I’m on train 363 from Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk, exactly 9800km (by the route I’m following) from London. This is a 36 hour train ride, including several hours at each of the Mongolian and Russian border stations. I got off the train for a few hours at Naushki, the Russian border station, while they spent over 2 hours shunting carriages back and forth for no apparent reason. Not much to see or do there though.

The car is a very new Russian 2nd class (Kupe) unit. Much nicer than Chinese train cars.. for one thing, the beds convert into really comfortable seats with cushioned backs and lumbar support. Still no power for my laptop, but I’ve spent so much time sleeping, chatting, and looking out the window that I’ve barely used it anyway.

So far Russia is scenic but a bit rundown. For example, we just passed a few broken concrete power poles. They’ve replaced the poles, but the old ones are just lying there, and it looks like they’ve been there for years. Naushki had lots of rundown Soviet-era buildings and parks full of litter.

Hey, one hour to Ulaan-Ude, where we stop for 46 minutes… time enough to see the world’s largest Lenin head!

(Written July 5.)