“I’m a flail of god, if you had not committed great sins, god would not have sent a punishment like me upon you..!” – Genghis Khan, Genghis Khan’s Rules for (Warriors) Writers
In the 13th century, the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire expanded his territory all the way from the south of Asia to Western Europe and created the largest contingent land empire ever. How fitting to follow in the footsteps of the great conquerer for my 50th country visited. However, unlike Genghis Khan, I have no intention to conquer the world… just visit it 😉 I persuaded Christina to join and we are off on another adventure!
Interesting factoid, Mongolia only gained independence in 1990 as it previously was a Soviet controlled state!
The Rough Itinerary
July 8: Train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar. This 30 hour ride on a section of the Trans-Siberian Railway is an attraction in and of itself.
July 9-11: Explore Ulaanbaatar and see the games at the Naadam Festival.
July 12-14: Visit the Gobi desert, stay in a ger and learn about the nomadic lifestyle.
July 14: Fly from Ulaanbaatar (ULN) to Beijing (BJS).
Usually I don’t need a visa or I can get one at the airport, but for this trip I processed one in advance from the Mongolian Embassy in Beijing. The procedure was pretty straight forward, but somewhat more tedious than other visas.
First I lined up to hand in my completed paperwork, downloaded from their website. Due to time constraints I processed an expedited visa. There are several agents chatting to people in line to process the visas for them. If I knew it was going to be 2 hours, I may have just handed mine over.
I came to pick up my visa two days later and after lining up, I noticed a sign mentioning that I had to pay for my visa at a specific Bank of China. How convenient. Rushing to and back from the bank, I was in time to hand in my payment receipt before the 1 hour window and picked up my passport and visa.
Chinese passport holders among others, actually need an invitation letter from Mongolia to get their tourist visa. That’s another added annoyance I didn’t have to go through.
The international train ticket for Ulaanbaatar from Beijing can only be purchased at a CITS office near the train station. It is not purchased at the regular ticket offices. They only accept cash and have three classes priced as follows (per person):
- Soft sleeper: RMB 1793
- Private room for two people: RMB 1953
- Hard sleeper: RMB 1285
We were sleeping hard.
Only a couple of airlines fly direct between Ulaanbaatar and Beijing, Air China and MIAT Mongolian (Mongolia’s national airline). They can easily be purchased online and can vary from ~$250-$500, one way. We are flying Air China.
Visa, train, and flight tickets in hand, I am eager to board the train and travel through the desert and into lands unknown!
Follow the adventure!