Trans- Mongolian to China Sat 14th July

Gobi Desert Travel Blog

 › entry 15 of 15 › view all entries
Dragged my sorry carcass out of bed, still feeling sick and sore. Sat at breakfast and watched some people eat before having to leave. Managed Tomato and Coffee and it stayed down.
The porter came up to get our bags which was a godsend. We were all sad to leave Mongolia as the people are just delightful.
The train to Beijing is number 24 from Ulanbaatar. It starts here so it is clean inside and out. The beds have gold silk spreads on themand the toilets are to surgical standard. Lots of Gleaming Stainless steel. The staff are friendly and obsessive with the cleaning which makes this train a pleasant change to the Russian ones. There are hidden costs in all this though. They bring you a little packet lunch and tea, but don’t tell you until Beijing that it cost extra. Some people were caught out. We didn’t have enough small change to pay them and no tocrooks to pay them with either.
Stopped in Choir, a town in the Gobi desert that previously boasted the largest Soviet Military base in Mongolia. There is a statue of the only Mongolian cosmonaut out the front of the station. David got a cab ride from here to the next station and met the chairman of the Mongol Railways.
David and I braved the Restaurant car only to find another thief. The lady in charge of the money short changes people so be warned NOT to give her any money until the change is counted out. BUT the food is excellent. It was a shame of end Mongolia on such a sour note. We to and froed for a while, got the police involved but in the end, We told all in the Restaurant what she did and to not trust her. The humilation may remind her in future. Also David will mention it in an email to the chairman. Lets hope she mends her ways as most Mongolians encourage tourism and would be horrified.
The border crossing meant we said goodbye to the Restaurant and had to stay on the train for the customs process. The Mongol side was hot but fast (Another little mentioned tip for travellers. The Russian’s will give you an “Entry” paper for customs. You NEED this to exit Mongolia. I have NO IDEA WHY Just keep it.) so it didn’t seems so bad.
The chinese came on and gave us carbonised paper for customs, a entry card and thena health card. “Are you importing Fever, Sneezing, Coughs or mircobes.” Hmm How does one answer this truthfully. Well you can’t so just tick no. Would you get quarentined is you sneezed at the wrong time? Who Knows. They took our passports but as they wouldn’t return them until much later, we were not permitted to get off and see the bogie changing. :( Many people were disappointed and this is a highlight of the trip. It was a hot as a sauna inside the train now, the Samovars spewed coal smoke into the train carriage and the people breathed so it got impossibly hot quickly. David and I scored a place by thenearest open window much to the digust of the others and I managed to film much of the process. We were relieved to leave the train shed and get a whisper of breeze from the night air. I dozed through the rest of the shunting manouvers and be returned to the platform. I was woken up to get my passport and shot out of the train as fast as the people ahead allowed me.
Erlian is vastly different to its neighbour across the border, Zamyn-ÜÜD. Zamyn-ÜÜD is very much a frontier town with a few staff, some livestock, and some Gers. Go across the border into China and we get high rises, a giant rainbow and neon ship (No I don’t know why) huge x-ray machines that look into the trains as they pass and security cameras everywhere. Quiet surreal. Like changing a time period.
The station shop was packed with desperate people. All hot and hungry. A tiny outlet for drinks and chips overflowing with sweaty humanity driven made by heat. The stress was showing and the queue was getting ugly so I just nabbed an orange drink for David and ran tossing money to the tiny chinese lady behind the counter. I woul dhave liked time to explore but I didn’t want to get stuck in a scrum.
The train departed Erlian on time and we begged for the air-con asap. Finally it got cool enough to sleep.
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Gobi Desert
photo by: Vanessa_Mun_Yee