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Time to say Good Night, sweet China

Erlian Travel Blog

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Train yard in Zhangjiakou
We continued on the train in Zhangjiakou where the tracks turned from heading northwest to southwest for a side trip to Datong (don't ask me that's just the way the train travels). At some point we decided to head to the dining car for lunch since for some reason we had free meal vouchers included with our tickets. Lunch wasn't much to write home about but it was sustenance and it was free. And since the alternative was one of my prepackaged cup of noodles meals, there was no reason to argue. We also met another group that was travelling the rails as well as us - we would see them pretty much constantly off and on over the next two and a half weeks.
Transiting through more rural areas of China.


After lunch it was time to chill. The playing cards probably made their first appearence. Drinks were had. Jack pulled out his portable speakers which became a huge hit and it was always a fight to be able to play some of "your" music live for the group from your mp3 player. I must say that for the most part everyone had good taste in music. Occasionally stepped out in the "hall" to watch the scenery. Stopped over to the berth that Efrat, Carlie, and Heidi were sharing with "Sausage" guy. Since we were 11 all together, we always had one extra spot to fill in the "kupe" (2nd class) four person berths. This time the ladies were stuck with a Mongolian returning home. When he settled into the berth he pulled out a huge hunk of sausage and a knife and set it on the table and this was his food for the trip.
Changing the bogies (wheels) of the carriages at the China/Mongolia border.
But more on him in a little bit.

From Datong the tracks shifted back to the north for the journey towards the Gobi Desert and Mongolia. The landscape became increasingly flatter and drier. It was also evident how far China still has to go in these rural areas of the country. China's cities are truly first world, but in some areas there is definitely still a second or third world feel.

Just before 8:00 PM we approached the border town of Erlian (or Erenhot) and we had a choice to make. The rail gauge in Mongolia (and Russia) is different than that of China so there is a need to change the bogies (wheels) that the carriages ride on to adjust for the different rail gauges. There are two options that one can take while this is taking place: (1) exit the carriage and wait in the station or (2) stay in the carriage and watch the operation in the shed.
Changing the bogies (wheels) of the carriages at the China/Mongolia border.
Now as for (2) the process takes quite a bit of time and the facilities in the carriage are locked so one better have taken care of business earlier if choosing option 2. Everyone chose to stay on the train.

The train is directed into a shed and all the carriages are decoupled. A few at a time are then released from the bogies and raised on hydraulic lifts. Then the first set of bogies are wheeled away and the new set are wheeled in and the carriage is lowered and reattached. Then the carriages are pulled out of the shed and the train is reconstituted to continue the journey. It may sound like a simple task but overall it was about a 2 hour process.

After the train was pulled back out onto the tracks we had a brief period of time to exit to the platform and use the facilities. After nearly a month these were my final steps on Chinese soil for this trip.
Bogie Changing at the China/Mongolia border
Back on the train it was time for Chinese Immigration and Customs to collect our passports, make a cursory check of our goods and stamp everyone out of China. Then it was time to truly say good night to China at around midnight and cross into Mongolia.

On the Mongolian side of the border we went through the process again. Turn in the passports fill out the customs form and have customs come through the train and check all the cabins. And here is where "Sausage" man comes into play again. Turns out our man is not only returning home, he's returning home with a case full of Chinese t-shirts obviously meant for sale. But it was nothing that a small bribe couldn't fix so he could continue on to Ulaan Bataar (UB).

Finally done with all the formalities around 1:00 AM it was time to get on the way again, this time in Mongolia. Heading for UB, but for now its time to finally get some sleep.
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Train yard in Zhangjiakou
Train yard in Zhangjiakou
Transiting through more rural area…
Transiting through more rural are…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Bogie Changing at the China/Mongo…
Zhangjiakou Train Station (I think)
Zhangjiakou Train Station (I think)
Schedule on the wall for the entir…
Schedule on the wall for the enti…
Between Zhangjiakou and Datong, C…
Building something big here but I …
Building something big here but I…
Chinese dining car for lunch.
Chinese dining car for lunch.
Scenes from between Zhangjiakou an…
Scenes from between Zhangjiakou a…
Scenes from between Zhangjiakou an…
Scenes from between Zhangjiakou a…
Views from the train - outside Da…
A set of rails splits off from our…
A set of rails splits off from ou…
Hanging out the window to capture …
Hanging out the window to capture…
Large power producing facilities
Large power producing facilities
A view of the front of the train f…
A view of the front of the train …
Area becoming flatter and drier as…
Area becoming flatter and drier a…
Samovar in the train carriage for …
Samovar in the train carriage for…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of th…
Changing the bogies (wheels) of t…
Final bits of wandering in China o…
Final bits of wandering in China …
Bogie changing at the China/Mongo…
Erlian
photo by: eefab