Trans Sib-Ulaanbaatar to Beijing, 26th-27th Jul 07
Beijing Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
After a quick breakfast at the Hotel Bayangol, we got our transfer to the station get the final leg of our Trans Siberian/Mongolian adventure.
Once on the train, first impressions were an improvement on the last train, so hopes were higher for a more comfortable journey....Sadly this was short-lived...
The carriage reached 40°C in the sweltering Gobi desert heat, and the worst part was that we were told to shut the windows to stop the cabin from filling with the desert dust, leaving us wholly reliant on the antiquated fan. At least there was a fan ��" an improvement on the last leg of the trip!
Lying still was the coolest activity but Smurf and I managed to distract ourselves from the discomfort with a few games of backgammon.
We discovered, several hours in, that there were two 1st class carriages on the train, which had both air con and showers! Despite paying for 1st class, we had been given a 2nd class cabin due to over-booking. It became clear pretty quickly that a German tour party had somehow managed to get priority on the 1st class cabins. Typical! German efficiency wins out once more...does it ever fail, I ask myself? Note to self ��" if Trans Sibbing again, book with a German tour operator!
Ray and Shelly were among the few lucky outsiders that were actually given what they paid for, and as charitable folk, they offered us a bit of respite from the heat.
The border crossing was pretty painless, which perked us up. It was much more efficient than the Russian crossing and it was really interesting to watch the wheels being changed. The tracks are marginally smaller in China than along the rest of the Trans Mongolian line, so the train carriages are wrenched into the air so the wheels can be pushed out from underneath and replaced with ones that fit the Chinese tracks. The carriages are then lowered again and the train can go on its way... This all happens whilst the passengers are still onboard! Quite the novel experience.
Needless to say I had a pretty poor night’s sleep due to the heat and the dust, which seemed to get in despite the windows being closed....And what’s more, the antiquated fan stopped working half way through the night which didn’t help matters.
However, as with this whole trip, the minor moments of pain were short lived as I woke to scenes of spectacular countryside in China ��" my home to be for the next 6 months...AND an open window as the Gobi desert was now well behind us....
After gazing out the window for a while, I spent a bit of time cleaning the cabin as the Gobi dust had got over everything including Smurf and I ��" what a glam pair!
We finally rolled into Beijing Central Station at around 3pm, and as we made our way off the train, stinky and dishevelled with dusty rucksacks that weighed a ton, we were met by a bell boy from the hotel, standing in a crisp white mandarin suit holding a card with our name on it. What a contradiction! He promptly grabbed my bag and we only had time for quick goodbyes before we were ushered off in the direction of our waiting car.
Getting into the car was a real treat.....comfy seats and air conditioning....and cold water, which the bell boy had brought in a little ice box....AND....a wet white towel, like the ones you sometimes get at Chinese restaurants....not so white when I handed it back, which was marginally embarrassing!!
As we pulled up at the hotel, a swarm of attendants rushed out to greet us. I’d never seen anything like it! It was as if they expected Posh and Becks to step out the car, when in fact they got Wayne and Waynetta. Clearly the shame was too much, so they whisked us straight up to our room by-passing check-in. Once we had every feature in the room explained in intricate detail, I finally got to take the last of the much needed showers I have required over the course of the Trans Sib experience.