After being convinced by the hostel owner in Irkust that Ulan-Ude was worth seeing, we booked the only hostel in the town. We arrived to the train station in mid-afternoon and went to the service center to get our ticket to Mongolia. Apparently you can’t buy that ticket until the day before you want to leave – the booking agents, even though they work for the train, don’t know how many seats are available. Someone told us that they keep the seats open for people coming from Moscow because they spend the most money.
So, after being stood up by the hostel pickup service, we hopped in a cab and went to the hostel. After traveling for over a month, this was our first time in a cab. Not bad. What was bad, was that “in the town” turned out to be a town outside the town, down the road from another town.
We drove way out of the city into this little community of wood houses, with fenced in gardens, dirt roads with more cows then street names. The driver finally found the house and we got out and was welcomed by a cow across the street mooing. I secretly hoped he might be what was for dinner… this place did seem like the outback and all.
The next day we went out to the Ethnographic Museum – a open-air museum dedicated to Siberian architecture and history. It also had a little zoo with things like brown bears, tigers, reindeer and wild boars. This zoo was terrible. The bears keep slipping around in their own waste while trying to get parts of apples that people were throwing at them. And the tiger had a face that said, dude, I’ll give you 1000 Rubles if you let me at that elk across the way. There was also an crossbow range and mini-gocarts near the shamanism tents.
The next day we got our Mongolian tickets the grabbed some cabbage pies for lunch and headed out to a monistairy that was the center of Siberian Buddisam. It was about 20 miles out of town in a grassy field and had a few temples and some monks. The guidebook said to walk clockwise around the area, always keeping your right shoulder towards the main temple. We loved how peaceful it was until a family showed up and a woman on her cell phone tossed some money at the prayer wheel and gave it a whirl. We also saw monks walking with their shoulders pointing where every they wanted.
The next morning a taxi picked us up – along with another couple who was on our train, and in the same hostel in Ulaanbaatar – at 5:20am to take us to the train station on time. We were sad to say goodbye to Russia.