Saturday, October 27, 2012

China pt 2: Shanghai and cheap eats and jewelry

We took one of the bullet trains from Beijing to Shanghai, in business class as the economy seats were all full from everyone going home from National Day week holiday. But we got a free lunch pack, which included some tasty and interesting things. One was some peanuts, a rice crispy treat but not, and dried spicy fish which were actually pretty good! They had a speedometer which told us our exact speed which was 306km/hr or 307. Either way, we were zooming past everything!

Getting off the train in Shanghai was much easier that in Beijing and people there knew English! It might make me sound like a stupid, ignorant American, but getting help in a language you know is much easier than trying to mime it out to someone who doesn't.

We again got off the subway fine, but we managed to get lost, yet again. Even asking for directions multiple times. We ended up going to a hotel to see if they knew, and the guy at reception told us the info we had wasn't Chinese.... And it was off Tom's tablet from their website. He was kind to us and wrote the adress an name down in Chinese and told us a cab would get us there easily. We walked outside, flagged a cab and showed the driver. Shaking his head, we were lost again as he drove away. Finally, we asked a well dressed Chinese couple and the boyfriend, who knew English, was determined to help us find the spot. After walking another 20 minutes with them, we made it!! We thanked them graciously and he gave his card to Tom.

Rock & Wood hostel is a very new hostel, with outdoor seating, a koi pond, a bar/restaurant and many beds. Our first night we ate there, met a kid named Simon from Cape Town, S. Africa and Raphael from Germany. Tom met some musicians from Costa Rica and I met some young men from China as well.

Tom and Simon went out for some street food that night, and I went to bed early. The street food where they went ended up being our go to food stop, and they gave us some good discounts in the end. It was an open barbecue, and you could choose what you wanted. So they had sticks of raw meats, vegetables, tofu, bread, seafood including squid and whole fishes. It was sooo good! And next to it was a noodle cart where I got lo mein for 5 RMB which is about a buck.

We ate very well, very cheaply there, I don't have photos from it but I'll steal some from Tom.

In Shanghai, we didn't do too much, but we also found the Pearl Market, where they have EVERYTHING YOU NEED CHEAP! Tom and I bought some jewelry, me for my mom, my sister, and myself (2 pair of earrings, one jade, one grey pearls), and Tom bought a really unique pearl pendant for his mom. The woman was SaSa I believe and she was very nice, straight forward, and very pregnant. I will definitely go back to her and if any of you go to Shanghai, buy jewelry from her too, she's the best.

We also walked around their version of Time square and went to the Bund which is a walk along the water. It was really beautiful and they would synchronize the lights on the building with other buildings. Also the wall on the side were covered in flowers. This very English influenced city also had many old European styled building as well, and with the contrast of the modern and the old style Chinese buildings, it was quite unique.

The only day we got up early to explore was when we went to see the World Expo from 2010. And unlike the Olympic area in Beijing from 2008, this place was a ghost town. Seriously creepy. Everything was gated or fenced up, grass and weeds were over running plots of old parking lots and even construction crews were snoozing. It was the only place in Shanghai where you could cross the street without having to look either way. We walked around, found the Polish building and left. We also triend to get into an art museum that was the only thing that looked alive but it was closed that day to the public.

On the other side of the river is the Chinese building which they are making into "the Tate of China" but that won't be til 2014.

I think that my favorite parts of China was actually the ROCs- Hong Kong and Macau.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

China Pt 1-Being a real life celebrity in Beijing

Getting off the train was a breeze. Finding a bank to get some RMBs to get onto the metro was almost impossible. We spent a solid hour walking around teh busy station area (which included a bank that was under construction so the ATMs had no money and a few other cash machines out of money) until we found one in the main ticket area that had 2 working ATMs, out of 4. Also it didn't help that very few people know English.

Navigating the metro was easy, due to Beijing 2008 Olympics, but we ended up spending another 40 minutes trying to find our hostel! We finally asked three girls if they could help us and luckily they didn't try to scam us, but they did giggle a lot and had funny work uniforms on. They got us to the hostel (as the directions on the hostel websites are wrong) and we thanked them.

When we got to the hostel, they told us there was a mix up in our booking (even though I emailed them a few days before to confirm and we made reservations WAYYYY in advance), so we couldn't stay there, but they had spaces available for us at a neighbor guest house. So after walking another 15 minutes, we got to the next place (9 Dragon House). There was one other kid in the room when we walked in. His name was Rob and he was touring Asia as well. He was 2 weeks in, and started in Hong Kong and worked his way North and then he was going West and back South. Tom and I decided to go to Ti amen Square that evening to see what the festivites were for National Day.

