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Study Trip

Lake Baikal: the Ice Blue Pearl of Siberia

Monday 11 – Saturday 16 March 2019
Leader: Mrs. Bilaibhan Sampatisiri, Former President and Honorary Advisor to the Siam Society

*As the Russian hotels will only hold our reservation until 15 December it is essential that you let the Society know as soon as possible if you want to join this trip.

 

Cr. Photo: The Russian Geographical Society

 

Baikal is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Russia, which is no surprise as it has the deepest and purest lake in the world, surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes. The summer season around Baikal only lasts 2.5 months - in the beginning of June you can still see icebergs on the lake and there is still a cold wind, while nearby Irkutsk can be experiencing temperatures of 30C. At the end of March, it is still noticeably cold and autumn is very quick in making its mark. The wind picks up again and there are frequent storms and rain on the lake with weather being very unpredictable.

Winter and early Spring in Baikal is a real fairy tale land – transparent ice, bright sunshine from which you can even get a tan, and at the same time freezing temperatures. Each year more and more tourists are visiting Baikal during this period.

The ice of the frozen Lake Baikal is unique as it is absolutely see-through and when you are walking on it you can see several metres down. Some people even experience vertigo. Baikal freezes relatively late and in February lots of ice-hummocks form massive blocks of ice, some reaching the height of a multi-storey building.

In winter Lake Baikal does not just become a massive ice-rink but also an enormous transport system as winter roads, complete with traffic signs and special rules, are laid on the surface of the ice. Before traffic is allowed on the road officials from the Russian Ministry for Emergencies check the ice, fill in any cracks, clear the snow and put up road signs. This ice route considerably reduces travelling times between settlements on the shore of the lake. However not all the ice is thick enough for cars and only local drivers, who are known as ice captains, know the safe routes. An experienced and well-known ice captain will lead our tour which will cross Lake Baikal.

The lake in winter becomes a massive ice-rink. The surface is level and transparent which makes it perfect for ice-skating. More extreme travellers travel across the lake on skates taking with them a sledge full of supplies and a tent. You can rent skates at a hotel, although to be certain of getting a comfortable pair you might want to consider taking some with you.

It is also great to just walk on the ice, but without special footwear it is not that easy as the ice is slippery. Also if there is a strong wind, you could be blown about on the ice.

The Baikal lake is located in Eastern Siberia and is the boundary of two Russian provinces – Buryatia Republic on the south-east shore and Irkutskaya Oblast on the north-west shore.

It is the world’s deepest (1637m) and oldest lake. The lake contains 20% of the world's surface unfrozen fresh water while the flora and fauna of the lake are mostly endemic. Russians sometimes call Lake Baikal a sea because of its size.  Mountain ranges surround the valley and the lake. In the west there are the Baikal mountains and in the east the Zabaikalskie mountains. The Angara River is the only outflow of Lake Baikal.

The lake's geological formation started around 20-25 million years ago, making it one of the oldest lakes in geological history and even nowadays its rift is continuing to widen 2cm a year. The first mention of its name appeared in Chinese writings in 110 B.C. as "Beihai" (Northern Sea).

Several cultures have appeared on its shores, including the Buryat. Russian sources first mention Baikal in 1640 after which was a time of exploration and description by Russian Cossacks and the Church until its first scientific expedition in 1723.

On October 13, 1905 the Circum-Baikal Railway opened. In 1916 Barguzinsky Nature Reserve was organized. In 1990, wind-surfers from Russia, Austria and Czechoslovakia were the first to cross the lake's widest point. In 1991, the deepest point on the lake's bottom was declared near Olkhon Island, and since then slightly deeper points have superseded the original. In 1997 Lake Baikal became a part of UNESCO Heritage.

 

The tentative programme will be as follows:

Day 1: Monday 11 March: Bangkok – Irkutsk

3:00 p.m. Meet at Suvarnabhumi Airport, check in counter for Siberia Airlines (S7)
5:25 p.m. Depart Bangkok to Irkutsk by S7 762

Day 2: Tuesday 12 March: Irkutsk

00:25 a.m. Arrive Irkutsk airport, transfer to hotel Courtyard by Marriott Irkutsk City
Morning Breakfast at the hotel
09:30 a.m. Proceed to Listvyanka, a small settlement located on the southwestern shores of Lake Baikal. Visit the Baikal museum.
Noon Lunch at local restaurant
Afternoon

Ride by hovercraft (hivus) on the ice of Lake Baikal (1 hour). Visit to the local market, selling smoked fish and souvenirs.

