Crossing border has never been this memorable and somewhat life threatening…
All the while, we have had zero concern when entering or leaving a country, South Korea, Japan and China (oh yah, and of course Singapore 😉 Moreover, coming in and out from the airport is the usual route for international travellers. Entering by land (or sea) is often another story, and at times can be a little adventure. For us, a family with 2 young children, we felt really vulnerable with the unfamiliar faces, sounds and writings. It’s probably like a child, who can be afraid of strangers and would cry for mama and papa. But we are the mama and papa, we have to be or act brave.
Crossing into Mongolia from China
Once again, thankfully we can read and speak Chinese! While resting comfortably in cosy Henry’s apartment, we decided not to take the Tran-Mongolian railway due to the cost and missing the cities along the route. Having some days to spare, we rode on local train (6 hrs) from Beijing to Jining Nan and stay with Brad for a few days before continuing onwards to Erlian border by intercity bus. Upon reaching the bus station, we found the last bus going across to Mongolia to be leaving in a few minutes time. Slightly panic! The driver quickly helped us to get the tickets to board the almost full bus. Most of the passengers brought lots of fruits which Mongolia lacks. The journey wasn’t far, only 10km, but took 2 hours. When we reached Zamyn Uud, Mongolia, the small border town the unfamiliar language, writings and sand storm greeted us. How would we find the connecting transport to the next bigger city, Sainshand, some 250km away? Looking around, we found a Chinese speaking Mongolian (from Inner Mongolia) who were travelling to Ulaan Baatar in their car. They suggested that we should take the train leaving in 1.30hrs time bound for UB to Sainshand and helped us go to the ticket office to get the tickets. By then there was a long queue but he waited in-line for us anyway. Yes! We got two sleeping berths and found out the we were to have the whole 4-berth room for ourselves. That’s a good start for our travel in Mongolia. Thank you! Bayarlaa!
Crossing in Russia from Mongolia
For the 1st time, we felt that we have to fend for our safety ….. it wasn’t to be so smooth this time. After arriving to Altanbulag, we asked around for hotel to stay as we didn’t want to travel the whole day. It has been more than 5hrs from Ulaan Baatar, and probably another 4hrs to Ulan Ude, Russia. The mini bus has dropped us off in front of a shabby hotel barely a stone throw away from the immigration complex main gate. There were plenty of taxi waiting to take passenger across and money changer with stacks of tugriks and rubles in their hands. A guy of wrestler build who was unloading boxes from a lorry approached us. He enquired with some English and his brother came to say that they have been to Singapore some years ago. Their sister continued the conversation while her brothers packed the goods into their MPV and told that they crossed the border few times each month to buy goods to sell in Ulaan Baatar. “Most things are cheaper in Russia”, and we saw lots of can food, cartons of milk products and few trays of eggs in their car. They offered to help us look for better hotel in the center of town (less than 1km away), and soon got a hotel that has a common shower. It was also an old hotel, but good enough to shelter from the cold and wind. Next day, there was a taxi driver waiting at the hotel for us to bring us across the border. We were wary of his intention, and checked the cost for the transport. Well, it wasn’t quite straight forward as he couldn’t speak English and we knew too little Mongolian. Eventually it seemed to be 200 rubles per person. That’s about the cost written in the guide book, so we got in. The drive was very short …….. TBC
In time of worry, look around and you can find people who would more than stretch their arms out for you 🙂