The Last and Best Trans-Siberian Train Journey
Day 714 and 715
It was our last section of the Trans-Siberian Train Journey, from Ulaanbaator, Mongolia to Beijing, China, completing the 7,621 km of track from Moscow. And it turned out to be the best of our six sections.
As we were getting ready for our early morning pick up to the train station, Tim met Hetty, a delightfully sociable lady from Belgium who was getting the same train. We shared the taxi and found out that she was in the compartment next to us.
On the platform, who should we meet? It was the couple who we saw at the Vegan Restaurant twice; Floriaan also from Belgium and his girlfriend Sonia from Finland. They were also on the same carriage as us! Well, this is boding well. What’s more, we had our compartment all to ourselves, except we kept inviting Hetty, Floriaan and Sonia in for chats and then Cameron, a Canadian travelling around the world with his partner and three children for two years, often popped in.
We don’t meet that many other travellers, usually living in our separate apartment or with local families. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with this merry bunch. It turned out that Hetty, Floriaan and Sonia all work within the social sector; hence, we had lots to chat about, together with much laughter. They all felt that I needed to get a face mask when we reached China to avoid anyone catching my cold. I thought my homemade one sufficed.
The train was travelling south, and the weather was getting warmer. Or was it because the fire for the carriage was being stoked up. By lunchtime, we were all sweltering, and layers of clothes were gradually being stripped off.
Hetty persuaded us to join her in the restaurant car with another lady Sabrina, from Delft in Holland. Tim and I hadn’t ventured to any of the restaurant cars as we heard that they were too expensive. We heard correctly. Floriaan and Sonia spent nearly £50 on a meal there!
I am so glad we went; what a fabulous carriage! With golden deer heads, musical instruments, swords and shields, intricate wood friezes and the company was great too. We were hooting playing puzzle games where Hetty kept saying she couldn’t get the answer and then solving most of the puzzles first! Beers all round just as the sun was setting.
At 9 pm, we arrived at the Chinese border. Customs was easy, but we then had to hang around in a waiting room until 1 am, probably for sniffer dogs to do their work and also for the carriages to have their bogues changed as the track gauge in Russia and Mongolia runs on 1,520 mm, whereas China uses the standard measure of 1,435 mm. Interesting eh?
The next day, more chatting and also enjoying looking out at the scenery. Both Tim and I found the landscape in Mongolia quite monotonous. Yes, it was incredible to see the steppe plains go on for miles and miles, with the occasional granite mountains far away. The views out of our window in China varied from fields of cane, rivers and mountains with autumnal-leafed golden bushes clinging on to the sloops. We also saw many solar panels, wind farms and healthy saplings growing.
I have heard many people complain about China not doing much about Climate Crisis however they are taking action with over 1.1 million electric vehicles sold here last year and planted trees in the total area the size of Ireland. They do need to reduce coal production drastically, though. Sadly the Chinese government abruptly have cut subsidies for solar projects and lifted a two-year ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants. What were they thinking? It’s like one step forward and two steps back.
We arrived in Beijing, swapped contact details with our new friends and wandered off in different directions to experience the wonders of this city.