Published: September 29th 2008September 26th 2008
........well, for the Trans-Mongolian train that is.
We were both very sad to be leaving Mongolia, it has been the most amazing place to visit, it felt like a real privilege to see such a breathtakingly beautiful country where the people are so welcoming, it was everything we wanted it to be and more!
Our train from UlaanBaatar was a completely different kettle of fish to the Russia - Mongolia train; gone was the old nostalgia and in was the ensuite bathroom (albeit sharing with your next door neighbour via an interconnecting door), tv monitors, clean windows (very important for budding photographers), individual temperature control and friendly Mongolian staff bringing around hot water flasks with tea and coffee; having said all that it did not feel as adventurous as the last train, it all felt a bit too nice!
On our previous trip we had not stepped foot into the buffet car and we were determined to eat there on this occasion, as we were reliably informed by the guidebooks that this is where all the action was happening. We saw a stampede of people passing our cabin at 5pm some had even spruced themselves up for the
occasion; we decided it was a little early for dinner and set off at 6pm. We arrived thinking great we have timed this perfectly as the the tables started to empty; that was when the scrum started, we dodged and weaved but it was not to be, damn we had missed the second sitting! We consoled ourselves with a beer at the bar while looking longingly at people in a "I am starving" kind of way, which obviously did not work as we did not get to sit down until about 7pm. At this point it is important to point out that the train would be stopping for a bogie (nothing to do with your nose) change at 7.30pm; this resulted in a four course dinner being served at ultra speed and us being ushered out of the carriage within half an hour with our dessert in a plastic bag; all at a rip off price. Not quite the buffet car action we had been looking for! Having said all that we did see the most incredible sunset from the buffet car window, our last in Mongolia.
After a three hour bogie change and a one hour border crossing
into China it was time for some shut eye. Awoke to a glorious sunset and the first glimpse of paddy fields which could only mean we were in China, a frost covered the ground and the farmers were out with their oxen in the fields. The landscape changed to terraced paddy fields on the hillside with huge factories every now and then pelting out smoke (including the orange variety) and then our first glimpse of the great wall - cool! The final part of the journey into Beijing took us snaking through tunnels into spectacular gorges.
The sprawling city appeared, we had arrived in Beijing; let the next chapter of the adventure commence!
There are more photos below