Touring the Ivolginsky Datsan

Previous page - Wandering in Ulan Ude


Our beds were quite comfy but there were noises outside such as announcements from the train station all night. We then realized how close we were to the train station. It would have been an easy walking distance without heavy luggage. My cold is now quite awful.


Breakfast at Olga's B&B

Breakfast was delicious. Tatiana had prepared curd cheese/sugar/sour cream which was served in a bowl plus pikelets, raspberry jam, boiled eggs and sliced French stick with butter. Cups of tea were also served. It was delicious!

After breakfast we wandered around town but didn't venture too far as we wanted to freshen up at the B & B before meeting Natasha at Lenin's Head immediately after lunch.

At noon we bought our lunch from a kiosk at the side of the square. We sat at the bottom of the statue to eat it, just like yesterday. And, just like yesterday, sprinklers were half heartedly watering the same patches in the dry garden bed. Perhaps they are just left on 24-7 but they weren't very effective. It didn't look a very inviting place for a plant to thrive.



The dusty dry garden bed gets a daily watering The dusty, dry garden bed gets a daily watering
Ian scoffing his lunch before Natasha arrives Ian scoffing his lunch before Natasha arrives










Natasha's Tourist Business

Natasha was on time and easily found us. She walked us back down through the main tourist area towards the old houses we had seen yesterday. She gave us a running commentary about the history of the city which was very interesting. She treated us to a special cold drink made from yeast, water and sugar. The drinks were bought from a person who manned a very large barrel which sat out on the pavement. We were told the barrel holds 800 litres when full and can be emptied in a day if the weather is hot. Ian enjoyed his drink but it really did nothing for me at all. Natasha is very knowledgeable and proved to be an excellent guide. We thoroughly recommend her services.

You can contact her here: and this is her phone number - 0011 7 (9025) 648-278. Her web address is To have Natasha as our guide to the Datsan cost us 700 roubles.


Ivolginsky Datsan

The padded roof of the mini bus that felt like a coffin The padded roof of the mini bus that felt like a coffin

Natasha was taking us to the Ivolginsky Monastery. It is the most important Buddhist monastery in Russia.

We headed through the main tourist area and back down into the old city where we had wandered yesterday. The bus station is there, near the river.


The coffin bus

Natasha quickly located the bus and all three of us hopped on. It is a mini bus and leaves the depot when it is full. It holds about 15 people. The seats were all quite torn and tacky but the roof of the bus was beautiful. It was quilted in a silky material. To me it felt like we had climbed into an oversize coffin. I hoped this wasn't an omen. I didn't want our family to hear we had been killed in road accident on the way to the monastery.

It cost 100 roubles each to travel there and back which included a bus change en route each way.

The miracle of Hambo Lama Itigilov

When we met the three girls back in the city yesterday they told us about the phenomenon of the monk's body. Back in 1927 before the Ivolginsky Datsan was established, Hambo Lama Itigilov was head lama at the temple. He had stipulated that when he died he wanted to remain in the position he died in and then be exhumed after 30 years. He in fact died whilst in very deep meditation and therefore had to be buried in the lotus position. Somehow his body has reacted differently to death than other bodies do. He still looks alive after decades of being dead. Tests on his skin and hair have revealed they are in an alive state as opposed to a dead state which would be expected. He has been declared a sacred Buddhist icon and he sits in state at the monastery. Sometimes the public are able to view his body. It is very interesting and you can read all about it here Ivolginsky Datsan, Siberia. Needless to say we were hoping to see Hambo Lama's preserved body.

We all went to the loo before we entered the grounds. It was the dreaded toilet below ground level for me again. It cost 100 roubles each to enter the Datsan and this is paid to the cashier at the entrance to the monastery .

Natasha instructed us with the rules of the monastery – no hats to be worn inside the building and no photos to be taken inside buildings. We were also not to touch any of the small coins we found laying on the ground as they were gifts to the monastery from the public.




Rags offered as clothing to the deceased Rags offered as clothing to the deceased
Jean turning one of the prayer wheels Jean turning one of the larger prayer wheels










Ivolginsky Datsan Monastery, Ulan Ude

The buildings and temples were all made from wood and highly decorated and intricately painted inside and out. When inside the temples it is customary to always face the front of the temple –so no turning of backs to walk out. We found it quite odd to reverse out. At one point I had to hide a fit of the giggles as Ian was walking backwards and on a collision course with a blind man who was sitting down. I couldn't yell out to him to alter his direction and I wasn't close enough to touch him to warn him.

Ian spinning a prayer wheel Ian spinning a prayer wheel
The colours of the temples are incredibly bright The colours of the temples are incredibly bright









We asked Natasha about seeing the body of Hambo Lama. It seems his body is only on display once or twice a year for very special occasions. Sometimes the public are able to view his body but unfortunately we were not able to observe this phenomenon.

Reds, greens and blues predominate Reds, greens and blues predominate
Close up of the temple to the left Close up of the temple to the left








We took heaps of photographs of this incredible place and then bussed back to Ulan Ude, swapping mini-buses at the interchange just as we had done on the way out to the monastery.


There were so many temples within the grounds There were so many temples within the grounds


Ushanka - Furry Russian hat

Ian had always wanted a furry Russian hat so Natasha told us about a market near the bus station where he could buy one. Apparently they are called Ushankas. Natasha told him where the best hat stall was. I could see we would have to carry the wretched thing all across Russia so I asked Natasha if we could get one easily enough closer to Moscow. .

We meet Natasha number 2 We meet Natasha number 2 (in the middle)



She said it would definitely be cheaper buying it here in Ulan Ude. He's bought one and it cost 3000 roubles which is about $116 AUD

We were then introduced to Natasha #2 who would take us on our next tour. By the way, Natasha is quite a common name in Russia.



Next page - The Old Believers


Our trip in the order it happened:

Travel Planning Necessities
World time zones, world weather, currency converter, language translator services.

Search over 25,000 hostels.

Trip Advisor Forum - Russia
The place to find information about Russia when you can't find it elsewhere.

Way To Russia
Another very good forum

Getting A Russian Visa
The process is explained

Trains between Moscow & Saint Petersburg
Explanation of the types of trains on that route.

Firmenny Trains
An explanation of what they are.

Moscow's Railway Stations
A map of their locations and proximities.

Learn How To Speak Russian
Free lessons.

Map of St. Petersburg
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Map of Moscow
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Moscow Times Newspaper
English version.

The Russia Club
A forum for all those interested in anything "Russian".

Russian Rail Timetable
It takes a bit of mastering but Ian managed it (eventually).

The Art Of Travel
Very interesting travel information for all locations.

Smart Traveller
Australian Government's site dealing with current travel advice.

Travel Independent
A site written by travellers for travellers. Lots of information.

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