Oh - Mongolia

Trip Start Jan 01, 2006
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43
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Trip End Jun 30, 2006


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Flag of Mongolia  ,
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

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I CAN UPLOAD PICTURES :-)
I CAN UPLOAD PICTURES :-)
I CAN UPLOAD PICTURES :-)
I CAN UPLOAD PICTURES :-)
I CAN UPLOAD PICTURES :-)
I CAN UPLOAD PICTURES :-)
I CAN UPLOAD PICTURES :-)
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MAY 9TH 2006 - NOON

I'm writing this email on the Trans-Mongolia Train - we left this morning at 7:40 and will arrive in Mongolia at 1:40 tomorrow. I'm not sure if there is a time change. This is our shortest train trip (only 30 hours) of the 3 between Beijing and Moscow.

We're heading north - it is cooler, farmers fields are just being planted, trees are blooming. As we go further north snow is a possibility!!!

We're hoping for blue sky and no pollution as we move away from the industrial heartland of China. I'll pause now and continue as we move closer to the China / Mongolia Border and get a beer or three.

MAY 10TH 2006 - MIDNIGHT

WOW - what a ride tonight!!! Often times in this blog I've quoted "Same-Same, but different" for towns / countries / people / food that are a bit different - but pretty much the same (like Canadians and Americans).

Where do I start -

Desert (not dessert). About 5 hours north of Beijing we entered the Gobi Desert - the train ZOOMED through kicking up a very fine dust that gets in everywhere. Truly the kind of dust the breaks computers and cameras. Oddly enough you see sheep and horses in the desert - an occasional village or house - how do sheep service on sand - maybe a new bread called SAND SHEEP.

Border Crossing from HELL
About midnight we came to the Chinese / Mongolia Border and Chinese Immigration entered the train to clear us too leave. In China you can't leave unless the Government says you can. This typically means that Chinese can't get a passport until they are mid-30s.

Immigration came on the train (same-same), took Veronica's passport and left the train (not-same-same). Then for 2 hours we shuffled back and forth as they changed the undercarriage of the train. Unable to leave the train as all the doors were locked and we were guarded by about 1,000 troops with AK47s (okay - only about 50 and we didn't see guns - but the story is better with the guns).

Veronica was very worried about her passport - you could see the physical tension. Luckily we bought a portable DVD player in Hong Kong and we watched AMERICAN BEAUTY with our bunk mates Julie and Tom (Tom who is a clone for our friend John Flodger). The movie is excellent, racy and helped pass the time.

It is hard to describe the commotion of taking a 30 car train and changing the wheels to a different gauge. Each car was separated, moved, lifted the wheels changed. Why on earth they just don't get us to take our luggage to another train I'll never understand!!!

Back to Veronica's passport. After the train was put together with new wheels, new dining car and new engines Veronica's passport was returned. What a relief!!!!!

MAY 10TH - MORNING
After a really, really crappy nights sleep morning finally arrived (for 1,000 US per person you can upgrade to first class - a good idea - maybe).

SNOW - SNOW - OMG - SNOW!!!
This mornings scenery is of 500m snow covered hills - sheep, horses, very small villages. Trees without leaves. The land reminds Canadians of the Prairies in late winter / early spring.

MAY 10TH - AFTER
Our train pulls in to Ulaanbaatar (UB) Mongolia and the first sign I see is for WiFi (Wireless Internet) - we're back into civilization. We step off of the train on a crisp spring day of about 8 deg.c. The sun is shining, the sky is clear, the mountains are snow covered. WOW - This is not China (maybe more like Tibet).

We're met by our driver and guide to take us to our hotel. T is so friendly, she takes us to the bank for a little $$$ and off to our hotel. The hotel is very nice - an excellent clean room. I'm listening to Mongolian talk radio as I work on the blog.

We went for dinner with T and a fellow traveler Hannah. I was honoured when the lovely ladies let me buy dinner. But at about $7.50 I wasn't really being that generous!!!!

We're looking forward taking a tour Thursday - T is our guide for the day on a private tour.

Cheers,

D&V
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