Where Russia stops feeling Russian.
The journey from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude is around eight hours and is perhaps the most scenic across the Trans-Siberian route. It winds along a route with Lake Baikal on one side and mountains on the other, and the time flies by.
Arriving early evening, I had plans for my short stopover in Ulan-Ude before transferring to the Trans-Mongolian line the following morning. On the north side of the city there’s the Ivolginsky Datsan temple, which is found via a fairly lengthy walk but which gives a chance to see other parts of Ulan-Ude with a great view back over the city.
However, unfortunately I had somehow managed to put my back out. The hobble from the train station to the hotel felt a lot longer than I had expected from the map, and I saw less of Ulan-Ude than I had wanted to.
Like other cities I had visited in Russia, there was a prominent Lenin monument which in this case was a bizarre, giant head. Aside from this, Ulan-Ude is where Russia started to feel less like Russia and more like it’s neighbouring Asian countries. In particular, Mongolia.
My hotel was at a nice spot with a reasonable view over the town from around the corner, next to a busy area with the musical fountains and with a restaurant which gave me my first taste of Mongolian food. And it was delicious.
The return hobble to the railway station the following morning saw me arrive ten minutes before departure. This is apparently late, and I was only allowed to board after being shouted at in Russian. It was amazing how little I cared when I couldn’t understand the language. Leaving Ulan-Ude, my time in Russia was drawing to an end.