Sunday, December 7, 2008
The Trans-Siberian Railway Beijing to Ulan Bator
We arranged a wake up call for 6 am, unfortunatly we hadn't finished drinking in the bar until 1.30 the night before. We grabbed our gear and headed out to Beining main train station to pick up our tickets and board the K23 from Beijing to Ulam Bator, the Mongolial Capital.Our carridge attendant showed up to our cabin where we soon settled down for a few more hours sleep.When we awoke we headed to the restaurant car for some breakfast and took a table next to some already very drunk Mongolians who insisted on raising a cheers every 3 minutes and continally trying to speak to us in Mongolian long after it had become apparent that we didn't understand a word. The enslaught only receded once the loudest of the group fell into a drunk stuper over his fried chickens feet breakfast.Back in the cabin we watched the incredible scenery of snow topped mountains and frozen rivers as we headed into desolate Northern China. The expance outside the window sparsly populated by coal miners, sheep farmers and the manual laborers of the railway.In the cabin next to ours was a Mongolian girl with a name almost impossible to pronounce. She was on her way back to see her family in Ulan Bator after spending a year studying in Australia.We stopped at the china mongolia border at around 8.30 that evening. Our passports were collected by the border guard and we disembarked before the train rolled into a train shed to have the wheels changed from the Chinese to the Mongolian gauge.Alongside the platform was a small building with some rudimentary facilities and we were locked in for 3 hours while the train recieved it's new set of wheels.We met two Australians whom the Mongolians recognized as the hosts of a popular English language tv show on Mongolian national television.We eventually boarded the train again for the 25 minute journey across no mans land to the Mongolian border, where once again the train was boarded by guards. A very stern looking female mongolian border guard had us one in the hallway of the caridge and carefully scruitamised our faces against the photos in our passports an hour and a half later we pulled away into the Mongolian plains, bound for Ulan Bator, the worlds coldest capital city..We arrived in the Capital at 1pm the next day and were met from the train by our Mongolian tour guide Gerhleah and driver Ahgee. It was -20C, without gloves, jackets, jumpers and a bear skin hat we would have almost certainly have died of hyperthermia whithin hours.After a short stop at the bank, to change our Chinese Yuan into Mongolian Tugots and Russian Roubles, we went to the biggest monestary in Mongolia and then down to the central square of the city. Governent house, on the northern side of the square is adorned with a huge statue of Gengis Khan. The remaining sides of the square are home to the national opera house, the headquarters of the ruling democratic peoples party (recently firebombed and partly destroyed in a riot organized by the opposition) the headquarters of the opposition, the Revolutionary party and the main post office.