Well after surviving my first night on the train from Beijing to Ulan Baatar including a lovely 5 hour border crossing. Talk about taking their time!
Overall it was 30 hours but managed to survive pretty well, even though the cabin beds were rock hard and pillows could be best described as being as soft of concrete. 2 meals were included on the trip, both were meatballs but one was served with celery and one with cabbage. Talk about variety! Tell you what though, trying to eat celery bits with chopsticks is almost impossible!
On arrival at Ulan Baatar, the best way to describe the city, is that it looked like a dump. Massive holes in the roads and footpaths, weird construction happening all over the place. Seriously, it looks a place you wouldn’t send your worst enemy to.
Once I got over the whole ugliness of the place, it really wasn’t that bad. The people were generally pretty nice and once you saw the inside of buildings you wouldn’t have realised that the place looked like a war torn city.
Saw an exhibition of Throat Singing and other Mongol Cultures on one night. It is a weird noise that is generated and a lot of their spoken language is said from the throat, so it is virtually impossible for some who is not of Mongolian descent to speak the language.
The next day we went out with our awesome hosts Toya & Nemo (thats what he called himself) to a traditional Ger Camp. Its basically like living in a felt tent that is heated on the inside by a wood fire. It was so hot that night that even though it was -5 degrees outside, it would have been about 30 degrees plus on the inside. So stifling. Given the only water one can drink out here is bottled, when you get hot at night it is not easy to re-hydrate oneself.
The Ger Camp was located in the Terelj National Park. Its a pretty barren place but has a lot of beauty within it, not too mention unique rock formations, yaks and the odd river.
The following day I was feeling sick as dog. I think it had a lot to do with the heat within the Ger and also being somewhat dehydrated. By the time we got back to Ulan Baatar, I was ready to pass out and our beloved leader (Scott) recommended I just go to bed and sleep for the remainder of the day, which I duly did. I missed out on doing some volunteering at a local Ger District within the city teaching english but the way I felt it probably would have exhausted me completely.
After a solid day and night’s sleep, we headed off to a Monastery to see some temples and hear the monks sing. Unfortunately this was not a pleasant experience for me as I was pick pocketed of my camera, whilst making a small donation to the monastery. Last time I try to be a good samaritan! Spent most the remaining part of the day, trying to purchase a camera equal to what I had stolen but to no avail. Had to settle for something less (2 models under what I had). Most annoying is that I lost a weeks worth of photos from China and Mongolia which I wont see again. Sure I will copies of other peoples, but it wont be the same.
On that note, trying to obtain a police report in Mongolia is quite difficult and through the pigeon Mongolian that Scott knew and using a similar camera of a fellow traveller we managed to get what was needed for insurance purposes, or so we hope!!
That night we headed back to the train, farewelled Toya & Nemo and commenced our journey onto Russia, well the siberian end of the country. This journey is to take 2 nights. Oh the joy of more hard beds and concrete like pillows in a confined environment, not to mention a border crossing that will be anything up to 10 hours in length!
** Many thanks to Colin Russell for providing me photos to remember this part of my journey.