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TOWARDS THE RISING SUN

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I decided to make it from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar by train. If I'm in Siberia I have to experience at least a little part of transsiberian railway. Train looks like on tho photo below left. And a board inside of a station like on the right photo :) Why am I showing this? The second from bottom is the one I borded. But I want to show the first one from bottom - delayed 7 hours. Which is not even that bad, when you know that the whole journey from Vladivostok to Moscow takes 6 days :)

 

However the direct ticket from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar is not cheap. It's expensive because the russian train goes only to the border. Then they push three cars to mongolian side and connect them to mongolian train. So only three cars actually go the whole distance and they are 2nd class. It means more expensive. You can buy those tickets online for 170€ and they are sold out for more than a month in advance. This is more than I spent for the whole month of traveling including all food and accomodation. This option obviously didn't do for me.
So, I bought only a ticket to Naushki (the last stop before the border) in 5th class and payed 846 rubels (11.50€). On the photo below left you can see how the 5th class looks like. Not that bad, right? The ride took the whole night and the next morning. You have a nice view through the window, but the landscape doesn't change much from begining until the end. 

 

Than I took a cab to road border at Kyahta - 200 rubels (2.70€). And another 200 rubels for crossing the border, plus 2000 mongolian tugriks (90 cents) for a ride to the closest railway station - Sukhebaatar. I had to wait there until they managed all the complications with changing the train cars. And after 4 hours I boarded mongolian train. So, I wasn't on the same train as before, but I was on the train where I would be if I would make the whole distance from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar in one piece. Ticket from Sukhebaatar to Ulaanbaatar costs around 20,000 tugriks (cca. 9€). But I was lucky. Already in Naushki I met a girl, whose sister was a conductor on that same train. I didn't have to pay for the last part of the journey. Total expenses were less than 18€ (or 27€ if I'd had to pay the last part). But in both cases it is a much different than 170€, right? :)

So, Ulaanbaatar - totaly western capital in the middle of completelly different surroundings. Until recent, the mongolian hero no. 1 was Sukhebaatar - the leader of comunist revolution which liberated Mongolia from China. There is a town I already mentioned that carries his name. And the main square in Ulaanbaatar was also named after him. However in 1991 Mongolia became democratic country and from then on Sukhebaatar is not so popular any more. New mongolian idol became Chinggis Khaan - great conqueror from 1000 years ago. Today he has a status of a god in Mongolia, but they look at him as the most cruel tiran in all surrounding countries. Well Sukhebaatar's square was renamed in Chinggis Khaan's. You can find vodka named Chinggis Khann, and beer, steets, pubs, hotels, even pasta... just anything you can imagine. Part of square mentioned is on the photo below left and the vodka on the right.

 

In my opinion, the city doesn't have much to offer. If we're talking about some attractions is the only one worth visit the palace of Bogd Khaan -  the last mongolian leader before revolution. On the photo below right we can notice strong chinese influence from that period.

 

Something more about th atmosphere on the streets:

 

But if UB (local people actually call it that way) doesn't have much to offer, you can find only 50km east of the city a nice national park called Gorkhi Terelj.

 

Park symbol is Turtle Rock (below left). It should look like a turtle. Use some imagination.

 

But I recommend, to use the chance for some horse ridding in endless meadows (if you've never rode before don't worry. It was the first time for me too :D) or take a lunch in mongolian ger (tents that are still more common than a regular houses in Mongolia.)

 

Talking about food, you have to try Buzy (below left), which I already mentioned in an article about Irkutsk. Mongolians claim them as their traditional dish. But in Buriatiya (republic in Russia) they also claim them for themselves. Buriats are anyway some sort of descadents of Mongolians.
On the right photo is Hushur. This is beef or mixed minced meat (and not only lamb as it's usual here) in very thin dough. It's fried and fat but honestly speaking, it's the best thing I tried in Mongolia.

 

And only a few kilometers farther than the park there is a huge statue of Chinggis Khaan. That day there was a bikers party around it :)

But more about experiencing mongolian life outside of the big city is following in the next article...



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