Holy Shit. It was fracking busy. I would say that there was a bazillion people there and it would only be a half lie, as all the international tourists were ther PLUS the national tourist. Think of Washington D.C on the Fourth of July, or Paris on July 14th or Lewes on Guy Fawkes day. CRAZYYYYYYYYYY!

What was crazier though was that people were looking at us and "secretly" taking photos of us. When we started to look around, we realized that we were some of the few non Chinese people there. Intrigued, we continued "walking," took photos with chairman mao, and then some older woman asked Tom and I if I could have my photo taken with her daughter. Of course I said yes an she and Tom snapped some pictures. Now, unless you're a celebrity, you might not know what it's like, but its weird. Its weird being in a place where you are a complete minority and then people want their picture with you. For some, it might have been their first time seeing a tall, white man with a big beard or an Indian girl. We had our photos taking a few (like 15) more times in total during our time in Beijing.

The same thing happened the next day with our friend Rob when we all went to the summer palace, but we also had some girls from S Korea take photos of us as well. Rob hadn't believed us when we had told him that morning but he laughed and was a bit unnerved as well. I kept telling him that he should pretend he's a famous photographer! As I was pretending I was an actress.

That night we went to the Olympic center and unlike some of the old ones, this one was still booming and looking good. We got some more pictures taken with tourists but we couldn't go inside because of a Chinese opera going on. It wa definitely a high light.

The Great Wall is just an Alright wall, as again, it was super busy! Along with every tourist spot we went too.

The food there was great! Some things a little over priced, but otherwise, rob, Tom and I had some pretty good meals! And we had some cut Peking duck which was salty, fatty, and crispy.

Beijing was more uneventful for me, this isn't to say not to go, but just don't go during the busy times and maybe know some Chinese as well.

Train number 4. Again.

Sorry for the delay on posts. I had a few done on my iPod, but the internet isn't working on it. So I will be re-writing them for your convenience :)

Going back on the train again was a breeze. Tom and I had our ramen noodle soups, some hot chocolate, and knew how to pack our things in our small packs and the rest in the large ones. This time around, we were staying with two guys; one from Germany and one from Croatia, but they both worked in Germany. Having them be the 2nd and 3rd engineers from Germany made it clear to Tom (and myself) that the USA rips off people vacation wise. Germans get around 42 days of vacation a year, the approximate amount if you work 5 days a week, every other week. They were really nice to talk to, (the German slept for most of the trip), but the Croatian had gone through the Yugoslavian war, but it also meant that he spoke Yugoslavian, English, German and Spanish! As he was married to a woman from Spain. Pretty much he made me feel stupid for only knowing French (and not very well at that).

The trip was uneventful. The Mongolian boarder patrol were very nice again, and the Chinese were an in-between of the Russian and Mongolian, not mean but not kind- just strict. The only eventful thing that occured was that I thre up at the Chinese boarder due to my soup - which had too much msg for my body's liking. They closed the toilets at the time, but I was able to grab a bag and make it to the in-between part of the train. The Chinese conductors were very nice and gave me a cup to drink some hot water for my belly. At the boarder, they also gave us free meal tickets for the train the next day, breakfast and lunch.

I was sleep during the free breakfast the next morning, but the boys took advantage of my meal ticket and received an extra egg and something else. tom brought back the bread and jam for me. Lunch was only two hours later, so I didn't mind missing it. By lunch time, I was hungry again.

Lunch consisted of sauteed cabbage with ham, pork meatballs withs auce, and rice. For a free lunch it was pretty decent. We first sat with a guy from Israel, whom we chatted with for a bit, but he was almost done when we sat down and with the full car, he left a bit after he was done. Next two Germans sat with us, and when they recieved their food they were asking in German to themselves if they can get forks and how do they use the chopsticks. Tom being the multi-lingual man he is answered in English that it wasn't too hard and showed them. We chatted with them a bit (they did the full trip from Moscow), but we went back to our car to pack up so we didn't forget anything.

It was when we got to China when things got interesting.

Train tips continued:

Tip 7.
Stomach medicine.
You eat a lot of new and different things while traveling, especially on the road. Thankfully, I brought some Imodium with me, but some Tums would have been nice as well, and they provide calcium which you don't get a lot of during traveling, especially in Russia, when you're getting off and eating the ladies foods, you don't know what in it and you don't want to get stuck at a stop and you need to go number 2.

