It is 7.25 am in the morning and we have settled once more into our cabin on the Transsiberian Railway, which will bring us in 27 hours to Ulan-Bator in Mongolia. The cabin is not as big as the one from Moscow to Irkutsk but we have a big teapot so we don’t have to get hot water for every cup of tea.
This time we share our cabin with a lovely couple from the Netherlands, Sebastian and Anna, who will go to Nepal after Mongolia, putting new ideas into our heads.
The scenery outside the window could not be more different from the one we saw on our way from Russia to Siberia. Most of the time we drive alongside Lake Baikal, reminding me once more of the sheer size and beauty of this lake.
At 9 pm in the evening we arrive the Russian/Mongolian boarder and I get nervous. Our immigration card had the wrong leaving date on it as we filled it out at the Belarussian boarder thinking we had to put the date of the transit visa on it. I already saw myself thrown into a prison cell with only food and water a la Bridget Jones in Thailand. – Thanks Hollywood for those vivid images in my head. Sebastian was slightly nervous as well as his visa was to expire at midnight meaning he would be illegally in Russian if the train was to be delayed.
The boarder guards came into the train, once again our passports were collected but luckily the lady only cared about the stamp on the immigration card and the visas in the passports. The guys were asked to stand up so she could have a better look and compare the pictures with the faces. When Sebastian stood up she realised she made a mistake as she was about 1.60m and he probably 2m tall, so now she could even harder see his face. When she got onto her tiptoes and still couldn’t really see anything she laughed and asked him to sit down again.
After probably three hours the train left Russia and went into Mongolia where the next boarder check and passport controlls were. As a German I am one of the lucky ones who doesn’t need a visa to visit Mongolia. I was sure of that. The agency I had booked all my visas through had been sure of that. The internet is certain about that. Yet when the border guard checked my passport obviously looking for the visa and comparing my face with the picture in my passport many times I suddenly had doubts. And by looking at Mikes face I could read he suddenly was thinking the same.
In the end everything was fine, Sebastian had left the country just in time, our immigration cards weren’t much of an issue and I really didn’t need visa. The guards who searched our cabin even brought a dog. I almost asked if I could touch it but caught myself just as it might had been a little inappropriate.
Now we are at Sunpath Hostel in Ulan-Bator for the next two days until we’ll head off into the Gobi Desert to spend six days without running water and electricity, sleeping in gers and meeting nomadic families. I am once more intrigued by what this new country has to offer.