I had a full 24 hours in Ulan Ude, the capital of Buryatia, but arriving at 6am meant I didn’t get enough sleep on the short journey from Irkutsk, so was glad that my hotel let me check in at 7am as could get some more sleep.

It was harder to work out the bus system as it consisted of mostly minibuses or mashrutkas, mostly only with a number displayed, so I took lucky dip with the first one I took and luckily ended up in the centre where I was aiming for. There they have a pedestrianised Arbat street like Moscow and many other Russian cities that copy it. The centre was quite attractive, notably the opera house with big fountains outside, and the world’s largest Lenin head on the central square was a novelty to see.

I headed for Ivolginsky datsan, but it took ages to work out where to take the 130 bus from to get there, so took a lot of wandering around before I found it on a street near the cathedral. It took about 45 minutes to get to Ivolginsk, then there was an unmarked minibus which went the 10 minutes drive further to the datsan.

The Buddhist datsan was interesting with multicoloured decorations and buddhas inside the many temples. I met one lady who explained to me the teachings of Buddhism and how they have their lama in the temple sitting in the lotus position and undecomposed for more than 30 years after his death. I didn’t get the chance to see him, but apparently the 31st July is the big celebration for him when many people will come to see him and be blessed.

After I headed back to Ulan Ude I decided to head to the city’s datsan, which Wikitravel said was at the end of the 97 mashrutka line. What it didn’t mention was that it was around half an hour’s walk up a steep dirt track road afterwards, which in sweltering 32C heat was quite a challenge. When I got there the temple itself had just closed at 6pm, but wandered around the pretty gardens with flags, bells, prayer wheels and nice flower arrangements.

Spent the rest of my time wandering around the city centre and ate at the Golden Bird Soviet style buffet restaurant which was very cheap, paying just 200R for a 2 course meal and drink.

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