Tip 8.
Know some polite words in the native language. I had written a few words down while in Russia for China and it was only three I could remember. I will write them here phonetically as i cannot recall how to spell them and also you will know how to say them too. Shea shea-thank you. Knee how- Hello. Gambay- bottom's up (finish your drink). knowing thank you was helpful, especially when the conductors helped me when I was sick.

Tip 9.
Be open to meeting new people.
The train is a great way to socialize and network. I didn't network as well as I could have, but I think from all the itching I had, I was self conscious. It's weird to talk to someone who is always scratching or has bumps all over them. I know I would be cautious: pthey could have fleas, bed bugs, or spreadable poison oak or ivy. It's like when people cough a lot, you want to be friendly to them, but you don't want their germs. I was still friendly though, even when I didn't feel like it. Tom was a life saver, and was socializing with everyone. I could par-take in some of the conversation and then leave if I wanted and I didn't feel bad.

So the train trip is over. When we arrived in Beijing, it was Oct 1st, National Day, which is up next.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fast Forward a month....

I am soooooooo sorry that I have been so shitty at updating this blog. I am trying my hardest to get posts up, and making more of an effort since learning that some of my international friends are reading as well (I love you Mom, but I feel like you are required to read this :D)

But I wanted to give everyone a quick update of what's going on now, at the present, not from Oct 1st.

Tom and I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday and we are staying Siam Journey Guesthouse. It has ten beds, a small sitting area, some computes and internet. Last night everyone from the house plus some other travelers came over and we hung out, played card games, and drank some beers. Tom and I found some delicious Thai food with the help of a girl named Shannon, who is now currently going to the Islands (Phuket etc). She studies at St. Lawrence but is studying abroad in Chiang Mai. We had a long conversation with her and Elizabeth last night about Vermont. We also met another kid from South Africa, James, who was in the same class (literally, both in Architecture with 60 students in their class) as another kid we had just met in Shanghai. It truly is a small world.

But I must go, Tom and I are going to Chinatown as there is a Vegetarian Festival. I think it will be nice since we have been eating so much meat and heavy things lately.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mongolia. Day 3. The last day.

Oh I forgot to mention!

That night, as we were getting ready for bed, the owner came into our yurt and apologized for his behavior. He spoke in very good English how he had told the group not to take off their coats or put them on around the horses as it scares them. He then showed us a scar on his arm from when a horse kicked him and he broke his arm. He got angry because her coat scared my horse and he didn't want (or need) me to get injured, especially this far out. He then asked where we were from and told us how he worked and traveled around Asia and Europe. Then he left. I thought it was really nice that he did that. And in the morning we discovered he apologized to the group too and they got a 1.5 liter bottle of Fanta.

Breakfast in the morning was 2 bags of white bread, apple cinammon jam (very tasty and made me miss VT) and TEA! I woke up third, Tom and Korea were already eating. I'm not sure if it was because they were feeling nice or the liked us, but breakfast was a nice change from what we heard.

After we ate, the wife drove us (in their fancy Toyota land cruiser) to turtle rock, and it does kinda look like a turtle. There were all sorts of tourists and people offering horse rides. There was also a camel hanging out! Korea and I petted it and took photos with it and all three of us took photos with the turtle rock. When we got back, our ride back was there, so Tom, myself and the couples headed back to UB guesthouses. When we got back, Tom and I dropped our stuff, repacked and went out in search of food. We walked over an hour and found a Korean restaurant. They spoke no English (and us no Mongolian) so we randomly picked some stuff, and enjoyed one of the best meals on the trip (this was also before China).

We didn't do much afterwards, just headed back and went to bed early as our train left at 6 the next morning. The guesthouse provided transportation to the train station and with a packed car (Five people, packs and backpacks) we got to the station to begin the last trip on the trans-sierian rail.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mongolia. Day 2. In a yurt.

**please note: if you don't know what a yurt is, please look it up. I could explain it to you but it would be better if you had a picture. And I know you can since you're using interwebs. Thanks!!***

After being rudely awaken, we got packed and headed down. Since they had storage at the guest house, we were able to leave our big, bulky packs and just take our small bags. "Pack warmly" we were warned. I however, being a VTer, did not think it could get THAT cold, and also, I didn't pack too many warm clothes - I was planning for SE Asia and a summer in Australia! But still, I packed all the warm clothes I had. Backpacks filled, we headed off into the Mongolian national park called Gorkhi-Terelj national park. It is known for it's turtle rock, a giant boulder that was naturally formed.

