I left Beijing on a foggy morning. The train station was already buzzing at 630am when I arrived and I was puzzled by the departure board which had the train numbers in English but didn’t list the platforms. Luckily I showed my ticket to someone at the information desk and they pointed me to platform 6 where a line had already formed to board. When the attendants arrived to begin boarding everyone and their mother rushed for the stairs. People looked like they were moving to Mongolia they had so much luggage. I felt like a lightweight with my one suitcase and two backpacks (one with food, the other my tech).
I was surprised to find I had a room all to myself when I boarded. I booked a first class cabin with a shared bathroom for 4 people, and since my neighbor was also the only person in his room too I only had to share it with him instead of three people.
My neighbor was William, a Canadian living in Australia who’d been dreaming of the Trans Siberian journey as well. He made friends with a German girl, Anna, in line for the train who I also had a brief chat with while boarding. Once we all got settled we ventured to the dining car for drinks and to enjoy the views. As we left Beijing the morning fog started to burn off and we were rewarded with some amazing views of the mountain and green farm lands.
I had been excited about the trip the night before so didn’t sleep much. As we started to pass through more and more cities in China I elected to take a nap. When I woke up we were in the flat lands of China. We made occasional stops here and there picking up and dropping of passengers. I really loved watching the sun set and the colors of the sky as it dipped behind clouds in the distance.
Around 8PM we arrived in Erlain, China, to go through immigration and also change the wheels on our train. This took about 4 hours and watching the process to change wheels was fascinating. They lift up each train car using hydraulics, rollout the old wheels and roll in the new.
After we went through Chinese immigration we travelled to the Mongolian boarder and went through immigration there. It was past midnight so they just took our passports and processed them while we slept in our cabins. Around 230am they returned my passport and I was able to go to sleep properly. I’ve been on several trains in the last few weeks and this was by far the best bed and sleep I had. It was also nice to have the coveted bottom bunk.
When I woke up at 8am we were whole heartedly in Mongolia. The rolling hills and picturesque sky I’d seen in many photos before the trip were now right in from of my eyes. I saw the occasional cluster of yurts, sheep and horses and could see the train engine as we curved around several hills and crossed bridges.
The closer we got to Ulaanbaatar the more houses and yurts I saw. From the pics of Ulaanbaatar I found online, I thought most of the building would be gray and eastern European looking, but quite the contrary. The districts outside of Ulaanbaatar are very colorful with bright colored roofs in reds, blues and greens.