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Trans-Siberian Railway: Ulaan Baatar to Beijing, China

Written on: Sunday November 4th, 2007

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

We couldn't complain. For the previous 5 nights we had had the cabin to ourselves, able to treat it like our own rooms back at home, strewing dirty washing, empty packets of noddles (God I'm done with noodles already) and abandoned bottles of cheap vodka in all corners. At Ulaan Baatar, despite our efforts to lock the door to keep the new co-inhabitants out we were joined by the lovely Hannah and Tina, both from the Isles of Sicilly. They had spent the last few days in Mongolia riding camels and horses across the desert and staying in a ger (a sort of mini circus tent). From their stories I was actually a bit gutted we didn't decide to stop off in Mongolia and do the same ourselves, but there is only so much one can do in one trip. Have to save it for the next one.

After another late night stop on the Mongolian-Chinese border, where not only did we fill in pointless customs declaration forms, but we had to wait for each of the carriages to be lifted so that the gauges (wheels for you laymen) could be changed as the Russians and Mongolians use a slightly wider train track then the rest of the wheel; just incase you were planning on invading any of those countries by train.

The topography changed dramtically the following morning in China as we swept through mountainous regions sat by the window anticipating our first view of the Great Wall of China about 300km from Beijing. Then as if we didn't need a symbolic kick in the balls after 6 days on a train, about 3km from the place where we'd see the Wall the fog engulfed us like something out of an Hitchcock thriller. But fortunately it did lift - about 5km after our last glimpse of the Wall in time for us to enter into a more suburban area to see all the wonderful grey, smoke stained factories and coal refineries that Beijing has surrounding it.

I make it sound like at times the last week has been a dire, boring journey across some of the world's most isolated and unchanging land there is, but in an unexplainable way, neither of us would have done it any other way, and if you have the chance to ever do the trip, snap it up. It's an amazing experience where you'll interact and exchange stories with so many different people of so many different nationalities, and of so many different languages. Plus it's a great chance to read loads of books, play a multitude of different card games and of course drink bottles and bottles of cheap, dirty vodka!