Russia Day 12 – Trans-Siberian Express II – The Return

After the last train experience we realised that the facilities on the train carriage would close before we pulled into a station. As we predicted we’d reach the border crossing at around 04:00 Ulaanbaatar time we had an alarm set for an hour before. It didn’t quite work out this way though – 04:00 came and went and at 04:40 we pulled into the station at the Mongolian border of Sukhbaatar. Though by this time I’d fallen asleep.

At 07:30 the Russian lady who was one of the two conductors for the train went down the corridor opening each door and saying “Border crossing. Toilet outside”. It didn’t really make much sense though as we couldn’t see anything – but when she insisted on us leaving the train we did as we were asked.

Once off the train I could see that the rest of the carriages had gone, and there was no train engine to move us either – there was just the three carriages remaining. Eventually we were able to find out that what the conductor meant was that we’d got until 09:00 to use the facilities on the train station (at a cost of 10 roubles) which is when the officials would board the train. Once they had boarded no one was allowed to leave the train, and our planned departure time was 11:00.

As before, we gave over our passports and they disappeared with them before collecting the customs declarations and completing a quick search of the cabin whilst we waited outside. The whole process only took about an hour, but we still left the station 15 minutes later than planned to arrive at the Russian border at 12:00. For this one we handed over the immigration form we’d been asked to complete during the transit between border stations along with our passport. This time they took a photograph of each passenger – the same as did when we first entered the country in Saint Petersburg. An hour later they had finished, and we could now consider ourselves to be on Irkutsk time.

The train didn’t leave immediately though – it then hung around in the station with no real purpose it seemed until 15:00, though our carriage got renumbered and additional ones were added in this time. These long stops were frequent, and seemed pointless – if they were to let other trains pass then I could understand it, but they didn’t seem to be. It seemed to be for the purpose of delaying our arrival only.

Once we left the border one of the two Russian conductors went through the cabins and tried to sell souvenirs. They tried to persuade us to buy some by trying to suggest we were wealthy due to us having bought two tickets each to get more space in the cabin (four people would have been beyond cramped). When no one onboard wanted to buy souvenirs one of them even tried to hold the onboard facilities hostage until people had, but the other one put an end to that though. Someone on this non-smoking train was also smoking which was an annoyance.

Early evening I then had chicken soup again for an evening meal before trying to get an early night due to our expected early arrival time in Irkutsk. This didn’t quite work out however due to the amount of noise at one of the stops around 22:30 when some passengers got off and some new ones boarded. Eventually though they quietened down and I was able to sleep.

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