MongoliaWe boarded the train in Irkutsk to be confronted with more foreigners than we'd seen in the last few weeks; we were obviously on the tourist carriage! When we reached the Russian border it became clear that it was only our carriage that was going any further as we were disconnected from the rest of the train and our carriage was left to stand engine-less for 6 hours, while the border guards checked documents and searched the compartments. The Mongolian border wasn't much quicker but was certainly less intimidating, and the whole carriage breathed a sigh of relief as we officially left Russia and entered the land of the nomads.Despite looking like a Soviet city and still having a statue of Lenin in the town centre, Ulan Bator seems to have rejected its communist past. The Mongolians are said to consider themselves Asian, but Western by culture, and this is certainly evident as you walk around the town; there are Western restaurants on every street corner. However the country's traditions remain prominent in society here, as many people of all ages are proud to wear traditional Mongolian dress. Only half of the Mongolian population live in urban areas, while the other half are either truly nomadic or semi-nomadic, living in villages in the winter and grazing their animals on the steppes for the rest of the year.Despite at least one third of Mongolians living below the poverty line, they are some of the friendliest people we've met, and seem to always be smiling and laughing.A tour to the countryside gave us an insight into life out on the steppes, as we spent each night with a nomadic family, sleeping in a 'ger' and eating food prepared for us by the women; either rice with mutton or noodles with mutton! We spent two nights by the White Lake, where we went horse riding for four hours, which was both fantastic and extremely painful! We tried at length to communicate with our driver, Nora, but after six days could only establish the Mongolian words for horse, goat, camel, sheep, yak, hello and thank you.The temperature in Ulan Bator has been dropping steadily since our arrival, today reaching -15°C, which was rather too cold for sightseeing. We asked the owner of the hostel what we should do today, only to be confronted with the reply, "Stay in guesthouse….it's so cooooold!" We're planning to spend the next three days with a nomadic family, to see how they prepare for the winter and help with any tasks we can.