The trek out was long and bumpy, our driver knowing the way and which road it was better to take at times- the destroyed "paved" road or the dirt road. He didn't have a fancy car, a Nissan sedan of some kind I believe, but we made it there alive. We snoozed for most of the trip, but stopped at a store to pick up some food. "do we really need it?" we asked the driver. "maybe," he replied. "You don't get a lot of food, maybe some beers and snacks." vouching out of the beers, we picked up some chocolate, snacks, and some juices and then headed back on the trail. It was interesting to see the road towards the park in comparison to the city. Road stands that showed hunting eagles and vultures, some with huge wingspans! I'm talking like 8+ feet from tip to tip! Also, instead of houses, there were yurt; some behind fences of metal, some in open fields, usually one to four in an area. It was dirty too, not like Russia dirty, but piles of trash, clumped in areas, some large, some small. It made us put in perspective what the driver was talkig about with rich and poor Mongolia.

When we arrived to the main entrance of te park, there was a small village of brightly colored houses. It was beautiful and strange all at once as we had been passing the the yurt communities. We drove for another 35-45 minutes (total time about 2.5-3 hours) on dirt roads and through some cows, including some that didn't want to move even after honking, but we arrived alive and well. There were 3 people leavin when we arrived and we had a few minutes to chat with them. We asked about what to do, if it got cold and how was the food. They informe us that unless we liked to hike, there wasn't much to do, besides the horseback riding but that was only for 2 hours. Then they asked if we had sleeping bags from the guesthouse? Confused, they told us that since it got really cold at night, we would need more than the one blanket supplied (we took four more from the other unoccupied beds that night). They too told us the food was not a lot and it was good we brought some (just some yogurts and chips). The kid who came with us had a HUGE box of food and drinks, which really worried us.

So after they left, Tom and myself explored and the other kid (he was from Korea and the owner called him Korea so that will be his name from now on) explored as well. Tom went to the top of a few, including one which had a cave and in the entrance of the cave was a goat carcass, mostly eaten and some large paw prints. Needless to say he didn't stay at that peak very long. I, on the other-hand, decided to wander arpud lower, taking some artistic (i think) pictures of flowers and the hills/mountains. We did that for about 3 ish hours. Then it was lunch. Expecting the worst (I was thinking cheese sandwiches on white bread with MAYBE a piece of lettuce-that was our lunches in India), we were pleasantly surprised to find out lunch was French fries, rice cucumber slices and a fatty ox stew, which was really pretty good, especially after walking around all morning. Another car came and four more people joined us, or rather we joined them as they had been there for the last few days. We talked during lunch about ourselves and where we had been. 3 of them were from France and one was from Poland. Upon knowledge, Tom started speaking Polish and they chatted about stuff. I chatted with the other three a little and learned that one of the guys and the Polish girl were headed to India to work, as he had an French teaching position there. I told him a bit about what I experienced in Kolkatta, about how the people were nice but there is a lot of poverty. I told him that "Slumdog Millionaire" was a good representation. He was surprised, but happy to know beforehand than rather be completely overwhelmed.

We had been told earlier that day that we would horseback ride at 5, so when the two couples said that they were going at 3, I was a little jealous. So at 3 they went down to the horse area and started getting ready for their ride, when the owner told us that we could go too. We went down and he asked us where Korea was. We didnt know, so we did a quick search for him. His wife just pointed us back down, as we didn't know where he was. So we went without him. He was staying a few days anyways so he could go tomorrow. We headed down and I was unsure if I wanted my rain coat on or not, and as I was starting to unzip it, the owner's son told me coat on. "He knows better than I do, as he's always riding here," I thought as I mounted my horse.

Now, Mongolian horses aren't full sized horses, but are a bit bigger than a pony. So when getting on, the guys all looked oversized on them, their legs hanging down low. I got the owners horse, as he wasn't coming, jut his son. His was bigger than the rest, so I felt tall in comparison to everyone (who were also taller than me). We headed off around the park, going nowhere in particular. This was Tom's first time on a horse and his was a frisky one, always wanting to go fast. Mine was pretty mellow, trotting when I asked it too than walking. When we got about halfway, there was big field. Then most of the horses wanted to go fast. Yelling "Chou Chou" helps the horses go. The son had a young 2 year old who wanted to gallop and gallop he did! We were all envious and then Tom whized by me! He was galloping too! I remembered from when I horseback rode that I never galloped, in 2 years because I kept switching trainers or the rings were not big enough. And here's Tom galloping first time! Mind you, they don't tell you how to ride, how to hold the reins, how to hold yourself, or how to place your feet. They literally let you get on and go.

