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The Train Ride from Irkutsk to Ulan Bataar, Crossing From Russia and Into Mongolia

The group with our Honcho in the front. Ready for departure from Irkutsk

Getting on the train in the late evening was great, just getting to bed, wake up and have around a third of the train ride over with in just one sleep. The Mongolian trains were also a bit different, where the toilets were even nicer, the compartments had colorful curtains and table cloths, and the walls were a grayish white instead of a brown wooden color in the Russian trains. There were also outlets for electricity inside every compartments and had no restaurant carriage, but except from that everything was pretty much the same as on the Russian trains.

The one thing that had changed the most was the landscape outside as we were going through the mountains separating Russia and Mongolia, which was much more interesting to watch than the vast Siberian landscape from the last train ride. Once crossed into Mongolia there were also tunnels built through the mountains instead of long rides around all the mountains. Wild cows and horses were also common sights, and all the platforms had hungry stray dogs waiting for the passengers to throw out some food for them.

The border crossing at Naushki Sükhbataar was a long and boring one, with five and a half hours waiting on the Russian side and around three hours at the Mongolian side. The toilets were closed the whole time, and the only option on the Russian side was to pay a few rubles to visit Russias worst bathroom (picture on this link). The border cities on both sides are also quite small, with few restaurant options and shops. Our solution for food was to ask the carriage attendant to borrow her kitchen to make some Pelmeni, a Russian dish which tastes and looks like a mixture of meat filled tortellinis and dumplings.

For the whole two day and two night ride to the Mongolian capital we were also lucky to have the whole carriage to ourselves. With no one but us on it it was also more easy to catch some sleep before waking up and leaving the train at 5 o’clock in the morning in Ulan Bataar, the capitol of Mongolia where we will spend the next five days.