Mongolia Diary x Ulan Bator : Chuggin' down the track

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Before this trip began, my relatives were all worried mainly on the train rides. Why? They’ve read quite an impressive amount of reviews, mostly average to poor ratings. I was with them until one day I couldn’t read any more links that were emailed to me, again on another review from a paranoid traveller. 

Of course, if you’ve been around the world especially when you can lavish on better transportation, comfortable hotels and top-notch ristorante, hands down you would have higher expectations. But since I’ve travelled in shoddier conditions, I will share my honest experience.

We booked first-class where 2 person shares one berth. It was small but comfortable even if you try to fit another person in. There is sufficient space underneath the bunk beds for suitcases. I have one 110cm x 60cm suitcase and a 25 liters backpack with me for this one-month trip. So pack light if you want extra space! 

The system in the ride is simple and organized. Clean bed sheet and duvet covers are provided. Plug point for device charging are available (but not all of them are functioning). Basic toiletries are provided and shared shower room are available for first-class. Of course that means it is pretty much just a teeny basin with an attached shower head. Toilets are available in each carriage and they are cleaned every few hours. Hot water dispenser is available at all time. Good news for coffee addicts!

We booked our train tour via GoRussia, where meals are included. Otherwise, you could get pretty decent train meals from the food carriage. I like to go there just because the windows are cleaner and that I could peep whether they have restocked the chocolates over the counter. Do bring your own snacks, collapsible cup/bowl and cutleries. A good book also comes in handy if you want to kill some time (or if you are socially awkward).

In short, this train is pretty amazing. Believe me even when you book an average berth, it is not that bad. Perhaps smaller space because you have to share with 3 other person but other than that, it’s the same.

It took us 27 hours on the train from Beijing – Ulan Bator. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the local guide. The weather was chilly and it began to pour just after we got into the van.

Chuna, the 20-year old guide along with the driver took us straight to the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue. There, we had a wholesome meal before heading to the Museum of Bronze Age, Iongnu Empire, and Great Mongol Empire. Meat is the staple food for the Mongolians. If you are a vegetarian or gluten-intolerant, do consider alternative meals especially when you are visiting during winter. I’m craving a little for that gravy in that picture right now!

Before the dusk wiped out the skies, I realize how bare the pastures of Mongolia are. And to think of one living out there must be so lonely. The locals here either run their own plantation at the back of their house or cow-sheep-lamb-horse business.

I knew it was only my first day and I couldn’t get over how in love I am with the outskirts of this place.

Find out what made my stay at Mongolia even more memorable next!

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