Soon I was galloping too, but my horse was in control, not me, but I got him to slow down as he seemed he wanted to go one way and not the other. Halfway, 4 people switched horses, their slow horses for fast ones, so Tom had a slower ride back. My horse wanted to get back, so I let him canter (not super fast, but not slow) as that was the most comfortable ride for me. I had a big grin on my face when we got back, but as we were dismounting a girl was taking her coat off when I was getting off, and my horse started moving back, as I had a foot in. Thinking I got off wrong, I quickly hopped off and backed away. The owner grabbed his horse from me and started yelling at the girl. "I tell you keep coat on you keep on. I tell you off you keep off. I told you no take off!" he kept yelling and the girl (being french) started talking back in French. He told her "sorry my English no good, but you no listen!" and he threw the saddle on the ground (and by saddle I mean a piece of wood, a pillow, an some straps). Tom and I knew better than to stay and so we walked away, as the son was yelling to his dad in Mongolian.

After the ride, Tom and the couples took a steep hike up, while I decided to meander around the location. I ended up hiking pretty far up- there was some snow on the ground in shaded areas! My hike was laxidasical though, as I would hike to a point, look around, sit and think, then walk to another point. It's nice to have some Alone time, especially when you've been traveling with someone or staying around people for a while.

About a half hour later, dinner was served, similar to before, but with bread and potatoes instead of rice and fries and a different type of stew. It was again, really good after a long horse ride and hike. I was late due to wandering, but the sun was setting over the hills. Tom told me he ran down the mountain so we could watch the sunset together, but when he got down, I wasn't there. But we still got too anyways.

We asked the couples about breakfast and they told us it was just hot water (no tea) and bread and jam. Tom and I unfortunately forgot our tea, but we had bought juice at the store. It started getting dark and with no campfire, we all headed to our yurts (it was about 7-730). Korea, Tom and I stayed in one and the other four in another. Tom and I prepared our bed with blankets (we shared a twin in sake of staying warm) as Korea tended to the small wood stove. When we went outside to brush our teeth, it was an amazing view of the valley as the moon was full. When we walked up to the small hill behind our yurt, you could see the other communities of yurts by the glow of their chimney; just small dots across the landscape.

Then we went to bed, and by golly, it was fracking cold.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mongolia. Day 1

We arrived in Mongolia at 6 in the morning, way before anyone or anything was open. We hitched a ride with Judith and Markus as they had a driver waiting for them. The driver spoke Mongolian, English and German! He also drove a nice car (A Lexus). After the two second trip to drop them off, he brought us in town to a cafe that opened at 7. Tom and him chatted for the brief trip, him telling us about how Mongolia is the richest and poorest country. Rich in resources because when the US dollar is low, they can buy nice clothes, cars, and appliances since they can make lots of money. Poor because so many families are not well educated and that there is still some anger in the people from their past. We didn't really experience the anger directly, thankfully, but we did see a brief outburst. Also, we were told by multiple people that we shouldn't go out late at night because it was dangerous.

This became our first couch surfing experience as well! We stayed with Alex and Matt; Alex having grown up in MA so she knew Vt, and Matt was from England. When we met them 2 hours later (the cafe had Internet, something we had been without for a week) so we got to emailing and facebooking. Tom and I chatted with a business man from Indiana who was visiting a firm about public policy on freedom of press. His meeting had been rescheduled with a Mongolian diplomat so he was drinking coffee and waiting. He recognized my American accent and started chatting. It was a nice way to spend the time while we were waiting.

Once they got there, Alex asked if we minded dogs. Obviously, we don't, so saying so she informed us that they were dog sitting their friends puppy, Mongol. She was sooooo cute! I wish I had taken a picture but when I thought to, my iPod was dead and she was about to leave with her owner. But she was a fat beast- her owner feeding her bread and sausages- that looked like a fluffy German Shepard / buramese mountain dog with floppy ears.

