Trans-Siberian: Trading in experiences for luxury

Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time before the Trans-Siberian was up-scaled.

Back in the early 1990s when I traveled the legendary journey, it cost just $150 to travel nearly a quarter of the globe, from Moscow to Beijing. And I paid inflated tourist prices at the time.

Today, discerning travelers can opt for a $14,000, 19-day pampered adventure that is completely opposite of everything I experienced on my journey. The berths, for example, aren’t “sleeper” or even First Class. No, for $14,000 you get Gold Class, an entirely elevated level of comfort that includes “power showers and under floor heating…, state of the art DVD/CD player, LCD screens, audio system, individual air conditioning, recessed lighting and wardrobe space.”

Wow. I, on the other hand, shared a 4-person berth with Mongolians smuggling consumer items out of Russia. The bathroom was nothing more than a nasty toilet that was shared by the entire carriage and cleaned only once a day. And, the dining car had nothing but beef stroganoff for seven days straight.

While Gold Class certainly sounds inviting, all that money will never replicate the wonderful experience of sharing meals with my Mongolian bunkmates and listening to them drunkenly sing BeeGees songs out of tune.

That, folks, is priceless.