After taking an hour-long bus from the center of Ulan-Ude, Datsan Rinpoche Bagsha appears in sight, almost like a castle standing over the city.
View from Datsan Rinpoche Bagsha
The Tibetan Buddhist temple is located in Lysaya Gora, one of the highest places in Ulan-Ude and, since 2004, it is the home of the tallest statue of Buddha in Russia (5 meters), brought from China.
The clock in the wagon says 10PM, but right after the first step outside, it’s 4AM. Feels like magic, since everything concerning time on the train (i.e. stops) follows the Moscow time, even if the train is already 5 time zones away.
This time confusion makes the “train lag” even more interesting as on the train people eat, sleep and chat at whatever time they see fit.
So, early in the morning and sleepy, I arrived in Ulan-Ude, where patiently my host and her dad had been waiting for me.
Wooden Houses in Ulan-Ude
If someone wants to get to the other side of Russia, there are only a few feasible options available: either flying, the most obvious and fastest one, or taking the train, the slowest but more interesting one.
I picked the latter as it would give me not only the chance to see a bit of Siberia in winter but also to experience the famous Transiberian Train: “At a Moscow-Vladivostok track length of 9,289 kilometers (5,772 miles), it spans a record eight time zones. Taking eight days to complete the journey, it is the third-longest single continuous service in the world.”
Wanting to head to Mongolia, I would stop at Ulan-Ude (roughly 3/5 of the complete route), after 4 and a half days of train.
Preparing the Train
The train, to me, seemed very “Soviet-style”, both imposing and experienced, you could almost feel it had done the route many times before and this was just yet another day of work, nothing special. But to me, and certainly many others before, this precise moment felt historic, at least on a personal level.