Saturday, October 6, 2012

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.

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