The Trans-Siberian train through Russia was admittedly a long time to spend on a train but these two helped me kill a day in style. In total 5 days in Russia and 2 in Mongolia. I read a lot, slept in and watched the country unfold trying to convince my self that Russia is as big as it seemed. There would be large periods of time with nothing to look at but snow, trees and sky. But it was kind of nice, I wouldn’t mind coming back in the summer though…just for a little variety. This was basically my view for a large portion of the ride…give or take a few trees and more or less snow: Long train to nowhere?
Along the way I had a few different cabin mates, most were uninteresting travel partyners but I did have a (think Jaws from James Bond Movies) guy who had ALL gold teeth and was so drunk be 2 pm that he slept until 10 am the following day, woke up, ate breakfast, listened to his wife yell at him for awhile, then went back to bed until 3 pm. He told me later that his daughter had just had a child and they were on the way to see them.
After Jaws I had these two, rather hearty Russian engineers…lets call them Alexei and Dimitri because for the life of me I can’t find their names…on their way to Novosibirsk, Russia. They were fun. The pushed Vodka, sausages, pates, bread pickles and more Vodka on me until I was forced to reciprocate. We also shared my Vodka, Chinese Prosciutto, spicy duck tablets, Mongolian sausages and chocolate. They kept buying stiff from the carriage attendant, and smuggling it down the hallway tucked under their shirts. We were able to communicate for the most part with our sign language, drawings and few english/russian worlds that we understood. It was nice to have such a good time with them and I think they were excited to be drinking with an Americansky. BTW, whenever a Russian starts flicking his neck with his index finger, it means they are a little drunk. There was a lot of neck flicking. I was asleep by 9 or so abut I later learned that they were up until at least midnight and as I woke at 9 they were casually drinking beers and watching an awful Russian miniseries that went on for 5 hours. I could of watched it with my eyes closed and had a better idea about what was going on. Later that day, they cleaned up, put on suits and got off to go home or to work, I never figured out which. Alexei was kind enough to give me the number of a Moscow call girl before he left. Little did he know that I would be staying in a brothel…yes, on accident.
So..back at it after a really long break. Gonna keep going chronologically even though I am in Tuscany now. So much to share I feel like I would be doing a dis-service to myself to not document it. Ad nauseum, CAUSE IT’S BEEN FUCKING INCREDIBLE.
I left Mongolia after 5 days with mixed feelings, fondness for the owners of my hostel and new friends, which I have since visited in Europe, and a dislike for the sheer cold and some of the ignorant behavior of (some) locals. Read: elbows thrown as I am walking down the street and some brazen pick pocket attempts…thankfully, no injuries were reported.
This was for sure one of the best highlights in my overnight stay in the Ger: we convinced the man of the house to play a little for us. My friend Kiochi was kind enough to send me the video (see below) and we watched food-drunk as he played 4 songs for us. Not too shabby for a 2 stringed guitar. Such a simple life…quite appealing.
Anyways, here are some other nice picts of Mongolia and some of my amigos and a (pet) lamb.
A little music to send you out with a smile.
Ulan Batar, Mongolia
Left China on my first leg of The Trans-Siberian, decided to go through Mongolia so technically it was the Trans Mongolian route. First leg of the train was quite uneventful. The border crossing into Mongolia is tedious (but not nearly as bad as the Russian border crossing), the gauge of both the Mongolian and the Russian tracks are slightly bigger than the Chinese tracks. I got locked in the Customs center because I shopped for food for too long. It was a fairly boring few hours in a waiting room with half the train’s passengers (i.e those not smart enough to get back on the train quickly and lounge in their comfy beds for 3 hours). Luckily there was a closed loop TV on that played the same 5 or 6 commercials over and over. Whoo-hoo! Oh, and my Ipod ran out of juice. Damn Ipod had been the bane of my existence…but that is another story all together.
UB is a fairly dirty City mainly due to the coal residue. Most of the City and all of the ‘Gers’ use coal to heat and cook. There is a low altitude haze over the whole City in the morning. BTW a ‘Ger’ is a traditional temporary ‘hut’ that many nomadic Mongols use as their house. The people were either extremely friendly and warm or they were intentionally throwing elbows at you as you walk by. Pick-pockets were fairly brazen as well in the Black market (surprise). I stayed in a nice little Hostel run by a family headed by “Mama”. She was always asking me if I wanted hot water or coffee and saying “Eat, eat!” as she piled food on my plate.
So I went on a tour through them to stay overnight in a Ger and see some countryside on horseback and camelback. We drove for at least 45 minutes through a field to get tot the Ger. Yes a field.
All in all, good food, made some friends, saw some amazing stars and laughed a lot. Especially when the Camel sneezed on Arner at point blank range.
I woke up about 8am wondering when the Circus had opened next to our hostel. Didn’t get out of bed… but I wondered. Later that day it was still quite loud and after a few weeks of disappointments when it came to Chinese Market (mostly just finding them) I was really happy to stumble upon this one. Lived up to what I expected…loud, haggling Chinese of all varieties (some dragging chickens to the market, some being dragged by Mercedes Benz’), tons of produce, meat of all varieties (eg. yak, beef, pork, frogs, eels, turtles, whole fish, live, dead or soon to be), street food carts, mopeds, carts, shouting, laughing, pointing…lots of pointing and finger shaking and on and on. It was a good few hours. Too bad we don’t have anything like it in the US. People would eat better and enjoy the ritual of shopping for food instead of an exciting trip to the Supermarket.
Support Public Markets! Here’s one you can support, for those that live in Mass. Chris Douglass (among others) have been trying to get it done!
Ever wonder how they get the skin to be so crispy in Peking (Beijing) Duck? Well, here is the first step. Mind you there wasn’t a restaurant in sight serving Peking Duck.
Check the video below, sorry people couldn’t get it to upload vertically:
The air pressure, separates the skin from the meat (without tearing it) so that when it cooks the fat can render easier leaving you with thin, crispy, delicious skin. Mmm, mmm, good.
I would assume that there is something similar going on it the USA, maybe not in an open air shop when it was 70 degrees out though.