Riding the Trans-Siberian Railway through Mongolia

Last year I went on a train journey from Beijing to St. Petersburg. As far as bucket-list journeys go, the Trans-Siberian Railway was, well… the only one on my list. I suppose I can die happy now?
The trip began with a week-long stay in Mongolia, a very big country with some very big views. I took some very big photographs, so I hope you’re looking at this on a very big monitor. Big!

On a mountain overlooking the Mongolian capital, the Zaisan Memorial features a 360-degree mural depicting scenes of Russian-Mongolian cooperation.
Zaisan Memorial - Mural
UlaanBataar, the capital city of Mongolia, is an amazing monument to a society in transition: a juncture of nomadic tradition and the new reality of sedentary urban existence.
Driving around UlaanBataar
Mongolia largely still runs on coal power, and UlaanBataar has several power plants right in the middle of the city. At least, the pollution makes for astoundingly beautiful sunsets.
Ulaan Bataar Sunset
In the middle of Terelj National Park, just an hour outside UlaanBataar, the landscape is littered with enormous piles of boulders, like the eroded skeletons of ancient mountains. One of the most iconic of these rocks is the aptly-named ‘Turtle Rock’:
Turtle Rock
Heading deeper into Terelj National Park, one is reminded of the universal axiom: “Tourists love dinosaurs”
Mongolian Dinosaurs
Arriving at our Ger camp, where we spent a week living with a Mongolian family of herders. This was absolutely the highlight of the trip, although I feel we might have lucked out: Our tour guide was a friend’s uncle, and our nomad host father was his hunting buddy – so our stay felt less like being on a tour, and more like hanging out with family.
Evening Camp
Waking up the next morning:
Morning Goats
The ruins of Gunjiin Sum, the burial temple of “The Peaceful Princess”. We rode in to explore on horseback, from the Ger where we were staying in the next valley over.
Gunjiin Sum Temple - entrance
Our heroic guide, the all-around badass Altanshagai Boldbataar.
(Photo courtesy of our fellow traveller Benny Horn)

I bet you don’t often see artists with an entourage like this:
(Photo by Benny Horn)

The next leg of the journey took us across the Russian border by train (which included cooling our heels in a border town for 8 hours while we waited for our Russian train to come pick our carriage back up again):
Lonely Train Carriage
But then we were finally on our way into Siberia:
Zagustay Power Plant
Mongolia was an utterly gorgeous country. Check out the rest of this photo series on Flickr, and also some of the epic panorama shots I took that were just too enormous to even post here.
Continue to Part Two: Russia!


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