MIR featured in the Financial Times as Siberian Specialists

MIR featured in the Financial Times as Siberian Specialists

In her column   for the May issue of the Financial Times, British journalist and traveler Sophy Roberts writes about the allure of obscure border crossings, and the “small coterie of top-end travel outfitters who have made it their business to expedite difficult border crossings in far-flung lands.”

Roberts traveled through Siberia and across the Mongolian border this past winter on a journey that MIR created especially for her. MIR founder Douglas Grimes accompanied her.

“’I like the strangeness of a remote border crossing,’ says my fixer for this Siberian journey, Seattle-based Douglas Grimes, who 30 years ago started his business, MIR Corporation, offering trips to Russia.”

The border crossing on this journey was at the little south Siberian town of Kyakhta, a run-down place that celebrated its glory days in the 19th century as a trading post with Qing dynasty China. Camel caravans from Kashgar brought tea, which they traded for furs and fabrics and sent on to the trade fairs of Western Russia along what was called the “Great Tea Way.” The completion of the Suez Canal in 1869 sounded the death-knell for this trade, and Kyakhta subsided into a small border town.

Passing through Kyakhta, a small Siberian town. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

The crumbling border town of Kyakhta, Siberia
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

“A Russian guard stamps my passport. He says that aside from Russian and Mongolian citizens, only a couple of foreigners a day make this crossing in winter.”

Roberts sings the praises of adventurous tour companies that can untangle complicated rules and restrictions and smooth the way for intrepid travelers at the ragged edges of the world.

“I admire Grimes for his doggedness with such journeys. It would be far easier to sell a plane ticket than fuss about with complex overland logistics. But in the tour-operating industry, which is being eroded by travellers booking their trips direct with hotels, guides and drivers on the ground, he is holding onto a critical piece of expertise that validates his company’s role as a trip designer. Every year he organises difficult overland car journeys for private clients spending tens of thousands of dollars.”

Top photo: Looking across the border into Mongolia. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

PUBLISHED: May 18, 2016

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