Beijing to Sainshand Train #23

An early start after four hours sleep and a couple of bottles of atrocious ‘Great Wall’ Chinese wine is not to be recommended. The early start did mean that we could reach Beijing Central Train Station with no traffic jams. We watched a crowd of early morning commuters lining up to go through the security checks for the subway and waited for our fellow Monkey Shrine travellers. There are eleven of us altogether, a British teacher from Hong Kong, an older teaching couple from New Zealand who are teaching in China and a British family who live in Hong Kong with a couple of teenage girls. Everyone is thoroughly lovely and we are glad to have diversions for Harry and Maisie!

The train leaves at 7:47am and we are once again on the move. So far we have been travelling North East from Bangkok to get to Beijing. Now we start to move slowly but steadily to the North West as we move towards Mongolia, and the direction of home. This train is very modern and is probably one of the best we have been on so far. The Mongolian cabin attendant is lovely and smiley, not the strict dominatrix types we had been warned about. We watch Beijing’s cramped apartments and factories fade into the countryside. There are still a lot of green fields and trees, but the soil looks more yellow and dusty as we head towards the Chinese/Mongolian border.

We reach the border at 9:00pm and head off the train for three hours while they process our passports, but more importantly, change our train bogeys to a different train gauge that is 10 centimetres wider. A few Tsing Tao beers, games of Uno and chats with our fellow travellers and it is midnight and time to depart. The Mongolian border paperwork is all done on the train and we are processed by a female official who looks like Ghenghis Khan’s big sister. She smiles at Harry, so I think we’re fine. At 5am we have had four hours  sleep and nine of us (the NZ couple are travelling through to Ulaan Bator) are the only passengers alighting at Sainshand, a crumbling, ugly town that is capital of East Gobi. It is dawn, and we are are welcomed by Khirli, our guide.

We are in Mongolia! It has been one of my life’s dreams to come here; one of the most remote, romantic and stunning of all destinations. And we are here!


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