Ulan Ude might radiate a laid back feeling, the Datsan and its environs do that even more. The monastery is some 30km out, literally in the middle of nowhere. You can see for miles around, where there's next to nothing. Just green, mountains in the distance, and the Datsan. Really enjoyable. Even the Datsan was quiet, almost no-one seeming to be on the premises.
At around twelve (we where there really early) a service started in the 'church'. A small group of people had flocked from somewhere and we had the opportunity to enjoy a very nice show. Afterwards, we where even luckier, where we were able to join a Russian couple whom were given a guided tour of the grounds.
When waiting for the bus to take us back, it became clear no buses where going anymore, although we were not the only ones waiting. a taxi that stopped (from where did it come?) was full by the time we decided we wanted to take it. So we started walking back and wanted to catch a bus/car on the way back to town. Only after minutes of walking did a regular bus service pick us up. On the way back, the bus lost a wheel…
In the evening, Charles and I were enjoying a lukewarm beer again on one of the city's terraces. This time, a group of people sat down close to us, clearly tourists. I couldn't make out what language they where exactly talking to another, until one of them moved to the counter and started ordering drinks, counting the number of beers he had to order in Dutch and ordering in perfect Russian! Listening a bit closer, I still couldn't make out the exact language, but it seemed to be a Dutch dialect. Charles and I started talking to them. They turned out to be Belgian, all living close to Brussels. The guy who ordered the drinks was a Russian professor, teaching at one of Brussels' universities. This guy lived only two blocks away from where I lived in Brussels!
However, that wasn't the only surprise I had that evening. Back in Moscow, when enjoying the sun, drinking a Pepsi next to the Kremlin, I was approached by two elder men. They claimed to be working in the Pushkin museum as restorers. After a long, remarkable conversation, they wanted to have money in return for some postcards they had given me. Charles had had the exact same thing happen to him! Same guys, same cards, same place same questions.
We had decided to travel together, towards Irkutskas well. I would get off the train there, Charles, since he had already been there, would travel on to Novosibirsk, in the direction of Moscow. We wanted to travel by day, to enjoy the view from the train. The stretch between Ulan Ude and Irkutsk, since it glides past lake Baikal, sometimes only centimeters away, is said to be the most beautiful part on the Trans-Siberian railway. However, on almost the whole trip, we had the worst weather imaginable, that almost continuously blocking our view.