30 Jan 2014
My breakfast on the train was a banana with macadamia butter and green tea. For lunch we made a salad with capsicum, cucumber, carrot, chilli olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pink salt that we ate with smoked herring and salami. In one of the stops people bought pozi (meat dumplings with potatoes and parsley) from a babushka. It was interesting to see that the Russians did not trust the freshness of the dumplings but the internationals were happy to eat them and no one reported stomach cramps.
I didn’t try the pozi but had some coffee and a few squares of a good 99% cacao chocolate that I found in the supermarket.
Russian dark chocolate
Dinner was gherkins, black olives, carrots, radishes, ham, ikra, cheese, wine and berries tea.
31 Jan 2014
Breakfast on the train was pomelo, salami, gherkins, olives and coffee. And finally we arrived to Ulan Ude! The bus that picked us up from the station reminded me of buses in the highlands of Perú.
We stayed at a hotel where we shared 2 double rooms between a group of 6. Having a bed and a shower was luxury compared to the sports halls in the previous 2 cities.
Two doors down our room was a small cafe where a babushka was cooking up some goodies. I had a bowl of borsh that was possibly the best I had in the whole trip. It had a decent amount of super tender beef and tasted like something your grandma would cook for you. A banana rounded off lunch.
Borsh in hotel cafe
Then we walked to the main square of Ulan Ude where the locals had gathered for the traditional New Year’s dance. People in Ulan Ude have Asian background and not only they look different, but act different, too. They smile a lot more and are warmer than the Western Russians.
It was freezing cold outside so Diego, José and I went into a canteen for a cup of coffee. Then we went to a fast food restaurant and used the toilet. Then to a supermarket and bought some water and toilet paper.
Finally, we found a place to eat dinner. The staff could barely speak English but they tried so hard to communicate with us that we stayed. Using the handful of Russian words I knew I ordered some tea, a bowl of borsh for each, and 2 dishes to share.
Borsh (R100, about $3.12)
The first shared dish was Vostochny, a salad with meat, cucumber, capsicum, tomato, parsley and a soy sauce dressing.
Vostochny (R180, about $5.61)
The other shared dish was tayskyi, one of my favourite dishes of the trip. It tasted like lomo saltado. It was basically a beef, capsicum and onion stir-fry seasoned with soy sauce and (I think) sesame oil.
Tayskyi (R180, about $5.61)
The boys also had some pozi, which I think were complimentary.
01 Feb 2014
We had breakfast at the big cafe on the ground floor of the hotel. I had borsh (for a change), which wasn’t as good as the one from the tiny cafe upstairs. Most people had blinis with condensed milk or jam, or muffins.
Blinis (R25, about $0.78)
Borsh (R70, about $2.18)
A bus took us to a datsan (university) from the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. It was full of temples, prayer wheels and stupas (and souvenirs!). I haven’t been to Tibet but I imagine it was almost like being there. It was definitely one of the highlights of the whole tour for me.
We had lunch in a cafe across the road from the second datsan we visited. The 3 of us had a bowl of solyanka each and shared 2 servings of plov, a rice, meat and vege dish that is shared between different countries in the same region.
Solyanka (R95, about $2.96)
Plov (R90, about $2.81)
Our lama’s public talk was in the beautiful Opera House theatre, where the local sangha performed a typical dance.
After the lecture, Diego and I had dinner at the Irish Pub.
They sold a lot of beer and beer snacks but I had a glass of red wine (R120, about $3.74) and a very nice warm salad with slices of roasted salmon with potatoes, iceber lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber and a sweet sauce.
Warm salmon salad (R290, about $9.04)
Diego had a pint of beer (R160, about $4.99) and a chicken roll with bacon and cheese served with potatoes, cabbage salad, buckwheat mixed with rice and chilli sauce.
Chicken roll with bacon and cheese (R380, about $11.85)
02 Feb 2014
We went to the cafe on our floor with the idea of having soup for breakfast, however I noticed they had an oven-baked omelette with ham and decided to give it a shot. The ham was cheap and the omelette was very basic but not bad. I ate it with my last banana and coffee.
A bus took us to the main square and we walked to the supermarket to get supplies for our last (and longest) train ride. Then we had a quick lunch at Appetite canteen.
Given we would be stuck in a train for the next 3 days I decided to have as many vegetables as I could fit: vegetable soup, beetroot salad with mayo, boiled eggs with cucumbers and peas, carrot, potato and ham salad with mayo, broccoli and cauliflower and sauerkraut. Sadly, I discovered a few wheat berries in the bottom of my soup bowl but otherwise lunch was great.
Salads, eggs, soup (R249, about $7.77)