As first-class train tickets from Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia to Ulan Ude, Russia were about $20 more expensive than second class, we decided to go for luxury again. I can’t honestly say that the cabin was overly nice, but at least it was ours, and that made it just that little bit more comfortable for the eighteen and a half hours we were on it.
We were both a little sad to be leaving Mongolia but at the same time excited to be entering Russia and starting again in a new country. I watched out the window as Ulaan Baatar faded away behind us and we were back in green hill territory, while John used the time to catch up on some TV shows he’d downloaded. The landscape we sped through reminded us of our tour, and I wished we’d been able to open the windows to get a last breath of Mongolian air and take a few photos of the sunset without the filthy windows in the way. Soon it was dark, and it didn’t matter what was outside as we couldn’t see it anyway.
Once again, crossing the border seemed to take a ridiculous amount of time but at least the train didn’t need the bogies changed again to fit the Russian rail gauge! Still, it took almost three hours and by the time they’d checked the cabin over and over again [they were quite friendly which was a surprise – we’d been warned about unhelpful and unfriendly Russians!] we got our passports back and were allowed to get off the train briefly. By this time it was midnight and we’d been on the train for quite some time! It was soon time for some sleep.
The train rolled into Ulan Ude rather early in the morning, and fortunately it was only a short walk to our hostel. Checking in early, we both decided that a few more hours of sleep were necessary before heading out to explore the town – and finding an ATM for some roubles. It’s hard to buy lunch without any local currency!