#96 Journey Home Part 1 Taizhou to Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia

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July 10th 2008
Published: November 9th 2008
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Taizhou to Ulaan Baatar

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Friday night "meet and greet" at the Hash Bar. My friend Maggie from Hong Kong and myself make acquaintance with Canadian hashers.
Well here I am finally with the beginning of my fantastic 5 or so month adventure back to Oz after leaving Taizhou on June 17. I have set myself a challenge to reduce my carbon foot print as much as possible by travelling mainly by train. Originally, I had allowed myself just one flight and that is for my final leg from San Diego to Brisbane. However, my plan to take a "cheap" passage with a container ship across the Atlantic from the UK to US/Canada is looking just a wee bit shaky, so we'll have to see! There are more than 20 episodes, so sit back, enjoy and travel with me round the world (almost) from Taizhou, Jiangsu, PRC back to the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia - the long way round!

After a frantic last few days and a tearful goodbye, my first "port of call" was Beijing. There were 3 reasons for stopping so early in my trip. Firstly, I needed to obtain my Mongolian visa ; secondly for access to the city of Tianjin where I was attending the All China Nash Hash and finally I wanted to have a quick look at the Olympic venues
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Being one of my last nights in China, I couldn't resist attending an Opera Performance. My intention was to see a traditional performance of Peking Opera, as I hadn't taken the opportunity to do so previously. In fact the performance was of Kunqu Opera and it was performed by a famous troupe from The Shanghai Jing Kun Arts Centre. Kunqu Opera is one of the oldest forms of opera still existing in China, with its origins dating back to the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). It has exerted a dominant influence on all the more recent forms of opera in China, including the Sichuan and Beijing operas.
before heading out of the country as they were nowhere near completed when I was last in Beijing 2 years previously.

Firstly, the Mongolian visa. I had naively thought it couldn't be as officious and annoying as obtaining my Russian visa at the consulate in Shanghai, but I was to be proven wrong! I believe that this summer was particularly bad due to increased security leading up to the Olympics. After finally finding the Embassy (thank you Thorn Tree forum posters!), I joined the relatively short queue outside the embassy and thought "this should be ok". However, I didn't allow for the fact that there was only 2 windows operating, one for taking the applications and one for accepting receipts of payment. I patiently waited and just as I stepped up, smiling to the gruff looking man behind the counter he checked his watch and defiantly crossed his arms in front of him indicating he was closed! Just my luck!

Next day I decided to be there early and not be confronted by the same problem. I was one of the first to arrive, so I felt pretty confident all would go well. Think again. I was quizzed
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Surrounded by excited school children in the Chinese border town of Erlian.
about why I was going to Mongolia and if I had an "official" invitation etc. I had all the required paperwork as I had been advised but this did not seem to impress the man behind the counter (with no English, of course). He just belligerently stated I could only have 14 days and not the 30 days I had applied for. Now that was a bit of a problem, because if I was only allowed 14 days I couldn't continue to Russia (as my visa stated a specific date of entry) and I couldn't return to China (my residence permit would be expired). I politely asked if I could extend my visa while in Ulaan Baatar. No answer. He thought he had got rid of me, but I insisted on the necessity for 30 days or an extension when in Ulaan Baatar. He called another man over who explained in English if I wanted 30 days I needed an "official" invitation from the Foreign Affairs Department (not a travel agency or tour company as I had been advised). I just kept insisting that their website and every other info source had said what I had was sufficient. In the
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This must be one of the smallest monasteries in the world!
end, he finally said ok as I wasn't going to move until I had a satisfactory answer. Of course I had to pay top money (same day fee) and pick it up the next day (maximum inconvenience)! So, finally on the third day I picked up my passport- with my 30 day visa. I was the only one there who had been allowed 30 days, everyone else only received 14. So it goes to show that persistence and patience can pay off in the end!

The All China Nash Hash is an annual gathering of social runners and walkers from all over the country and beyond and it was the first time I had been able to attend since my arrival in China. It was great catching up with all sorts of people like my mates from Shanghai, fellow Aussie KC who has scored a new job in Tianjin, Maggie from Hong Kong and my old friend "Wolf" from Frankfurt, Germany. It was a wonderful weekend and a fitting finish to my time in China. Maggie and I met up again back in Beijing and wandered around the Olympic "City" but were very disappointed by all the security
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This is the GM of the Tianjin-Teda H3 who were the organizing hosts for this event.
fencing and amazed at how much of the finishing work was still to be done with just 40 days to go. That's now history, of course! We also attended a traditional opera performance in the impressive new performing arts complex affectionately known as "The Egg". Very enjoyable and not as painful on my poor Western ears as I had imagined it would be!

