing along two collapsible silicon bento boxes that will be our dishes for eating, a can opener in case we buy canned food (perhaps some of the Baltic sprats that I so love?), a small ladle for scooping out the soup, repurposed plastic forks, spoons and knives (I think most came from EVA Air), two pairs of the ever so useful chopsticks, a piece of cleaning sponge and bottle dish cleaning soap.  I may empty the soap into a smaller container because even though I bought a small bottle to begin with, I think it's more than what we need.  I may also bring along a collapsible silicon bowl that has a lid.

We also need to bring along toilet paper for the train though I am tempted to just pick up rolls when we are in Beijing rather than lugging them along all the way from home.

Siberia will be cold even in September and I'm planning on bringing mainly cool to cold weather clothing though I am packing two short sleeve t-shirts as the train compartments could get hot.  I recently splurged and got a new Patagonia 800 fill down jacket and thick fleece jacket that will come with me on this trip along with at least one pair of gloves if not two.

And....I was just reading about women's dress etiquette for visiting Russian Orthodox churches.  Similar to Greek churches, women need to wear long skirts and cover their heads.  Luckily, I already have those items in my travel closet from when I was in Greece in 2014.   I don't know how many we will be visiting but just in case, I will bring along my skirt and scarf.

The perennial klutz, who is always falling and spraining her ankle, will also be bringing along her ankle brace.  I am working hard at the gym to improve my balance and I hope I don't injure myself yet again but you never know so I am being prepared.  I love my Bioskin Trilock ankle brace so much I actually bought a second one recently.  Not that I'm planning for when I will injure both ankles at the same time but just in case I happen to lose the first one. On past trips, I've also brought my collapsible walking stick.  If I have room, I'll bring along.

I haven't decided on whether or not to bring along a sleep sheet for the train even though the one I have from Sea to Summit packs down into a very small pack.  I'm more inclined to not do it than do it.  The last overnight train ride I took was in Azerbaijan and we were given a pack of clean sheets and pillow case when we entered our compartment.  From what I've read, the same thing will happen on the Russian trains so for me, no need to bring along a sleep sheet.

Zipsak 20" Micro-Fold Spinner Fashion Tote from Biaggi.
I was just also reading this webpage on the Real Russia site which provides suggestions on what to pack for a Trans Siberian Railway journey.  There was mention of bringing along a bicycle cable lock in case you need to lock your suitcase to a luggage rack.  This might not be a bad idea so I'm going to think about it some more and if I decide to go forward with it, look for cable locks on Amazon or else buy one when I am in Beijing.  Chantale and I have already decided to set aside a full day in Beijing to do last minute shopping.

As always, I will be traveling with my trusty Eagle Creek 22" suitcase and even though I am a very light traveler,  I know that will not be large enough to bring along everything so I've also purchased a 20" Biaggi spinner that's foldable. 

My plan is to put my jackets as well as my dSLR camera, laptop and iPad, along with all the requisite accessories into the spinner.   I'm still debating whether or not to bring along my back pack or just my Travelon purse.  I'll probably just leave this decision to the last minute.

Along with packing, I also need to install some photo and blog editing software on to the laptop so I can work on both things when I'm on those long train rides.

I will also need to bring along my International Driving Permit (IDP) as we will be renting a car and doing a roadtrip around the famed Golden Ring.  I got my permit several weeks back from AAA.  The price has gone up!  Last time I got a permit it was for my South Korea trip in 2016 and at that time, the permit cost $15.  This one cost $20 - a 30% increase.   I do have to check whether or not I have to bring my US driver's license with me or not.  I don't ever remember bringing it with me but this question always pops up in my mind whenever the IDP comes up.

Last but not least, I have decided that I will bring along some rubles to get us started especially in case we need to pay for our hotel in Ulan Ude, our first destination in Russia, up front.   In Ulaanbaatar, we'll be staying in an Airbnb so that is already paid for.  In smaller hotels, like the one we're staying at in Ulan Ude, you often have to pay for the room in advance and you need local cash in case your credit is not acceptable or accepted.

I have a lot more thinking to do on the packing front and the trip is just around the corner so time is running short!

Here's the list so far and it may change slightly before I leave.

The List
  • Trip binder containing printed copies of the detailed trip itinerary, airline vouchers, hotel vouchers, Airbnb vouchers, tour vouchers, and all necessary contact information.
  • Passport, $US cash, credit cards, debit card
  • International Driving Permit
  • 2 short sleeve, light cotton shirts
  • 3 lightweight long sleeve shirts
  • 3 pair of hiking pants
  • 1 pair of UNIQLO Heattech leggings
  • 1 set of pajamas 
  • 1 long skirt
  • Patagonia down jacket
  • Patagonia fleece jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Headscarf
  • Underwear and three pairs of socks
  • Sunhat and sunglasses
  • 1 pair walking shoes
  • 1 pair hiking sandals
  • 1 pair rubber slippers 
  • Ankle brace and walking stick
  • Toiletries and first aid kit (including Tylenol, Band Aids, Neosporin, lip balm, Immodium AD, Pepto Bismol, Zithromax, Cipro)
  • Toilet paper, handiwipes
  • Flashlight
  • Spare pair of reading glasses
  • Nikon DSLR camera, filters, spare batteries, chargers and outlet adapters, external battery, SD cards
  • Lenovo notebook and iPad
  • MHL to HDMI adapter and HDMI cable.
  • Pens
  • iPod
  • Key lock 
  • Sleep sheet
  • Drain plug, laundry detergent, and plastic clothes pins for drying clothes 
And last but not least,..... collapsible totes to shop with while and if necessary, to bring back all those things that I buy along the way.  For the longest time, I used to only bring one tote along but for the past handful of trips, two totes have found their way into my suitcase!

Update August 29, 2018.  I've packed my suitcase and decided to skip the spinner bag and bring my backpack instead.  I also dropped some items from the original list - no sleep sheet or HDMI connectors.  I added a sweater and a couple more collapsible silicon bowls.  The bags are fully stuffed!