J, the Austrian guy, and I ate a quick breakfast at the hostel and headed out to the train station for our adventures in China. After a 30-minute walk to the train station, we boarded for the final leg of the Trans-Mongolian journey.
The people in my train cabin were asleep from the overnight ride, since it was 8:30am at this point, so I hung out in the next cabin with J and the 2 British grannies who were having a great time. We talked about China, Mongolia, the Trans-Mongolian, and life, until the guys in my cabin woke up. I also went to the next car to check on my American friend, C, who I’d been hanging out with, but she and the others in her cabin were all fast asleep.
Once the guys in my cabin woke up, I put my stuff in the room and put the sheets on my bed to settle in for some hangouts. They turned out to be HILARIOUS, and the ride was awesome.
N, from Singapore, spoke Chinese, and that helped a lot in interacting with the train attendants. J, from England, was also going to my same hostel in Beijing, so that was cool. We had a lot of laughs and adventures in our train car. J & N had taken the train straight from Moscow without getting off, so they were pumped to be approaching the end and a chance to use a real toilet and take a shower.
Crossing through Mongolia, we saw some wild camels roaming the Gobi Desert, and that was amazing. We also saw rain in the desert, which is rare. Mongolia was beautiful, and I kept looking out the window and thinking, “I should’ve come out here and should’ve stayed longer.” Some day.
The trains in Russia had Russian dining cars, and this one had a Mongolian dining car, so we went there for lunch. The vegan options were almost 0, but I had some noodles with carrots (yay?). I also wandered past an open First Class cabin and peeked inside. They looked amazing, but definitely not worth the price.
The trains in Russia had used firewood to keep the water heaters going. This one was Chinese and was burning coal, which seems rather unsafe in a closed environment.
The stops at the border took forrrrrrever. The passport checks, inspections of bags & train compartments, and then changing the wheels on the Chinese side (the track widths are different) took over 5 hours of the 27 hours I’d be on the train. Unreal. However, it was really interesting to watch, and we had a lot of laughs (possibly aided by the sleep deprivation, since it was after midnight at this point). I was finally in China!
For unknown reasons, we received free coupons for breakfast & lunch in the now-attached Chinese dining car the next morning, so we got up at 6:30 for that. It was toast & eggs (which J was excited to eat for me), and we went back to sleep. Because the train would arrive shortly after noon, the “lunch” time was 9-10am, but I slept through it, since I wasn’t overly pumped about breakfast or the “get what you receive, no options” lunch plan.
For the last 2 hours of the train, we watched some amazing countryside roll by, and everyone kept telling each other, “Welcome to China!” For most of the people on the train, it was the first time visiting China. I was super excited.
As we rolled into Beijing, J and I tried to wave to people we passed (train yard workers, people waiting to cross the tracks, etc.), and we got a lot of friendly waves & smiles. I was finally in Beijing and had completed the Trans-Mongolian train. I’m still super excited about having done it, as exhausting as some of it was.
Next post: Beijing.