From Beijing I decided to travel by local train to the border town of Erlian, stay overnight, then continue over the border into Mongolia to Zaamen Uud and from there to Ulaan Baatar. This was a great way to break up the journey, experience smaller local areas and save heaps of money! The cost of this journey was a fraction of the expensive international Trans Mongolian option from Beijing to Ulaan Baatar and a lot less hassle to organize. Funny thing was the local carriages from Beijing to Erlian are actually attached to the international train, then disconnected at Erlian and then await the return journey a few days later!
So in essence you are travelling on the Trans- Mongolian train, just you are paying less than a quarter of the price. Not to mention
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Some of my Shanghai hashing buddies relaxing at the bar of Broadies.
the fact that you can buy your own ticket and not go through a travel agent.
I had originally planned to travel over the border by train 2 days later, but decided to take the bus instead. That proved to be a much better option as there are 4 a day and you can connect with the local train in Zaamen Uud. The train from Erlian, is, of course the international train and is 4 times the price of the local one. Tip for those who wish to travel the local way. On arrival in Zaamen Uud, do not be put off by the incredibly unhelpful and rude ticket sales person who will insist that there are no more tickets today and to come back the next day. Go to the VIP lounge and talk to the lovely lady in there who will buy a ticket for you. No commission or anything! Also, you can use the internet in there for free- if it's working! (It wasn't when I was there).

So the first part of my adventure concludes with me piled into a very crowded local train with hordes of Mongolian traders who are fascinated with having a
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Shanghai bunch again but with me this time!
foreigner in their midst. They helped me with my luggage, taught me card games and tried to chat with me about my life. I have even been contacted since by one of their daughters who emailed me to say her mother was very pleased to meet me and hoped I would have a safe journey! Now that's what travelling is all about!

Additional photos below
Photos: 52, Displayed: 26


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Everyone relaxing at Broadies Bar.
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I was surprised to see that the esteemed "Wolf"(left) had travelled all the way from Frankfurt to share the fun in Tianjin with my Shanghai hash buddy BTC.
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Preparing for the run?
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We're ready to go!
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Photo opportunity for some of the runners!
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Admiring the countryside on the run.
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Patiently waiting for lunch after the run.
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These Malaysian hashers knew how to relax in style by the water.
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Finally had a chance to catch up with my old friend Wolf at the Sunday lunch where he tried to convince me to go on his tour of the "Stans" ie Kazakhstan,Uzbekistan etc in October this year. Tempting..... but unfortunately I had other plans. Hope you're all having a fascinating time!
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Bubu and Duchess from Shanghai put on a skit for everyone's enjoyment. They brought the house down!
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Saxophonist from the Jazz/Blues band resident at Broadies. They were terrific!
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The band's vocalist takes a break. She looks tiny, but she really packed a punch with her powerful jazz/blues voice!
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The organizing committee are acknowledged with a cold beer for all their hard work.
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Despite the frantic pace of development in this city, I managed to find a tranquil stretch of canal near where I was staying.

9th November 2008

Latest TravelBlog
G'day Treadie, Your pics and stories are great - look forward to each installment. It will be great to have you back in Oz but will miss the blogs. On On Bushie
9th November 2008

Love your travel adventures, looking forward to the next episode.
10th November 2008

You beautie Treadie!...
Sue What fabulous little adventures you are enjoying!... As you know I was at Jinan Uni Intensive Mandarin Nov/Dec 2008 so I can relate to your PR China experiences. I have the past five weeks hashed PI Nash Hash La Union ,10th Mekong Indochina at Sukhothai with Chiangmai and Laos post lubes. Went to Pattaya and enjoyed a Bangkok Nonthaburi Men's run with Bimbo... Tonight thankfully off home to recuperate ON On KUNTFOO
17th November 2008

You Go Girl
Can't wait to see you and hear all about your adventures in San Diego. On On
25th November 2008

Greetings from Taizhou Teachers College
So happy to hear you are doing well. How quickly time passes, and we are almost at the end of another semester here at TTC. It is getting much cooler, and soon it is time for the long-johns. I think of you often, and miss you much here. Wish you continued joys in your travels, and look forward to your photos from your extensive journey West. Have a happy Thanksgiving in the USA. Love, Hans
27th June 2009

Liked your cool pics and adventurous stories!!!!

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