Sunday, 1 June 2008

Irkutsk & Mongolia by train

Иркутск & Монголия поездом
Distance traveled: 8015 km

One of the interesting thing about traveling over land is the gradual transformation you get to see, the further east I'm heading, the more Asians on the streets. And there certainly was quite a few Asians on the dusty sidewalks of Irkutsk. A run down city, that certainly doesn't seem to have a great deal of things going for it. Another thing I've noticed, is that on the other side of the dusty sidewalks - out on the street things are getting profoundly more Asian too - the Buses running in Irkutsk all seem to come from Korea - which is pretty easy to tell since they still have Korean advertisements on the side, and the prices on the side of the door is quoted in Korean Won. Also, half of the carpool seems to have been imported from Japan, since just about half the carpool in Irkutsk are with left hand drive - weird stuff! And all the fruits and vegetables here are Chinese.

Anyway, it is a pretty drab city as i said, so not much to tell... we cooked a lovely dinner ourselves at the hostels kitchen, after buying fresh groceries at the market, and then we had a party in the rather small kitchen, we all got pretty drunk - and Ben & Emma (whom i met on Olkhon) almost missed their train the next morning :-)

Anyway, following night i had a train at 5.13 in the morning to Ulaan Bataar in Mongolia, which was a real pain, but I got on it alright. Train turned out to be Chinese so the conductor (or Provodnitza as i seem to have adapted in my language) of my carriage was Chinese, this fact alone, made him infinitely more polite and service minded than his Russian counterparts. He even spoke a few words of English.

The border crossing between Russia and Mongolia, turned out to be something like the worst experience of the trip, not so much because of the border formalities themselves, which went surprisingly smooth, 5 hours at the Russian checkpoint (a full five hours quicker than Ben & Emma's border crossing into Russia) and half an hour at the Mongolian counterpart.

No, the thing was that I'd been having a few beers at the platform, when we were all suddenly asked to board the train, i really needed a toilet, but the toilet was closed and there was not a darn thing to be done about it! Imagine you're at a party, and are chatting to this really nice girl or guy, it's going really well, so you hold of going to the toilet, until the last possible minute, and you end up in a queue for 10 minutes - right? hold that feeling...

And add another 3 full hours!!!!!

Argh, that was a bad one, anyway my bladder held up for the challenge, and now i'm in Ganas Ger in UB!

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