Train Journey 3 – Irkutsk to Ulan Bator

Day 11:
27.10.2009 (Tuesday)

We woke up much later than usual today and was surprised to see that it was snowing. Dav was quite excited to see the snow. The day before he was already playing with the remains of snow on the road when we were walking around. We got quite worried when we noticed the snow was falling heavily because we were not sure how it’s going to affect our journey back to Irkutsk. So we decided to head back early.

Luckily the snow fall didnt affect our journey back to town. It just took us longer to reach. When we reached, it was quite cold. We decided to walk around Central Market, this time with our backpacks and had lunch. After that it was more walking. After a while, we noticed we have been walking around in -5 degrees weather!

As our train only departs at 2130, we still had lots of time to kill. So we started looking for an internet cafe and settled ourselves in the cafe until we felt it was time to get to the train station. Thanks to iPhone we managed to checked our emails, chat with friends and catch up on the latest news. When it was time to leave, we stopped by a grocery store to buy snacks to be taken onto the train.

For the next train journey we were taking an old train and we shared the berth with 2 Russian ladies. Luckily one of them speaks some English. But they were not very talkative. So the atmosphere is quite different this time. It felt difficult to relate or engage them to talk. I tried for a while but gave up. I just went back to reading my books.

Day 12:
28.10.2009 (Wednesday)

Woke up this morning with our travelling companions gone. Initially we thought we had the whole berth to ourselves but we were wrong. An American traveller joined us but only for a few minutes. He wanted to get away from his travelling companion and thus found an empty berth to go to. Unfortunately for him, our carriage attendant kicked him out and asked him to go back to his assigned berth. Then several minutes later, we were asked to change berth. We had to gather all our stuff and move to another berth.

By now, the whole berth only consists of travelers. There were Americans, French and Aussies. Everyone was quite friendly and started chatting. We reached the Russian border town at about 1pm and were told that border control officer will only board the train for border crossing processing at 4pm!

We were told that we can get off the train and walk around the platform and town. But we read in the guide that it is not advisable to do that. But most people did that except for me. Dav went down to get some food as there is no restaurant carriage for this train route. So it is important to replenish our food supplies.

One of the most ‘difficult’ thing to endure during this waiting period is the fact that the train toilet is locked. Of course there is always the option to go to the platform and search for a toilet but that is so troublesome. So we tried not to eat or drink too much water, making sure that we dont need to go to the toilet. I know it sounded quite ridiculous but it was not that bad.

So the passport control checking started around 4pm. Besides checking the passport, we also have to go through custom check. So we didnt leave the Russian border until after 3 hours! Then next we have to go through the same process at the Mongolian border. That process took another 2 hours and the train didnt depart until another hour.

All in all, we didnt go to toilet for freaking 7 hours!

The border crossing process was relatively easy. There is no problems, just a lot of waiting time. We also saw lots of Mongolian boarded the train with lots of luggage until they had no space for their luggage and had to store them in the smoking room (located in between 2 carriages) and some even had to sit outside the toilet. We suspect they could be traders carrying Russian goods into Mongolia for sale because when we reached Mongolia, they were all gone.

After all the border crossing, we started packing our bags as we’ll be arriving the following morning at 0700. For tonight, we had the whole berth to ourselves. So we could do whatever we wanted not having to worry.

We couldn’t believe that we have completed our journey in Russia and only have another 1.5 weeks left in our holiday.

Click to read on: Ulan Bator


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