Russia - Mongolia Border
(Reading, England, UK)
Russia - Mongolia Border Crossing
Another two days on the train brought us to the Mongolian capital. The scenery on the Russian side of the border still consisted almost exclusively of birch trees. We had a night on the train, and arrived at the border on a nice sunny day. At the border the train stopped, and we began the lengthy process of crossing the border.
The first thing to happen was that the train sat there for four hours, and nothing happened. This gave us the opportunity to buy some food from the little shop on the platform, along with the most disgusting-tasting bottled water I have ever had; it tasted like it had had an entire copper pipe dissolved in every bottle. I also joined in a game of hacky-sack on the platform to pass the time. We were visited by local money changers, who offered only half the commercial rate.
Luckily we'd checked online before boarding the train, to make sure that we had an idea of what the current rate was; this was well worth doing.
After four hours there was some movement; the train shunted up an down a bit, and eventually ended up on a different line. At some point after that we were instructed to get back on the train, and went through the Russian customs and immigration requirements. The train was searched for stowaways, and we had
our passports inspected and stamped. After a total of around six and a half hours, the train began to move again. We saw a small fence go past the window, which was presumably the border. After at most ten minutes of movement, the train stopped again, this time for Mongolian border formalities.
There was a wait again before anything happened. Eventually customs and immigration boarded the train and the fun began again. The train was searched again, and we had our passports and visas inspected by the most incongruous-looking immigration officer I have ever seen: The Mongolian immigration officer had the face of a cross between a sixteen year old girl and a china doll, but wore the expression of a stern teacher, and an excessively large communist-style peaked cap, with a matching green jacket and skirt combo. She made us all stand up so that we could be compared in turn with our passport photos.
It was difficult, yet clearly very very important, to take the whole thing seriously. I would have so loved to have taken a photo of the whole thing, but clearly it was out of the question. We then got a visit from some more money changers, this time offering something approximating to the market rate, so we offloaded all of our remaining rubles and had a few tugrug to smooth our arrival in Ulaan Baatar.