Today is the last day of my trip in Russia, and is also one of the most scenic days in my trip.
Many passengers alighted in Irkutsk, and some new passengers have boarded the train. The main attraction in, or rather, near Irkutsk is Lake Baikal. However, the Trans-Siberian trains all go around Lake Baikal, so you could actually see almost the same sights as you were to go to one of the beaches of the lake. It depends on how willing are you to make a stop to see the largest freshwater lake in the world.
For me, the train ride is more important. And what else is as important as the train ride? Food, of course!
Back in the restaurant car, I had scrambled eggs and ham for breakfast. I did not type the last sentence incorrectly, it’s exactly as it says on the menu.
I ordered this out of curiosity, since it’s the last time I’ll get the opportunity to, and it turns out to be one of the best dishes on board the restaurant car. It’s called Julienne, not to be confused with the culinary knife cut, and consists of sliced mushrooms, cheese, and possibly a hint of sour cream.
First view of Lake Baikal.
As mentioned, Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake in the world, and it contains around 20% of the world’s fresh water. Don’t be deceived by the stillness of the water if you’re near it though, it is also the world’s deepest lake and one of the world’s clearest.
A town around the coast of the lake. I don’t even know whether to compare it to a lake or the sea, it’s extremely vast.
You can’t even see the end of the lake if you look at it from the longest end to end.
At Slyudyanka, I was even more surprised with two working steam locomotives running parallel with us, coupling to possibly a tourist rake in front.
Seeing the bunch of us tourists taking photos and videos of it, the driver pulled the whistle lots of times to either scare or entertain us, but either way, it was a fantastic experience. Wish I was on it though.
Back to the great view of Lake Baikal. The railway runs parallel to the coast (?) of the lake, sometimes very near it like over here.
Lots of trains pass by here too, so do look out especially on the outer track.
The snow-capped ridges around Lake Baikal. This also happens to be the first time in my life I have seen snow with my own eyes.
More snowy ridges.
Snowy ridges + Lake Baikal.
The train takes around 5 hours to go around a small portion of Lake Baikal, so don’t worry if you miss the first few minutes of it.
The train leaves the Trans-Siberian railway at Ulan-Ude and enters the Trans-Mongolian railway.
Crossing over a bridge over a river.
Last few shots of Siberia.
The views today are much more breathtaking than the journey so far from Moscow.
The train stops at Naushki for very very strict Russian immigration and customs formalities.
The Russian coaches behind terminate their service here and gets decoupled from the rake.
Remember my mini-ordeal in Belarus? As the Russian immigration person came around to check our passports and immigration cards, she took a slight look at it and probably decided that the information was correct after all, since it was an immigration card for Belarus. She was more concerned for the Russian visa entry and expiry date. Phew.
Next, a big, burly customs officer came on board the train. He was as tall as the corridor of the coach, and he led in a small puppy which was really excited to see all of us. The said puppy proceeded to sniff everyone’s bags and bodies from compartment to compartment, although it probably would want to stay on for a little longer. I think it will have a long way to go before being perceived as a no-nonsense customs dog.
I did, however, make a slight personal mistake when applying for my Russian visa. Trains generally run on the dot, but in the even of a delay, resulting in you exiting Russia with an expired visa, the immigration officials will not care. My compartment mate told me he messed up the dates of his first visa, which needed it to be cancelled, but on his second visa, his agent told him to just put a 30-day window in so any dates will be definitely covered. Thankfully, my train ran sharp on time which means my visa is still valid upon exit, but if I didn’t have, things would be much more complicated. In future, just put a 30-day window for your Russian visa, which is the maximum allowed for a Tourist Visa. You can enter and exit any day as long as it’s within the 30-day window.
The train departed Naushki almost 2 hours later, on schedule.
We then entered Mongolia at Suhe-Bator (Sükhbaatar). Immigration and customs clearance were conducted on board too, with a big, burly woman without a poodle or any dog for that matter coming on board to check all our bags, stripped our beds and the many carpets in the coach, and proceeded to open the heaters and other hidden compartments in the compartment’s recess we didn’t know existed until she climbed up.
Another country checked off the list. Next, Mongolia.