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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 traversed.

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 to develop 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.


Map of China

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...

Macao, China-1(Guangzhou), China-2 (Yangshuo to Chongqing), China-3 (Yangzi River), China-4 (Wuhan & Hangzhou), China-5 (Shanghai), China-6 (Suzhou), China-7 (Nanjing), China-8 (Kaifeng), China-9 (Luoyang), China-10 (Beijing), China-11 (Beijing cont.), Siberia (Trans Siberian Train), Siberia (Irkutsk), Siberia (Ulan-Ude), Mongolia (1), Mongolia (2), China-12 (Datong), China-13 (Xi'an), China-14 (Gansu), China-15 (Turfan), China-16 (Kashgar), China-17 (Pamir Range), Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan-1 (Samarkand), Tajikistan (Penjikent), Uzbekistan-2 (Bukhara), Uzbekistan-3 (Khiva), Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine-1 (Odessa), Ukraine-2 (Kiev), Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Iceland.


Map of ex-USSR

Route in
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.



I continue developing this site for the pleasure of sharing the joys of discovery with you. Meeting wonderful people of all skin colours, ethnic origins and beliefs has inspired me to set up the Humanist Foundation of Quebec to promote critical thinking and intercultural tolerance.

You may download and use the globetrotter's photos provided you mention "Photo by Bernard Cloutier" with a link to this site below each photo. High resolution versions can be acquired from our agent



If you feel like it, you may exchange comments and impressions with other readers in the questbook or express them to me privately by the e-mail link. Putting a link on your web site, if you have one, would invite your viewers to enjoy free virtual travel as I hope you did.




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