Wednesday, 14 September 2011


Leaving Russia was problem free although very protracted & it took a 5 hour wait at the border before passports were returned - but just stayed on the train so no bother. A few miles further on the Mongolian's arrived at 1.30am after which I went to sleep & the carriage attendant collected my passport & gave it to me the next day.

The morning landscape was pure Steppes - rolling grassland & a vast sky is full of what look like swallows. Its cattle country and early morning herders on small ponys are driving cattle to new pastures. Traditional Gers dot the landscape & in small villages children with knapsacks & bags can be seen, presumably leaving for school.

Ulan Baator has vast sprawling industrial suburbs, belching chimney stacks, newish & derelict factories & most noticable is the predominance of Chinese shipping containers & commercial international signage.

The strangest thing is that Ulan Baator (the capital of what the Chinese still call Outer Mongolia, ie the back of beyond) is more westernised than the slick cities of Moscow & St Petersburg. English language has become the semi-compulsory second language in school so lots of people have some facility.

Generally the Mongolian's smile more readily than the Russian's. Of course people stare at you as an unsual foreigner but it seems to be from curiosity & intrigue; children often say 'Hello' & then snigger, probably seeing us as big-nosed Coco the Clown type figures - but its fun & amusing & in no way uncomfortable.

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