Transfer to the Dog-Sledding Centre. Ride by dog sleds to the forest which full of snow. (2-3 km. trail)
4:00 p.m. Proceed back to Irkutsk
Evening Dinner at local restaurant
- Overnight at hotel Courtyard by Marriott

Day 3: Wednesday 13 March: Irkutsk – Olkhon Island (230 kms.)

- Breakfast at the hotel
9.00 a.m. Check out and proceed by coach to Olkhon Island, the largest island in Lake Baikal
Noon Lunch on route in a café in Buryat village
Afternoon Continue to Olkhon Island, at Sakhuyuta Ferry Station, change the bus to Russian Military jeeps (jeeps UAZ) - drive cross the icy Olkhon’s Gate straight to get to the island Make some stops to see the icy caves, frozen bubbles and black ice fields. Explore Khuzir, the island's main village and visit Burkhan Cape at the sunset.
Evening Check in at Hotei hotel in Olkhon
- Dinner and overnight at hotel

Day 4: Thursday 14 March: Olkhon Island

- Breakfast at the hotel
9:00 a.m. Start full day ice driving trip by Russian military jeeps to explore Olkhon Island. See the 200m. high frozen cliffs of Khoboy Cape at the northern tip of the island, Baikal Ice caves, frozen blue hummocks
Noon Picnic Lunch
4.00 p.m. From Kultuk station we drive to the top of the mountain, enjoying the beautiful view of Baikal Lake.
Afternoon Return to hotel
Evening (Optional) Russian 'banya' (steam bath)
- Dinner and overnight at hotel

Day 5: Friday 15 March: Olkhon Islan – Irkutsk

- Breakfast at the hotel
9.00 a.m. Check out and drive to the ferry-station. Ice crossing to the mainland and drive to Irkutsk.
Noon Lunch en route in a café in Buryat village
Evening Check in at Courtyard by Marriott Irkutsk City Center
- Dinner and overnight the hotel

Day 6: Saturday 16 March: Irkutsk – Bangkok

- Breakfast at the hotel
8.00 a.m. Transfer to airport
10.45 a.m. Depart Irkutsk to Bangkok by flight S7 761
3.45 p.m. Arrive Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

Booking

Bt. 99,500 (Bt. 103,000 for non-members). Single room surcharge Bt. 10,000 A deposit of Bt. 40,000 and photocopy of passport must accompany the booking. Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the deposit has been made. Payment in full is required 45 days before the start of the trip (i.e. by Friday 25 January 2019)

Please pay by cash or cheque payable to ‘The Siam Society’. There is a 4% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges. Alternatively you can deposit/transfer the money to the Siam Society travel account at the Thai Military Bank, Asoke Branch saving account no. 053-2-18000-7.  Please fax or e-mail the deposit or transfer docket to us. In case the tour has to be cancelled due to insufficient participants, a full refund of the deposit will be made.

*As the Russian hotels will only hold our reservation until 15 December it is essential that you let the Society know as soon as possible if you want to join this trip.

Includes/Excludes:

The contribution includes meals as mentioned in program, airfare ticket, accommodation for two persons per room, entrance fees, transfer and sightseeing coach, gratuities and other costs incurred to make this trip possible. It excludes visa fee to Russia (if any), personal expenses, personal beverages, etc.

To comply with payment and cancellation policies set forth by tour agencies, and to facilitate smooth working condition between the Siam Society and the tour agencies, please read carefully the revised cancellation policies stated below:

Cancellation charge:

45 days before the start of the trip:                             Deposit forfeited
45-30 days before the start of the trip                         50% of the tour cost
Less than 30 days or cancellation without notice:          No refund

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary. Seats are limited. Please book your place as soon as possible. For further information and bookings please contact Khun Prasert or Khun Supanut.