It’s becoming too long and deserved a post by itself 🙂
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 soon his brother came to say that they have been to Singapore some years ago! After a while 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 canned 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 come with a common shower. It was also an old hotel, but good enough to shelter from the cold and wind.
Next day at 10am, there was a taxi driver waiting at the hotel 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 really short to the main gate of the immigration complex but we had to wait in queue. It seemed that only few passenger cars were allowed in a certain period, while lorry or truck get priority. We were the seventh car, and once a while the soldier will push the gate open and signal with his fingers the numbers of cars allowed in. After almost an hour waiting, we finally drove through the main gate. The immigration process was fairly simple. We had to leave the car in the parking area near the building, go into to get our passport stamped, and then back to the car. No fuss, we have exited Mongolia. Now here is another period of waiting as it seemed that only few cars were permitted to leave (or enter Russia) at a time. It was another 45 mins before we got to leave the complex and drive into Russian territory, and there we had to wait once more. Similar to the Mongolian immigration, there was only one check-in counter. While waiting we saw a bus loaded with passengers coming into Mongolia. “Ulan Ude bus to Ulaan Baatar”, our driver said. The passengers have to take all their belongings into the immigration building and we saw one of them dragging a new ironing board while another carrying a big box of goods.
The passport check was straight forward, and yes, our Russian visa was cleared and off we go into the town, Кяхта (Kyakhta). It was almost 1:30 pm. The driver stopped somewhere on the road where there was a supermarket and signalled us to get off. We thought we’ll be alighting at a bus station to catch the bus to улан уде (Ulan Ude), looked like he has other plans. It was time to pay him. He asked for 1000 rubles! We won’t pay. He shut the trunk and we couldn’t take our bags. We tried to negotiate, he didn’t give in. Neither will we. However, we didn’t have smaller note, so Sean went into the supermarket to change. Tunling and kids went into the car with the driver.
After a while, Sean returned with some breads and a bottle of water. We passed him 400 rubles. He turned angry and push the money back. Sean raised his voice and Tunling went to seek help from a lady standing nearby. She was waiting for taxi to go into town . She didn’t know English but soon she realised what was happening. A taxi has appeared with another passenger. The lady told them about our situation and urged our driver to give up. He unwillingly dropped the price to 600 rubles and implied the extra 200 rubles charges for our 2 children. The lady gestured that they are young and can be carried and told us to give him 400 rubles. It has became windy and cold again and Yixi started to cry. Our driver opened the trunk and we quickly take our bags and bring it to the taxi. After that, Sean paid up, but hurriedly went back to the driver and took back a snicker bar which we had given to him earlier.
Safely in the taxi heading to the bus station, we crammed in with the lady in the back seat. She raised her little finger to mean that man, our taxi driver was a bad person. In less than 5 mins, we reached the bus station. The connecting mini bus was just about to leave.