In the August 3 and 10, 2009 issues of The New Yorker you’ll find a two-part essay by Ian Frazier on his 2001 road trip across Siberia (part one, part two, sketches, podcast). The second part of the essay contains one of my favourite paragraphs of travel-writing ever:
Soon after Bikin, we suddenly entered a weird all-watermelon area. Watermelon sellers crowded both sides of the road under big umbrellas in beach-ball colors among wildly painted wooden signs. Sergei pulled over and bought a watermelon for a ruble, but as we went along the heaps of them kept growing until melons were spilling into the road and the sellers were giving them away. A man with teeth like a crazy fence hailed us and in high hilarity thrust two watermelons through the passenger-side window. By the time we emerged at the other end of the watermelon gauntlet, we had a dozen or more in the van. The watermelons were almost spherical, anti-freeze green, and slightly smaller than soccer balls. We cut one open and tried it — delicious. This was not a part of the world I had previously thought of as a great place for watermelons.
It’s the kind of paragraph you have to read over and over. If you’re interested in Siberia, or in long road journeys, or just in good travel writing, I recommend you search out both parts of the essay.