Real Russia Blog

Journey through Russia, Mongolia and China part 2
11
September
2013

Journey through Russia, Mongolia and China part 2

Part 2 – Mongolia

National ParkWell we crossed the border into Mongolia, total time involved being 6 hours. Apart from two thorough searches of the train, presumably for stowaways, our passports were taken away for inspection. My pictures of the border police were very competently deleted from my camera by one of them but left the pictures of the border station. Then it was away to Ulaanbaatar, reached at the unearthly hour of 06.30 where our two guides met us to take us for breakfast.

There followed a very long day to a national park seeing Yaks and visiting Gers. That evening we had arranged to meet our friends travelling on the Golden Eagle. Being very late back from our day out one of our guides hailed a taxi. Well, not a taxi but a passing car! She negotiated a price which appeared was the equivalent 12p. He did not really know where it was we were going but rang around his friends, while driving through terrible traffic, until with a loud cheer he said he knew where it was. Needless to say, when he dropped us off he said it was the equivalent of £1.20 which I was very willing to pay. We eventually met our friends even if very late.

We are now crossing the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia on our eighth day. Yesterday in Ulaanbaatar we visited a Buddhist monastery, the history museum and the central square. The latter was impressive. There was a wedding party present. In Russia and here it is customary for the wedding party to have photographs taken in front of a local building or landmark. In the early evening we were taking to a theatre to see a cultural show of various performers, the like I had not seen before. The acts ranged from regional dancing, an orchestra to various solo and duo acts. I had never seen most of the instruments but the orchestra could produce sounds we recognised as well as ones we did not. The strangest thing was throat singing!

Reaching our hotel rather early we did our packing as we were leaving the next morning at 06.10 to catch the 07.15 train for Beijing. It only operates on three days a week and was 18 coaches including a restaurant coach and all the rest were sleeping cars. The sleeping cars have seven compartments. In second class each compartment has four berths.

The first class compartments are the same size with two cabins sharing a small room with a sink and shower. There is always more demand for first than the numbers available but we were lucky to get one for this trip. This is a Chinese train and unlike Russian trains we are allowed to open the corridor windows. I am not sure yet whether it has air conditioning but each cabin has a fan and is pleasant. As is normal for these trains each coach has two attendants. Buddhist monastery, the history museum and the central square. The latter was impressive. There was a wedding party present.

In Russia and here it is customary for the wedding party to have photographs taken in front of a local building or landmark. In the early evening we were taking to a theatre to see a cultural show of various performers, the like I had not seen before. The acts ranged from regional dancing, an orchestra to various solo and duo acts. I had never seen most of the instruments but the orchestra could produce sounds we recognised as well as ones we did not. The strangest thing was throat singing!

We stopped at a small town station for 30 minutes in Mongolia and as usual, locals were on the platform selling food and souvenirs. The price stated for two bread rolls was about 2p in our money. She tried to give me change for 4p! She was full of thanks. Delightful people. The railway passes through mile after mile of deserted wilderness with the occasional Ger, small settlements, cows, sheep, goats and camels but normally nothing as far as the eye could see. It was much more desolate than on our last visit to Russia, to Vladivostok.

Chris Lewis – Member of Locomotive Club of Great Britain website: www.lcgb.org.uk