First, the amazing tourist system in Russia. I used the services of a company called Real Russia. They were excellent. Russia has a train system that works, runs everyday, all day. They have an affordable food service on the train. There is a real human on each train car who can answer your questions. I have tried to imagine a similar service in Canada, but it could not be done. The trains do not run often enough. Tourism cannot be done by air in Canada--the cost is prohibitive. And buses don't run all over Canada. So we are not really set up for tourism.
Russian train stop--like North American bus stop;
trains are always going by day and night...
Second, the amazing cosmopolitan culture of Mongolia. On June 8, 2014 the annual culture fair took place in a town square in Ulaanbaatar. The event was free. Open to anyone who wanted to join in. Where else on earth could one sing along to "Nessun Dorma," watch Swan Lake, and see every conceivable type of activity--acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, symphonies of both western and eastern instruments, huge choral groups in languages both native and foreign, baton twirlers, artists, crafts, authors, thousands of people in full costume for musicals, ballets, plays. I will never forget that.
Third, the singular beauty created in China in the midst of millions of people. Just because millions of people live together does not mean beauty is lost. They purposely plant roses down the medians of busy streets. Wherever a potted plant can fit on a tiny ledge, there is a green plant growing. There are beautiful objects placed wherever a piece of beauty will fit. There are plants climbing up walls. there are little overhead TVs playing on the subway reminding travelers to treat each other with kindness and respect to bring about peace and beauty in the midst of a crowd. As I walked up and down my hutong, about a two block stretch, in the quiet evening twilight, I passed families out strolling, groups of grandpas playing a game like checkers, pots of roses here and there, cucumber vines climbing up a trellis, people walking little tiny dogs on leashes.
Bottom picture snapped while driving along median;
top picture a trellised rose outside a house along the hutong.