The first bit of the day was relaxing, Tom and I got to sort our stuff and shower while Alex and Matt were out and we watched the puppy. Then when they came back, Tom and I walked into the main part of town and to the square. It was open and had large bronze statues of old kings (Huns). We later went to the natural history museum, which was really sad and the the best part was the giant t-Rex fossil statue they had and the Dino eggs. Was it worth the 6 bucks? Kinda. Would I go back? Only to help them upgrade and better translate their English.

We also went to a large indoor food market with Alex later in the day. It smelled like rotten yogurt (which we got to try those delicases later) and explored. After stopping at the state department store (like a mark &spencers or a super target with food, clothes, electronics etc) and picking up some food for dinner, Tom and I wanted to find a place where we could have a traditional yurt tour, preferably with horseback riding. Alex told us that the UB Guesthouse was next door and we could probably set one up with tem. Low an behold we did!! A 1/day/night tour, staying in a yurt, 3 meals AND with 2 hours of horseback riding for $50 bucks each! we signed up right away.

We went back and helped Alex with dinner and played with the puppy. Matt came back from work for a quick dinner before having to go back again. We hung out after dinner, playing with the dog and using the Internet and when Matt got back home, we had some desserts and went to bed. Tom and I had our ride at 9 the next morning an wanted to be prepared.

And by 9 I mean we had someone knock at the door at 7am to tell us the car was at 8 but if we wanted to have breakfast downstairs, it was ok....

Train number 326- Irkutsk, Russia to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

We slept well that night, and when we awoke we had two new travel companions, Judith and Markus from Germany. They had been doing the same trip and with a month as well for their entire holiday, they were planning on staying in Mongolia, doing a tour of the Gobi desert. It wa fun talking with them, and he was a engineer too so he and Tom talked a lot. There were more people on this carriage, including people who were doing a bike trip from Nice, Fr to Beijing. One of the guys however had a dog bite his leg in Russia, which no one was very helpful about, but he had to get stitches an his leg wrapped. The main exciting part of this trip was the 5 hour stop at the russian border and then another 3 at the Mongolian.*** The woman at the Russian boarder is exactly what one would think of: tall, learn, beautiful, but looked like she could kill you in a second. When she was asking about our passports, Judith had to take her glasses off, Markus had to look her on the eyes, and when she said "I'm taking your passports" Markus yelled back " when do we get them back?" definitely a sort of dominatrix thing was going on with her and it made us laugh and be scared all at once.

But 5 hours at one stop, a small, run-downed town in the middle of nowhere. We had to use up some rubles, so we went to the store and bought vodka, and the market and bought candies, cookies, and sweets. My stomach hurts thinking about it-we ate so much! And then it started raining. With the toilets being out of order since we were stopped, we had to run outside in the rain to the dirty toilets. Well more like a hole, toilets on this side of the world are really a hole with a ceramic foot plate around it for your feet. Women have great thighs over here (including Mong, and China).

After playing some games, wandering around and napping, we got moving again. Then we had our 3 hour stop in Mongolia, exchanged our rubles for Mongolian dollars with women, and headed off. The boarder patrol was much nicer than the Russian ones, smiling, saying please and thank you, and being courteous. Their security was very thorough, even taking off part of the ceiling! When that was done, we fell asleep (it was around 10) as we had a 6 am stop for Ulaanbaatar.

***note*** if you decide to do this trip or something of the likes, take the train to Ulan Ude in Russia, and take the bus to Ulaanbaatar from there and pick up the train for Beijing. Ulan Ude has a starving man who has been alive for a long time and he doesn't eat anything. Also the bus takes an hour or two at the boarder, not 8 hours total.

Tip 4.
Barter exchange rates with people at the boarder, and recount your money.
Tom and I decided to change our Russian rubles at the boarder, even though most places says that you will be ripped off. Kind of the case here. Tom exchanged some of his money and got a wicked amazing price, while I lost a hundred rubles in the switch due to wind an confusion. But overall it was a 32-33 Mongolian dollar to the ruble, about the same as the banks, an if my transaction had been right, it would have been 34 and his about 35-36 per. So ask around, and if you go too high, they'll lower it but if you don't ask, you might get ripped off ( she originally offered 30 per, I said 40, we agreed 34).

Tip 5. Hand sanitizer.
See tip 1. It dries quickly, and keeps your hands clean. Or just use some Russian grade vodka, but why waste that on your hands?

Tip 6. Bring a good book or kindle with books.
It doesn't have to be a kindle, but reading material is nice to have, as it means you don't have to always be socializing in your small carriage. I finished my book, and Tom gave one of his away. Trading books is a great way to find something new without having to pay for one.