This is going to be a short blog. Quiet, I can hear the cheering now!
I left Ulan Ude at 7:30am this morning bound for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia as planned. I went by bus because I’d read that the bus trip takes about 9-10 hours and the trip by train takes 24-26 hours. My assumption was that the train takes so much longer because there’s a lot more people on the train and it takes longer for them to clear Russian and Mongolian immigration. Fewer people on the bus shortens the process. Sounds good to me.
All in all, the process was relatively quick. We had a two immigration officers from Russia come aboard our bus and check our passports before actually reaching the border. All went well. Then we went through the gates and got off the bus and took everything in to have our luggage run through the scanner and show our passports. I was the last one to meet the immigration lady and she had some difficulty reading my passport in the device she put it in. She checked with the other lady in the neighboring booth…she called someone higher up….and she consulted with the other lady again since everyone had cleared but me. I’m beginning to think I may be staying for awhile. She told me my visa was bad…meaning it was faint…and wasn’t being read properly. Luckily, she got it taken care of and I re-boarded the bus. Seems like I stood there for 15 minutes. All of our luggage went back into bottom of the bus.
Two more immigration officers…this time from Mongolia…came on board separately…and checked our passports. We drove about 100 ft. and disembarked from the bus and dragged our luggage into the Mongolian immigration room, had it scanned and met with another immigration lady. No problem this time. Luggage back in the hold and we were off. All of it took about an hour. As we were leaving the Mongolian complex, another immigration officer checked our passports to make sure no one had slipped onto the bus since the last check. Good to go!
Out next stop was about another hundred feet to a little restaurant where we had lunch. When we came off the bus, we were met by a group of ladies with wads of cash wanting to do currency exchanges. I had already converted at an ATM in the customs building and was good to go.
Our next surprise comes thanks to the Mongolian government transportation department. Apparently they’re repairing the highway from the border all the way to Ulaanbaatar. I’m not sure what the distance is but the entire highway was close. It took 10 hours to make the drive from the border to the city. People were weaving all over the place, passing our bus on the right and the left both coming and going. What was to have been a 9-10 hour trip turned into 15 hours. Still faster than the train! Often our bus was bouncing from side to side and going what I would estimate to be 10-25 mph. It was a long slog.
But I’m here.
Here are three images from the trip down today shot through the bus window. Starting with two yurts, home to the nomadic Mongolians, a combine cutting something and a little landscape image.
Well, it wasn’t as short as I had intended!