Monday, June 27, 2005

Into Mongolia

Well, after a long 2 days of travel we have finally arrived in Ulaan Baatar. To get out of Beijing we had to take an overnight sleeper bus (13-15hrs) to the border town Erlian. And what fun it was. All the trains to Mongolia were booked for the next couple of weeks (this is the busiest season for Mongolia and there aren't many connections) so we decided to wing it and try to catch a bus by showing up at the station a few hours early and buying a ticket for that day. We got tickets, there happened to be 2 buses at the same time but the catch was that we would have to split up 2 and 2 and sleep on the floor in the front where the spare drivers normally sleep. What the hell right? Bre and I got lucky because we managed to get beds somehow in our bus but mom and Savannah had to "sleep" on the floor with 2 other people as well. And despite leaving only 10 minutes apart Bre and I arrived almost 2 hrs later than them. Mom was starting to worry.
We managed to meet some very nice Mongolians on the bus who then helped us get across the border and get train tickets from there to Ulaan Baatar (UB), another 16 1/2 hrs on the train. At least we all had beds that night!!! Just got into UB and must say things are so different here than in China. Don't know what it is exactly yet because it still looks like chaos but seems nicer somehow. The landscape looks like the middle of nowhere and after hours and hours of looking at it you are sure that that's where you are. I thought I'd seen middle of nowhere before and there are a lot of contenders out there but I think this takes the cake. There is nothing. Flat but no life, not desert but just nothing except the odd clump of horses (like seeing cows out the car window at home) or a few camels running around. But the sunrise was amazing. UB has about 1 million people so is small by Chinese standards and has a totally different look. Definately a noticeable Russian influence here, more so than a Chinese one (we have yet to meet a Mongolian that likes the Chinese). There is more litter here but at least the sky is blue and we can breathe again. Food and shops are Russian style and everything is written in cyrillic. Basic stuff still really cheap but the tours aren't. Mom has finally become a millionaire after a visit to the bank. Unfortunately I don't think a million Togrogs will get us very far. The rate is about 1000T to the $.
We have just developed a wild and crazy itinerary so you guys won't hear from us again for a while (but the stories should be good when we get back) as we are leaving tomorrow morning in a Russian jeep for a 12 day tour to the north and central regions of Mongolia. Then we will get back here to UB for a few days to watch the Naadam festival before heading out once again for a week to the Gobi desert. Then we will head to Russia. Should be fun but now we need to go shopping for our trip.


At 1:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys are moving around too fast. Slow down or else I won't have enough cash when you arrive at Thailand.

At 10:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great journal of your adventures so far. David and I are thoroughly enjoying them. Please be careful on your new trip ok.
Just to let you know that Mom-Gail is in the hospital with blood clots in her lungs. She has been better. Her lupus is a good cover up for other problems. We shall say hi for you ok.....God bless you all......Love Ronna&David


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