Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A maze in the train station


Today we have to get the train tickets for Irkutsk, in Russia, therefore for another country. This new adventure has me waking up happy. I greet dad and get ready quickly. Dad has decided to change hotels for one night; we pack our bags to be sure to do the check out when we get back from the train station without any problems. Before leaving, we still have to send photos of Mongolia to Roshanak so that she can put them on the blog, but of course there are problems with the computer and by trying and trying again, we succeed but we lost an hour an a half to do everything we needed to do. We bring the luggage down to the lobby and we go out of the hotel to find a taxi that will bring us to the train station. Finally, on the main street we find one that will take us for a reasonable price. We arrive in front of a crowded entrance, which actually isn’t one since no one enters through there, and queues form in every direction to go into the different buildings. We go into one of the buildings and look for the office that sells international tickets. We see that the first floor is for national tickets; so we go up to the second floor where this crowd of people that muddles up the queues everywhere and tries to get tickets as quickly as possible by shouting from all sides doesn’t exist anymore. I line up and wait for dad to return with the information he went to get. He comes back a few minutes later telling me: “come Delazad; it’s not here, policemen showed me through the window; I know where to go.” I follow him and we go down the stairs to end up in this open-roof hall where the sounds from the different tourist languages, the Mongolian language, shouts from merchants, irritated people and also car horns mix. We leave this suffocating atmosphere and I see dad heading towards another building. We come across a completely dilapidated door where there’s a sign indicating the direction to the ticket sales office. We follow the sign and I come across a café called “Nice café”, I find that funny and dad takes a picture of me in front of it. We continue our way and we end up in front of a gate, we pass it and arrive at the building where they sell international tickets. We look for the right booth and they indicate to us the V.I.P. room that is up the stairs. We go up and we arrive in front of a rather round woman and who is selling tickets for I don’t know where, to a Russian woman. When she is finished with this Russian we ask her which trains exist between Ulan Bator and Irkutsk. She looks at her computer and tells us that there is one every day that leaves at 9pm and takes two days, or another one at 1:50pm the next day that takes 25 hours. We thank her, take the information and sit down to discuss which train we should take. After a long discussion, we figure that for the time being it’s better to take the Chinese train that leaves the following day at 1:50pm. During our reflection, two women buy tickets. The youngest is skinny and quite cute, but the oldest has a corpulence that resembles a balloon. I tell myself that Russian women get older while getting rounder. When this group is done, we go back to the ticket lady and we ask her for two places on the Chinese train that leaves the next day. She looks at her computer and reserves for two. When we go to pay, dad asks if they accept credit cards to which she answers no. So dad goes to the bank to get some Mongolian currency to pay for the tickets. Meanwhile, another group passes and I wait. After having paid for the tickets, the woman at the booth gives me a small piece of paper and I understand that it’s the amount we have to pay in taxes. I ask dad for money and he gives it to me. I go down to the office where we have to pay the taxes. I pay and wait for the lady in the booth who is as slow as a turtle to give me the proof of payment. I run back upstairs to give it to the lady. She gives the tickets to dad and thanks us. I am glad to have finally done the most important task of the day. We finally leave the so-called international ticket sales center where no one speaks English but only Mongolian and Russian and where we have to do signs in order to be understood. Tickets in hand, we begin to look for a taxi but since they are tourist taxis, they are too expensive.

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