What do you do if you miss a train in Mongolia? In 2015, I met a Swedish woman who found a solution on the Trans-Mongolian railway.
Most people who talk of the Trans-Siberian railway actually mean the Trans-Mongolian railway. The Siberian railway goes to the far end of Siberia, while the Mongolia route turns Mongolia and Beijing.
I did them both on the same trip. First, me and my travel companion traveled all the way to Vladivostok on the east end of Siberia.
However, we only stayed there for two nights. After that, we took another train back to the middle of Russia and switched to the Trans-Mongolian route.
This story takes place on the Trans-Mongolian route, which, unlike the Siberian way, is actually popular with foreign tourists.
Time Zone Confusion
A woman from Sweden stayed in the same hotel as us in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I met her in the evening. As we chatted, we learned that we were going to leave Mongolia on the same morning train to Beijing.
At some point, she checked the time on her watch and said it aloud. The time she said was off by one hour, but for some reason, I didn’t react to it. She said it was 8.30 in the evening, but it was already 9.30. It was getting late, so we soon wished each other good night.
We did not meet at the station the next morning. As I’d learn later, she had overslept and missed the train because her watch had been in the wrong time zone.
And how do I know all of this? Well, she told me about it a few hours later. After realizing what had happened, she hired a taxi that managed to outrun the train. She miraculously managed to get on board at the next station.
Memories from Mongolia
We only stayed in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, but I have fond memories of the country. Besides exploring the city, we also did a day trip of the Hustai National Park nearby.
The culture felt unique and interesting, but I felt a connection between the ancient traditions of Mongolia and my home country Finland. The nomads of Mongolia share the spirit of the reindeer herders of northern Finland.
The impact of Soviet rule is still visible in Mongolia, but the country also has a very strong identity of its own. In my mind, all this makes Mongolia one of the most fascinating countries in the world.