Arshan, Siberia People Are Easy To Meet
Arshan Siberia People of the Saran Mountains
The easiest way to meet local Siberian people of Arshan is to take a room with someone local when you disembark from the bus upon arrival. If you were delayed locating the minibus or mashtuka parked at the railway in Ulan Ude or Irkutsk, then you may make your first encounter in darkness or you may not be able to partake in a unique accommodation scheme for a quaint cottage in a Siberian mountain village. SO do not dally leaving for the four to eight hour trip, depending on your disembarkation point, into the Saran Mountains.
What? Book a room with a total stranger? Someone who you meet at the bus station? Someone who loads you into a rambling Soviet era vehicle and totters you off to destination unknown? Perhaps you will be more relaxed about the proposition when you find out that security maxim “everyone does it” is in play. Also, if you are the type that forms an impression at first sight, kerchief covered babushkas, or their male counterpart, can lessen your sleeping with a stranger fears. They typically look and are pretty harmless on the people nabbing scale.
How will you find the potential renters? They will be near their vehicles holding cardboard signs with the equivalent of “rooms available” scratched in local dialect. They wait for local buses plying through town with visitors in need of a bed and shelter. It does not matter that you cannot read the sign, as the cardboard offer is your ticket. If dusk is approaching and a downpour is settling in, this may be your only opportunity to keep your head warm and dry in the Saran Mountains.
As for my experience, assuming they knew as much English as we knew Uralo-Siberian we briefly exchanged over our few choices and selected two typical ladies unlikely to do us any harm if the mission failed. We gave them the favourable nod, tossed bags in the back of their seasoned station wagon and rumbled through wide, dirt streets and back alleys to our home away from home. They nattered to each other as we mused on how our paths in life are oddly determined sometimes. Arshan is enchanting, even at nightfall and with inclement weather. Wooden timber homes, brightly painted, shuttered windows and immaculate gardens with mist covered mountains. Did I mention the place would steal your heart? After a brief inspection of our cottager quarters, followed by an even briefer price negotiation, we give the international nod of approval. What choice did we have? She spent an extra minute showing us how the functional spa operated and we never saw her again. We did not even know where the center of town was and it could rain for our entire stay. Rummy anyone?
Clean and quiet, are these not the basic requirements of a traveler abode? Spartan may not always be top of the list but we got that along with a sauna for good measure. And, did I mention the price was under $10 a night.
This local accommodation scheme is unique and accomplishes the job of matching needs. Low on state of the art technology, high on low tech transportation and architecture. No internet connection required, just an open mind.
For more on travel in Siberia and Russia, see also: