36 hours, 1 boarder, 2 countries
Trip Start Jul 11, 2005
62Trip End Apr 04, 2006
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I am going away with him to an unknown country where I shall have no past and no name, and where I shall be born again with a new face and an untried heart
· Chinese/Mongolian boarder.
· Prague time +7hrs
· Days to get to Prague - 22
Life on the rails
I don't normally write a Travelogue entry to highlight journey, but the one from Hohhot in China to Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia was a bit special. It turned out to be my first time spending 2 consecutive nights on a train, and it took me through a part of the world I had always wanted to see and had unsuccessfully attempted to get to a few years back. I understand in the coming weeks when we're heading across Russia that we'll be spending longer periods on trains, but for those two aforementioned reasons alone I'm creating this Travelogue entry. Stick with me here folks, or at least humour me.
We thought we'd be hopping on the train in Hohhot and about 30 hours later we'd arrive in Ulaan Baatar. Simple, right? Although we inquired when buying our tickets in Hohhot we were unable to get a definite answer as to how long the trip would be. And now we know why. We, ominously, left Hohhot at 11pm, almost an hour late. Amid the confusion on the Mongolian train as to what carriage we should be in (seemingly tickets we had in hand and their printed text showing such details are mere souvenirs) we were finally shoved into an empty 4-berth compartment by the gruff Mongolian carriage attendant who seemed rather ruffled that he had to deal with us. We quickly realised the few words of Chinese we had were no good to us here and for a split second I remember missing China.... the comforts of familiarity, however obscure, make travel easier. That was our first introduction to Mongolia. That and the doggy carpets and blankets that tried ever so hard to spruce up our compartment. If someone had told us the blankets were used by none other than Genghis Khan himself we'd have believed them. As it turned out the compartment, blankets and the train itself were very comfortable. Plus we had the 4-berth compartment to ourselves as no one attempted to join us. Score. The lack of fellow travellers this time of year means this really is the best time to travel, assuming you can handle the cold.
We awoke the next morning to the hollow sound of mechanics at work. We were parked in a huge shed in Erlian,
We'll never leave China
And thus began the waiting, something we've got quite accustomed to over the past couple of weeks.
Korean beer. In Mongolia
That night, in the freezing cold, we had our first look at Mongolia. Putting on our usual layers of clothing we left the train. We were in Zamyn-Uud, the Mongolian town on the Mongolian-Chinese boarder. On the poorly light streets that night I got my first look at a Mongolian Ger,
Having failed in our attempt to buy a few beers with US dollars (we had no Mongolian currency yet) we went back to the train, consumed the one Chinese beer we had chilling in a plastic bag hanging out the window of our carriage and went to bed. I was keen to get up with the early light to see the Gobi desert and the famous Mongolian grasslands as we passed through the countryside. I'll include any pictures I might take of that trip in the following entry from Ulaan Baatar, the Mongolian capital.