Mongolia: The Visa Run

The Inner Mongolian visa run is what dreams are made of; nightmares are dreams too, right? The 60 days were edging nearer on my visa and I needed to act fast. There are many options of getting that pesky little visa stamp, but this one my friends was the cheapest.

I did my research and found that the bus was not really something people suggested. “It’s like being in a coffin that smells like stinky feet,” said one blogger on The Beijinger. When I wound my way by cryptic gestures towards the “bus station” I thought surely I have wondered into the set of War of The Worlds or District 12 of the Hunger Games. The parking lot looked as if it had been bombed. I headed over to the “ticket booth” (aka the pop up you see depicted below) and struggled through purchasing my ticket on the bus to Mongolia.

I had two hours until departure, and while sitting on a makeshift cot in a rickety building with 20 other people was tempting, I decided to go check out a whole sale market that was only a few feet away. This place was a fashion designer’s paradise. Booth after booth of furs, fabrics, patches and random jewels that would make any Pintrest guru start thumbing through their pins for ideas on how to use any of this stuff. mongmarket

I picked up a fur scarf, patches that ranged from Bob Marley to Thomas the Train, and other cool things to send back home to friends. I felt pretty good loading up on novelty items for only 56 yuan ($10).  I even used my bargaining skills to knock it down a bit. I was proud and excited for my new things!

After my shopping adventure, I found a stand selling some ice cream for 1 yuan (less then like 20 cents), so I loaded up and brought some back to the Mongolians, we shared the refreshing treat while waiting to load up.

The time came to load  into the bus. The isle ways were so narrow I started to feel a twinge of claustrophobia as I made my way to the very last… coffin on the bus. There were no seats, just beds. They supplied a blanket for you. Thanks! I wonder when the last time that was washed. I (as an over planner) brought my own pillow and blanket! I put the provided blanket under me for cushion and started to nest in my tiny prison where I would spend the next 12 hours or so. I had charged up and downloaded a nice long movie onto my laptop. It was just me, Interstellar and the open road. Person after person poured into the  bus until every bed was taken. No shoes were allowed to be worn, so as you entered they handed you a small red grocery bag in which to deposit your shoes. The narrow isle way was lined with the red bags and luggage it was clear to see, I wasn’t going anywhere for a long time.

As the bus pulled away from the station, I cued up the movie and settled in for the journey to Mongolia.