I stayed in the hotel Geser. Reasonably new, affordable and very Western. Even with loads of friendly staff! And the room even came with a very nice breakfast and a recommendable restaurant. I was totally taken aback by so much western-style luxuriousness, in the middle of Asia.
There are two things that set Ulan Ude apart from many other cities in Russia. One is its closeness to the Mongolian border; you can easily recognize the different race that prevails here. Two is the very much oversized Lenin head on Ulan Ude's main square. It's really big.
Just like in Khabarovsk, there's nothing much to do in Ulan Ude. Besides the main street, which is not even a major shopping street, all other streets are filled with wooden houses, in stead of brick. However, somehow, the city has an airy, relaxed feeling to it, instead of the boredom that prevails in Khabarovsk. The slowly flowing Ude river, with hordes of swimmers and fisherman certainly helps to create this feeling.
In One of churches I visited, while I was strolling around town, three people, seemingly only visitors, where 'merrily' singing away.
In the evening, enjoying lukewarm beer on one of the city's terraces, a blond fellow walked past my table. Surprise, Charles had taken a train earlier as expected and had already arrived in Ulan Ude. We agreed to travel to the Datsan (a Buddhist monastery) that was close to Ulan Ude, the next day, together.