Never did it crossed my mind that I would be visiting Mongolia via the Trans Siberian Railway. Second leg of the ride and this time it was 27 hours from Beijing to the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, UB. We departed Beijing Railway station at 1120am and arrived UB at 1520pm.
” Mongolia is truly one of the world’s last undiscovered travel destinations and the safest country to visit. As a tremendous destination to experience the outdoors, Mongolia also boasts of unique history dating back to the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. Simply put, it is a land of adventure, horses, nomads, and blue sky.” – Discover Mongolia.
First train ride of the 7,165 km journey and I couldn’t be more excited. Since there was no shower on the train, I spent the day catching up on sleep, updating my travel journal, chatting with my cabin-mates and watching the change of scenery.
We arrived at the China-Mongolia border checkpoint at midnight. Here, officers from both countries will do their rounds and have your passport stamped. The entire process took a couple of hours and we were not allowed to leave our cabins. Pretty much lockdown somewhere between China and Mongolia. At this point of time, the washroom (“туалет” in Russian) will be locked and it is advisable to do your business 20 minutes before the train stops. Once the officials were done with their border checks, we had to change the wheels for the Mongolian rails before continuing on our journey. I dozed off and woke up at the sound of changing wheels just to capture this shot.
The next morning, I woke up and decided to have breakfast at the Mongolia dining cart. The interior gave me a good glimpse of what to expect in UB. The weather couldn’t be more perfect when we arrived in UB. It was about 15 degrees and that was a huge change coming from Beijing. It was my lucky day and I had a room to myself this time. We checked into J Hotel and Marichka, my tour manager gave us a city map – marked with places of interest. I love how everything is pretty much situated in the city and well within walking distances.
Prior to dinner, we visited the Mongolian folk and cultural show, Tumen Ekh. “Tumen Ekh” is one of the best national song and dance ensembles in Mongolia. Must watch! The ensemble gives its performances in a yurt-like palace of ancient Mongolian Khans, without any microphone or technical support. They performed folk songs, traditional music instruments, khuumii (throat) singing, shaman dance, and religious mask dance. We also had the opportunity to watch a contortionist in action. It was pretty mind blowing!
Hunger called for some good Mongolian food. I’ve been told that Mongolia is pretty much all about their grilled meat and I was looking forward to try some. We walked towards the city centre and into a local franchise restaurant, ‘Modern Nomads’. They had an extensive menu and I decided to go for the grilled meat platter for sharing. It wasn’t the best meal by far but it was acceptable. I washed it all down with a nice 1 litre Mongolian beer. The beer did not disappoint for sure!
Done and dusted for Day 1. It was a pleasant evening. Next up, Chinggis Khan Statue and Terelj National Park visits !