Onwards and Upwards

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…

Heathrow Terminal 4 – Aeroflot Flight to Tokyo Narita via Moscow

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).
Bright and colourful orange-navy branding

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.


Happy Birthday Mr Presdient
The pinacle of luxury – the golden toothpaste. Now you can literarily put your money down the drain.
The inconspicuous “ecotester” not only detects electromagnetic fields but also measures radiation levels. I foresee a steady demand from the Russian oligarchs, although I also like the targetting for “managers of any level” – you just never know…

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.

The airport is tiny but helpfully singposted in English.


And so the adventure begins…




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