Trans-Mongolian: Part 1

Russia Travel Blog

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3rd class
This time, armed with a little more knowledge about the Russian train, we boarded the train that will take us across a big part of Russia to Irkutsk. After the pleasant experienced from overnight train from St Petersburg, we decided to travel 3rd class with the Russians. Since there were 3 of us, I was the odd one out. We bought our tickets quite late so we only managed to secure the bunks along the aisle which is quite close to the toilet. I was really lucky because there wasn't any one on the upper bunk, so I had the whole compartment for myself.. so to speak.

My neighbour on my left are my friends, those across the aisle are two teenage boys and two other passengers whom come and go along the way, and those on my right a lady who spent a lot of time talking to the babushka (grandmother who is 80 years old) and her grand-daugther who slept across from her.
With my grocery of yogurt, coffee, bread, cheese, muesli, fruits, cup noodles and biscuits on hand, I'm all set for the 4 days train ride across Russia.

Do not try to take the picture of the provodnista (carriage attendant) without their permission especially if you have a dSLR. I learn that the hard way... I tried to take a picture of her doing some housekeeping when she saw me trying to take a shot. She marched over from the front of the carriage to the my place, grab hold of my lens and started spurting something in Russian. I was intimidated and terrified at the moment. All I can think of is whether she will confiscate my camera or worst, break my lens. Every one in my carriage is afraid of her. She once barked at my friend to sit while she was vacuuming the carpet.
the beer bottles
Every time she was on duty, every one of us behaved.

I met Ben, a lone English traveler the next day. I had my guide book on my table and he plopped into the empty seat in front of me telling me he had the same guide book in his bag. He was traveling at the 2nd class cabin and was really bored over there. Every one stayed in their own cabin at the 2nd class, unlike in the 3rd class where it is really open, and one can easily see what the other is doing. There were lots of activities going on, especially with the boys. There were 4 of them; two at the front of the carriage and two at my area.. so they go back and forth a lot. Through Ben, I got to know 1 German and 2 Austrian girls whose bunks were at the front of my carriage. Tina, the German girl, myself and Ben decided to make our way to the end of the train.
the boys
Ben was hoping to be able to open the door to take some picture as he has read somewhere it has been done by other travelers. Turns out, the end of the train is not really the end after all and we were asked to turn back. I was really glad to be assigned to the carriage I was in because judging from what I saw from other 3rd class carriages, the one I'm in is more lively and interesting.

There are many interesting characters in my carriage. One, whom we nicknamed as talk show host because he talks a lot... and every time he talks, he has quite a few audiences... people listening to him telling stories and such... I would love to be able to hear his stories.. unfortunately it's in Russian. Then there's 2 men who seems to bond as they spend a lot of time chatting over cups of tea.
Lots of tea and peanuts for them. There's a four-some who spent all their waking hours playing cards. There's the babushka. Once the boys were talking softly among themselves and giggling at night, the babushka snapped at them. I managed to get her grand-daughter to translate what her babushka said to the boys. Apparently she asked them to stop their nonsense as they were disturbing her sleep :) And not forgetting the boys. They never fail to buy beers at every stop. Since they always take their meals together, they spend quite a lot of time at my area. They were really nice to me. One of them reminded me to be careful of my belongings on my first night on the train. Another helped me to talk to the snack seller when I forgot to take my bag of chips after I paid for it, which I only realised hours later. Even though it is quite difficult trying to converse with them because they don't know English, i have a very good experience with them. Got a souvenir from them too :)

I was really sorry when the train arrives at Irkutsk. It was such a pleasant experience and I don't really want it to end.

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3rd class
3rd class
the beer bottles
the beer bottles
the boys
the boys