Trans-Siberian Railway: Ulan Bataar to the Russian Borderby leelefever (General | bordercrossing | customs | mongolia | oops | russia | train | trans-siberian | transportation)
I boarded the train in Ulan Battar with what I figured were blisters on my behind from hours of riding Mongolian horses on the steppe. The horses and saddle were a bit too small for a western butt like mine. Sachi, the lucky, found that a couple of layers of skin had been worn away. This is not a good way to start a two day train ride.
From the moment we stepped on the train, we were focused on the upcoming border ordeal with
We knew we were supposed to arrive at the border at so we both got up at to do what we could in the last minutes of the unlocked toilet. The train arrived, the toilets were locked and we were left alone for 4 hours until , when the wait began for the border guards to arrive and take our passports for processing.
For the entire train journey to this point, we operated only in the moment - by necessity. There was no train itinerary and the attendants only communicated in very basic terms. So we sat and waited and looked for our fellow passengers to appear on the platform - a sure sign that we can leave the train for a brief moment. Other than that we just asked "Can we get off?" and then try to figure out if the answer was a “yes” or "no”. Our fellow Western travelers were in a similar predicament.
The border crossing into
Just before stopping at customs an Asian women entered our berth and hung a jacket on a hook and walked away as if we would be happy to carry the jacket with us through customs. Sachi promptly hung it outside where she collected it quickly. Shaaah, as if.
Counting the arrival at the Mongolian border and 2 hours of free time on the Russian side, the ordeal did take about 11 hours and no plastic bottles were needed. However, I will never forget an event just before departure that almost made me mess my pants. A group of 5 of us left the train station to visit a shop about 500 yards from the station and we left with over an hour before our departure time. Our quest was successful and we came back to the station with vodka bottles in hand - but something important was missing. Our train was not sight. We rushed up to the platform and looked around as if it might be camouflaged somehow - but no train was on track number 2. Soon after we also realized that all five of us lacked any necessary means to catch another train. We had all left for the store without a passport, train ticket, extra money or credit cards. For a fleeting moment, our world and prospects for recovery seemed quite bleak and I wondered how I would be reunited with Sachi, clearly on her way into