Refreshingly our train from Irkutsk to Ulan Bator was full of tourists! Yay! We could speak English freely – it was great! Quite a few Dutch, 2 Aussies and a couple from Finland. The trip went quickly as we all could have a proper chat together.
We were sharing a kupe with a Dutch guy called Roy – top bloke.
The border crossing from Russia to Mongolia was a very long drawn out process. We were at the station for 5 hours, with various police/border control officers coming on and checking passports/kupes/and even some people’s luggague. They were strict – no smiles, and had a very thorough check of your picture on your passport and your face – they really LOOKED at you. Paul wasn’t looking at her properly and she demanded him to look at her. Pretty intense! At least all the tourists were in the same boat and we were comparing stories after.
So, after hours of waiting/scrutiny we had the same 30 minutes later at the Mongolian border….but it was a quicker and more friendly process!
We arrived in the capitol of Mongolia, Ulan Bator, at 6am on the 16th.
That day we ventured out in the coldest temperatures i have ever experienced (UB is the coldest capitol in the world)….it was -17c/-20c. I have decided my poor body cannot cope with these temperatures….i now have 3 pairs of gloves on, 2 pairs of thick socks, 2 underlayers under my trousers, and 2 hoodies on including my base layer & jacket. My fingers just cannot cope though even with 3 pairs of gloves, they become so painful i have to start clapping my hands together and making fists to keep the blood pumping! Paul meanwhile is still on 1 pair of gloves!!! He’s a machine!
We visited the monestery with 3 other guys from our hostel – Dutch Roy, English Alex & South American Enrique.
The monestery and grounds were very grand, & there was a wedding party having photos taking by a statue which gives luck to newly weds.
UB as a city is completley manic. The traffic is terrible as there is no metro/tube. The pavements are like an ice rink so i am constantly walking around like an old woman, zebra crossings are just a decoration on the road, and the buildings have a very Soviat feel to them. I must say it isn’t a beautiful city & it isn’t appealing.
We booked a nights stay at a gert which was just fantastic. The 5 of us left early on the 17th, had a tour of the huge and impressive Chenggis Khaan statue, and climbed the many stairs to the top – the view was pretty epic. The museum inside the statue was very interesting, full of information and artificates which have been found from the time of the mighty Khaan.
Next stop was Turtle Rock – self explanatory!
We arrived at our gert that afternoon, it was very cosy, and we had our wood burner in there to keep us warm.
We went for a trekk around the area, met the cows, and back in time for lunch which was cooked for us by our Nomad family (who were incrediabley lovely people) – dumplings. Very tasty!
We were taken out on horses, unfortunately it wasn’t the riding expereince i had hoped for as it was very tame, but i honestly don’t think my fingers could have taken anymore – they felt like they were going to fall off!
Mongolian horses are hardy beasts – and fiesty too!
The toilet deserves a mention here – it was a wooden shack which had a planked area in which in the middle was a hole. And a deep pit beneath! It didn’t smell too bad as everything is frozen!
The first time a visited it i approached apprehensively….opened the door, and a bloody bird darted out and flew into my face! Naturally i screamed (it made me jump!!) which the guys found amusing.
Our dinner was a type of noodle broth, and we spent the evening playing cards which was great.
Paul and i slept like babies – it’s so nice not to hear anything except the odd ‘mooo’ and the birds.
Today (18th) is our last day in Mongolia, and on returning from the gert camp Paul and i have had a wonder around the city and checked out the central square with a Khaan equestrian statue.
We are very much looking forward to China now – our train leaves early tomorrow morning, and on the 20th we arrive in Beijing. Happily the temperatures there are more like a British winter – and this excites me. I am just too cold here in Mongolia!
Paul and i do think we’d like to return though, during thier summer, and do a horse riding tour, as the Mongolian countryside is amazing.