How does one reach Mongolia from London?
The 7,000 km journey is, to my own surprise, most conveniently made with Aeroflot – the pride and joy of our Russian friends, and a thriving relict of the Soviet era. Though the standards might have evolved a little since its first international flight in 1971…
Certainly one should not expect a direct flight to Ulaanbaatar (UB) – a layover in Moscow is necessary. The entire trip takes close to 15 hours, including 2 1/2 hour stopover at Sheremetyevo Airport. I took off at 11am from Heathrow and arrived in Mongolia at 7am.
On board the plane
The beauty of going to a far-flung destination such as UB is that the planes are almost entirely empty. I am talking a whole-row-of-seats-for-each-passenger empty which was brilliant for the overnight flight from Moscow. Whilst the planes were solidly Western on the outside, they came with a few peculiarities on the inside:
- There were no passenger screens in the economy cabin in either plane (only business-class passengers could enjoy such luxuries). To add insult to the wound, each seat was equipped with a detailed TV guide to let you know what you were missing out. However…
- …it did not really matter as each seat came with its own fully functional, international power socket. Genius!
- The special ‘gluten-free’ meal I preordered was perfectly bland but made me really happy as I could identify each ingredient on the plate. Who needs variety when you can be served exactly the same meal twice on two different flights 🙂
- The flight attendants kept on speaking Russian to me and seemed genuinely confused when I was responding in English. I figured it was easier than trying to respond in my broken Russian (aka Polish with a Russian accent thrown on top).
I have to admit that what provided me with an endless entertainment during the flights was flicking through the inflight retail magazines. I first picked them up to refreshen my cyrylic reading skills, and was hooked on the ingenuity of the Russian marketeers.
The local time is… tomorrow
Circling around Ulaanbaatar was nothing like I had ever experienced before – a descent through pitch black skies, with the airport lights emerging only seconds before landing.
And so the adventure begins…