Monday, February 8, 2010

Siberia 6th Stop : Ulan Ude

Ulan Ude , buryati republic.
A complete change in scenery , a complete change in landscape.
We arrived in Ulan Ude much earlier than planned having forgone the Circumbaikal train trip and visiting Lisviyanka due to unforseen circumstances ( according to the Baikal Map, travelling would be a pain and with unpredictable schedules , Therese and I thought it will be the best to forgo it and spend more time in Ulan Ude , hopefully doing some tours around the area and exploring the Buryati Region more )

Had a LONG 10 hours? mashutka ride from Arshan to Ulan Ude, and it ended off with the mashutka driver being extremely surprised to find out that I was from Singapore.Quite a few people on this side of Russia know the existance of Singapore but perhaps very rarely do they meet a Singaporean!Even if they do, they can't tell us apart from the locals.(The trick is in our accented English!We have a really flat tone)Most of the people in the city are asian looking and I didn't have much of a problem fitting in , except for the clothes ,shoes ,camera and huge backpack part which basically already screams TOURIST!And my two fellow travellers who were blonde and fair ( for once , they really stuck out from the crowd )also in their tourist gear also attracted quite some attention from some locals :)

grabbed some food at a funky westernized cafe near the drop off point ( near lenin's big head ), we met a danish couple.The gentleman was the danish ambassador to Moscow and guess what!Their son went for an exchange programme in SMU, and after that experience , went on to set up a tee shirt printing company in Shanghai!THey were amazed at why I will ditch the amazing school system in Singapore and come over to Russia ( all in the name of adventure ).Yes.Despite some problems with the wireless connections in SMU,I appreciate having wireless internet on campus.the variety of food in school,the million and one special interest groups( hello?wine appreciation club?gourmet club?is there going to be a spa and massage club soon?We City Slickers need that with such a fast paced lifestyle)the amazing technologies that SMU has and The Singapore Government pumping in so much money into education, giving me so much resources in my course of studies.THe learning curve is steep,but pressure is intense and the expectations are high.

7pm at night , sky is dark = status : no accomodation still.Check with 1 hotel ( Too expensive ) and the lady at the counter was so kind to give us recommendations to another hotel with possibly a cheaper rate.It was still expensive but that suffice for 1 night.
the next day , we headed down to a tour agency to enquire about possible tours around the area and cheaper accomodation.The owner of the agency recommended us a hotel that he claims will not cost more than 400roubles per person per night( SGD20-Euro10).
And recommended us not to take any tours with them!can you imagine an owner of a tour agency telling us that?Reason : tourist low peak season.camels or horses do not come out to play because it is still cold in April.Costs will be high.And we students cannot quite afford it.He recommended us heading to the destinations on our own and gave us advice and directions:)I have met so many tour agencies who are all out to sign people up for tour packages but this is really the first experience where the tour agency owner told us not to join any tours and even helping us with directions!

Checked in the hotel he recommended.600roubles a night as the paper at the counter stated.they refuse to go any lower.Foreigners , we have to play their game....
Went around exploring the city.Modernized city centre, similar to the siberian cities that we have visited.Alot of Asian Russians.The market was amazing.There was a bakery selling Soft white bread with filling!Finally, something that taste familiar!I didn't like the brown bread sold everywhere here and the loafs of white bread were a little dry for my liking

We didn't stay for long to explore the whole of Ulan Ude as we were proceeding to a village along eastern baikal and will have to head back to Ulan Ude to catch a train for our homebound journey ( funny how ..Moscow becomes home )

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