Murder on the Mongolian Express

Trip Start Jul 18, 2006
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7
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Trip End Jul 17, 2007


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Flag of Russia  ,
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Greetings! We packed our stuff and left geek hostel without barely saying a word to anyone! Made our way to the station to get the Trans Mongolian Express. Much confunsion on the platform, were people everywhere and the board didn't say the destination so we weren't sure we were even at the right station. Asked a couple of people and they said it was the right place. Also asked some French people if it was the right platform but would you trust a French Harry Potter with a hat made from a sheet of newspaper? In the end they were right and the train pulled up, "of course it will be bigger inside that the one from St Petersburg" quoth Aaron. Wrong!
On board there was a mad rush, and for some reason there were about 7 people who were all sure they were in our compartment. The Chinese conductors were clueless & didn't speak English so we waited with another English couple for things to iron themselves out. In the end Vlad, the angry looking Russian guy moved to another location so it was Beth, Aaron, a Chinese couple (the woman shall be known as Dragon and the man by Mr Wu from the restaurant in London) along with.... their 8 stinking kittens!! What the hell we thought, as they moved the kittens from small carry cases to a pop-up cage, weren't quite sure if this was even legal, they were like battery cats except all they produced was shit. After getting as settled as you can in such a small area with Chinese people running amok we chatted to some of the people on board and had a few beers in another compartment. In the morning we awoke and the kittens had vanished, was it a miracle, or had they been stir-fried we thought? No, the kittens had all been taken out of the nice airy cage and put into the metal storage bin under the bed, where there was no light and no ventilation, whoo hoo.
The days on board were great, nothing to do except chat, read, listen to music and eat, although there was a slight problem here as well. We had no roubles left and the people on the platforms selling all manner of tasty goods wouldn't accept USD so it looked like the instant noodles we took 'just in case' were to become our staple! In all seriousness we did take other food like a bit of fruit and ate quite well but our advice to anyone geting on the train is to take roubles!! That night eveyone went to Chez Bunches, the dining car which we had christened after the Russian woman who had Baby-Spice stlye bunches. In all fairness it was amazing to see a smiling Russian but then again if you've spent so many roubles filling your smile with gold you'd want to show them off wouldn't you! Much vodka was drunk and it was really good, there were loads of Western people on board with a great atmpsphere. Anothere bonus was that they took USD and gave change in roubles!! You should see the photos for all the goodies we got for the equivelent of 50p!!
After a couple of days the stench in the cabin was becoming unbearable (plus Dragon couldn't have the fan on and our window was broken) so we enlisted the help of a Mongolian, Russian, English, Mandarin speaking Mongolian girl (aka Princess) to help us complain to the lazy arse conductor. After much heated debate, during which time the conductor denied the existence of the cats and went back to mopping the hallway carpet with which he also cleaned the toilet, the cats were removed!! How happy were we!! Unfortunately this completely ruined Anglo-Chinese relations and the next day or so were spent with them leaving the room when we walked in there, an added bonus!!
The cats and dogs (they were in the space in between the cars) and Mr Wu got off at Ulan Ude, much to everyone's delight!
On the last day we crossed over the border. This consisted of of about 3 hours at the Russian side and 4 hours at the Mongolian side during which time the toilets were locked. All we'll say is that it was a fine time for our digestive systems to suddenly reject the all-noodle diet they had been subjected to!
All in all the train was amazing. The people we met were great, doing nothing without feeling guilty was lovely and some of the scenery was spectacular, especially in Mongolia and the middle of Russia. Read on for tales from out-of-Mongolia!
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Comments

kathrynwheels
kathrynwheels on

Phantom Beth in Reading
I got really excited today as I thought I saw you ikn Reading and was about to go and say hi when I remembered that you were actually in Russia and not Reading....sigh....
So, you're train journey sounds like fun. Minus stinky kittens and chinese people of course. Can't wait to hear of your tales in Mongolia. Love, love, love your travel entries. Always look forward to them. All my very best love xxxx

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