When I say the words “business hotel” what springs to mind? Dull rooms? An ageing computer centre? A fusty bar? Well, the Mergen Bator in Ulan Ude is a business hotel with a difference. A bit of fun and a lot of class, the Mergen Bator surprised us at every turn.
Ulan Ude is a cosy city nestled in the heart of Buryatia, in Russia’s Siberia. It is near the Mongolian border, and you will see hints of that in the architecture and in the Mergen Bator’s interiors.
Up and over the tracks from Ulan-Ude’s station building, the Mergen Bator is just a ten minute walk. In fact, if you walk to the western end of the platforms, you can take a set of steps directly up to the bridge and shave some time from that.
From the hotel, it is just a five minute walk to one of the city’s most famous tourist sights, a giant statue of Lenin’s head. In this square you will also find the Buryat National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, a lovely way to spend an evening, whatever the weather.
We emailed ahead to let Mergen Bator know that our train would be arriving very early in the morning. I asked if we could store our luggage, or possibly check in early. They very kindly let us check into our room when we arrived, and so we jumped straight into bed to top up our sleep from the night train. This allowed us to head out sightseeing, feeling nice and refreshed.
A Look Around the Property
We weren’t prepared for just how large our room was going to be. Honestly, we both had a small NYC or Hong Kong size abode in mind, but it was pleasingly sizable. On entering the room, there is a huge luggage storage area on your left. This has a wardrobe, coat pegs, and drawers.
On your left is a kitchen area with a breakfast bar, hob and sink. On the breakfast bar we had tea and coffee making facilities..well, I thought it was but there was a sad lack of coffee. In Moscow there is coffee everywhere, in Siberia, it is all about tea. There was, however, some local water from Lake Baikal, a little novelty.
I don’t know if there are no pans because nobody ever cooks, or if nobody cooks in there because there are no pans!
The minibar was stocked with everything you could expect and in rather generous amounts. Forget airline miniatures, these bottles of booze are quite substantial. Oddly, it was cheaper to order the same amount of alcohol from the room service menu, but less immediate I suppose.
There was one other funky little feature in the room that I loved. Just flick this switch and a panel outside your room will indicate do not disturb, or otherwise. Fun huh!?
The bed was really wide, which was great, but it was actually two singles pushed together with a double mattress on top.
This means that the duvet wasn’t quite big enough for it. You will get a lovely, comfortable night’s sleep, but if you were there with a partner, you may have a tiny, early-hours duvet fight.
Such a shiny, modern thing. It was so shiny, in fact, that it was hard to get a picture without my reflection in it.
The shower was great, and in such a cold climate, that is important!
The Fitness Centre
On the ground floor of the hotel, just past reception, you will find the fitness centre.
The gym at Mergen Bator is an operational fitness centre full of locals working out. As such, it is very well-stocked, better than your average city centre hotel. It was busy, so I struggled to get any photos without looking like a weird stalker girl.
Grab a towel and head downstairs to the pool area. The pool itself wasn’t huge but it has those strong water jets that you can swim against, so it is a good use of the space. It was definitely a workout pool, too cold for a gentle paddle.
If you want to relax, then head through one of the doors that surround the pool, and you can sweat it out. Here there are two saunas, and two steam room (ladies only and mixed). We head into the mixed steam room and were surprised at just how big it was. I think it was almost the biggest steam room we have been in, second only to a huge Moroccan hammam. It was very well used, with people popping in and out after their work out. I think it is a very normal part of the Russian gym routine.
Breakfast is served in Restaurant Mergen, the onsite restaurant which has a strangely Chinese vibe. I wonder if that is to make the travelling business guests feel at home.
The breakfast wasn’t huge but had an interesting variety of things. I suppose they just cook more of everything when there are more guests staying?
I know Mr Fluskey is a little funny about which food can and cannot be eaten at breakfast but I decided to jump in feet first. Chicken wings for breakfast? Why not?
- On our booking it said that we had a continental breakfast included. It was actually whole buffet, including the hot food.
- As we entered the restaurant they asked if we would like scrambled eggs. Slightly confused we said, “Sure”. We were slightly surprised when a few minutes later we were presented with two fried eggs, served sunny side up and with a lovely herb oil. Perfectly lovely but not quite what we were expecting!
Probably the most unexpected aspect, and nicest surprise about Mergen Bator is the bar. Most business hotels have a bar, but they are more often than not, a bit dull, a bit drab and lacking personality. Not so at Mergen Bator. Bar 12 is a destination in itself. Here’s why:
- It is on the roof
- They serve slightly weird cocktails along with the classics
- The bar revolves!
From its trippy purple sign, to the glowing bar and constellations on the ceiling, it was something I wasn’t expecting to see in Ulan Ude.
I tried one of the Bar 12 cocktails, vodka, liquor and berry. To be honest, it was slightly too strong for me but I guess that is my fault for ordering something with two alcohols and blitzed raspberries. Saying that, the fresh raspberries were delicious. We also nibbled on two little meat pastries that are a local speciality. They left juice running down my chin, tasty but I didn’t feel very classy.
After a freezing day of sightseeing, I honestly didn’t fancy going back out into the cold. By this time it was almost -30°C and so I decided that room service was the way to go.
The menu was very varied, with lots of dishes from all over the world. I was craving a warming bowl of comfort food, so I decided to get a creamy seafood pasta dish. It was JUST what the Fluskey ordered.
Room Service 2 – Breakfast
For no extra charge you can have your breakfast delivered to your room. This means you miss out on all the weird and wacky buffet options but you get to stay in your pyjamas so….win!
If you are travelling to Ulan Ude, here is some information you might want to know:
- To book at Mergen Bator and seeing all the latest deals, check out the Mergen Bator website.
- Ulan Ude is a stop on the Trans-Siberian railway.
- The stretch of railway between Irkutsk and Ulan Ude is a gorgeous run along the edge of Lake Baikal
- There is a small airport (Baikal International Airport) 12km away from town.
Mergen Bator hotel was a genuine surprise, it had so much more to offer than we expected. I wish we had been able to stay for a few more days, even if it was just to sit and steam in the pool area.
If you are doing a Trans-Siberian adventure then you should use this as a stop to recuperate, rest and shower! After eating rehydrates noodles for a few days, the luxury of a room service breakfast will seem super fancy! Plus, Ulan Ude is a quirky, fun and interesting city to explore. What your reason for visiting Ulan Ude, then we would recommend Mergen Bator unreservedly.