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Irkutsk to Ulaanbaator

sunny 14 °C

Irkutsk to Ulan Bator – 5th-7th October

When I first started thinking of doing the Trans-Siberian I was told of the ‘Vodka Train’. So I went on their website and checked it out, they advertised the Trans-Siberian and said that you would get the Real Russian experience…. So I called them up to find out a little more… The phone was answered by some highly energetic and animated 18-30 holiday con-artist who had probably never even left his native hood. I soon got the gist of what the silly punk was saying…. For £2k they would buy my train tickets for me and it was “guaranteed” it would be a party train….. you would swig vodka with the Russian locals and you would have the complete lifetime experience that your dull miserable life had been missing all these years….. So what was I waiting for, make my life complete please punk…..?

I hung up.

I wasn’t going to take any sales pitch and I wasn’t going to go on any party train that had been prearranged with some Mickey Mouse tour operator, and as for £2k…. well, I wasn’t going to pay that.

The Trans-Siberian you must remember is a domestic train line, local people use it to get from A to B, it is not exclusively for tourists, most of the journeys I have travelled on, tourists have been a rarity, which is ideal…. To get the Real Russian experience you try and mix with the locals and do not travel in a bubble of other Europeans and Fat Americans.

So about 5 hours before the train took off I booked the journey to Ulan Bator, I was looking forward to seeing something other than Russian hostility and wanted to get out into Outer Mongolia before it turned bitter cold. I had made the decision that I was not going to go to Olkon island on Lake Baikal which was a place I really wanted to visit, but since it was out of season I could not get a boat from Listvyanka which is where I had happened to be, so I would have had to return to Irkutsk twice to do it and although Irkutsk was a relatively nice city, I didn’t want to spend another 2 or 3 nights there to do the island.

The journey sorted out my accommodation problems as I didn’t have any for that night as well….

The train I was pleased to see that it was one of the more luxury cabins that I had been on, fairly modern with a TV in each compartment, comfortable beds, newer and clean drapes on the windows and a Semovar that looked that it had been bought in the 21st Century.
As we all began to board I realised that there seemed to be quite a few Europeans on this train carriage, more than I have seen before on my travels. The Russians must have put all the tourists together in one carriage to keep them away from the locals, I cant say I was best pleased especially as all of the other carriages on the train were practically empty… (Only after thinking about it now it could be because the Russians hardly travel outside of their region nevermind their country.)

So I was with 3 German guys, one of which had won bronze medal at Judo at the Athens Olympic games, he had arms like Kebab Meat on a stick, did he know I was a novice at Thai-boxing???

The train set off and then the 1litre cans of beer got cracked open, I had had an episode in Irkutsk train station (earlier blog) where the police had tried to physically drag me off somewhere for trying to plug my laptop into a socket in the train station, so I wanted a beer, I needed to calm my nerves which were totally wrecked at this point.

The carriage I was on was full of those people who move around the world in a big tourist bubble, and I had joined them….. These tourist hobos were from Denmark, Germany, Australia, Belgium and I guess plus one from England!!…..

When the tourist bubble went to sleep it was just getting started in my cabin, oh yes, I was buzzing about that…… Jimmy Cranky from Denmark invited herself in and started taking pictures of everybody, she was followed in by a well-manicured Lionel Richie, then a crack smoking Les Dennis stumbled in…. This was fantastic…. I was crushed into the corner of 4-berth cabin with 3 Z-List Celebrity lookalikes and 3 moronic Germans, I was shortly without a beer and wanting to crawl into my top bunk bed and sleep. It was only when Ric Waller stood at the entrance to the cabin to try and get in I almost went in to anaphylactic shock. My interest level at this point was zero. “One in one out” I said as I stood up to let the horizontally challenged party participant squeeze into the room before grabbing a pillow and finding a spare bed to kip on. The party apparently went on for a while, I'm glad I stayed out of it, Les was still cut up about his split with Amanda Holden and got the crack pipe out, Ric Waller took a hit and went loopy, he started imitating Jean Claude Van Damme and put poor old Lionel in a head lock, right in the middle of his performance for the Germans of his all time classic “Guten-Tag aka Hello”

Weirdo’s, I much prefer mixing it with the Russians, even the hostile ones are better company than this bunch…..



Article By David Beattie of Rounton Coffee

Posted by beatski 23:14 Archived in Russia

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