January 20, 2013

Departing Irkutsk for Ulan Ude

Filed under: Russia,Trips — pearsey @ 7:23 pm
Tags: , , , ,

My last blog update was here where I spent the arvo hanging around in Irkutsk.

After our evening meal and having a bit of a clean up in the bathrooms, we headed off to the station to catch the train for the next part of the Trans Siberian journey. This section of our journey was an overnight train from Irkutsk to Ulan Ude. Unfortunately for me, perhaps the most scenic part of the Trans Siberian, the part around the lake and shore of Lake Baikal would be completed in the dark.

Angara River Bridge in Irkutsk

Angara River Bridge in Irkutsk

Our train tonight was one of the newer ones, but still farily standard with the facilities – a vaccuum toilet with a wash basin and 6 bunks per “compartment” (no doors) with two bunks in the corridor opposite each “compartment”.

Obviously no doors means no privacy and no security.
So here’s where I describe the next intersting encounter with the people in the Irkutsk area.

Generally on the train you have a bit of a “lights out” type situation – a bit like being at school camp almost! The main lights go out, then you’re left with minimal lighting til the wake up call the next morning.

This partuicular time, not long after the lights had gone out, I joined a couple of others in the queue at the toilet. I hadn’t been there too long before a policeman (or train security) came up to me to have a chat. “Chat” is used loosely, because I don’t speak much Russian…

So he starts talking to me… and talked away. I looked blankly back at him… eyes getting wider, face getting blanker the longer he talked. The more I did that, the more
he talked. I’d like to say I had some idea what he was talking about, but I had no clue. The closest I could come up with was that perhaps you weren’t allowed to go to the toilet after the lights went down on this particular train. (But then why wasn’t he talking to the others, so I wasn’t convinced on that one.) So when he’d finished, I shrugged and said questioningly “English?”. He sighed, rolled his eyes and proceeded to repeat his tirade, this time with hand gestures, which included patting his body and pointing toward the bunks. So I slunk off toward my bunk and thought maybe I’d sit there a while and see what happens. Then I heard the lovely policeman having a “chat” to some of my friends in the next compartment. So once he’d gone from there, I headed in to see what he’d said. Yes, the irony of that is that they don’t understand Russian either, but I was hoping that maybe they’d be able to shed more light…

Turns out that one of our travellers had left their ipod out on their bed. He’d noticed it and assumed that it was mine. When I’d gone back to a different bed, he obviously realised it wasn’t mine and gone and talked to the correct people. It was a huge relief to know that I could go to the toilet…

Next morning we woke in Ulan Ude. Even though it was early (7am), we headed to our hostel, hopeful that for the first time since leaving Moscow (7 days ago), we could have a shower (apart from those who had found one at Novosibirsk station four days ago). Imagine our disapointment when we arrived at the hostel to find that there was one shower. ONE shower between 17 of us and those who were already there. It was nice of the hostel to allow us to check in early I guess. We settled in for a long wait… one shower… so many people… I guess at least they had a good common room and it was fairly central. Lots of tourist info and the hosts are very helpful. (For the record it took nearly 3 and a half hours for us all, plus other guests to get through. And yes, I was one of the quick ones!)

So while we were waiting, a couple of us went for a wander round Ulan Ude. Think we found all the dodgy places that exist there… Down by the river we found the drunks and homeless, the area littered by broken glass and rubbish, overgrown weeds and the footpaths and landscaping that were there, was in serious disrepair. On the walk back we found the seedy area of town, with the dodgy looking bars and some “beauty parlours”. Despite that, you didn’t feel unsafe, but perhaps that was because it was morning – later on in the day it may be a different story.

Rubbish near the Uda river edge

Rubbish near the Uda river edge

More on Ulan Ude later on…



  1. I don’t know how long you were in Ulan-Ude, but it isn’t all bad. Actually it has improved GREATLY since I first came here in 1999. You can see some of the beauty, and probably a couple more seedy places on my blog, and maybe find an explanation or two to some of the things that puzzled you. (I speak Russian well, but believe me, cried a few times before I got to a point were I understood a fair amount.) Alex

    Comment by — February 5, 2013 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

  2. Yep, agree, it wasn’t all bad. More of an update to come on Ulan Ude (when I get a chance), but unfortunately wasn’t there long.

    Comment by pearsey — February 6, 2013 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  3. […] our quick walking tour of Ulan Ude, we had about half the day remaining and decided to head to the Ethnographical Museum. We had the […]

    Pingback by Ulan Ude | Thumper... — March 17, 2013 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

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