Beijing Bound

Moleskine Entry April 22nd 2011

It’s 11:49am local time, we crossed the Chinese border about 12hrs ago and should be arriving at the capital in around 2hrs. Immense.

Some things I need to cover before I start on Beijing!

Day 3 in Ulaanbaatar.

After waking up at stupid o’clock and catching a genuine Mongolian sunrise (note to self: catch more sunrises), we had breakfast and headed back to UB just in time for lunch.

Later there was traditional Mongolian dancing and singing.
More things of note:

  • The Mongolian influences on parts I, II and III of Star Wars are incredible. The first singer may as well be auditioning for the part of Queen Amidala – it was that spot on.

Traditional Mongolian Throat Singing

  • I touched upon the culture clash of eastern and western life in a previous entry but, what is equally staggering is that, simply through a cursory glance at the traditional clothing worn by the Mongolians at this evening out, anyone could see how the Russian and Cossack dress, style and fashion has mixed in with that of the eastern, more Chinese way of presenting one’s self. If London is the cultural melting pot of the world, then Mongolia is (or was) the same but of Russia and China. A truly unique, yet ultimately recognisable, design for life.
  • Mongolian throat singing. Like that thing that you do sometimes when you catch your voice just at its driest.

Aaaaand then it was an early night for us. Yesterday, the 21st, we were to get up and board the train for our final leg of the trip from UB to Beijing.

Looking at the train

The train itself (by comparison to our last transport) is gorgeous (and actually, I’m glad that I made the trip this way ’round, given that initially I’d intended to start in Beijing – thank you Sarah), and they have actual showers!

Last night, just after we crossed the border…


Changing the wheels

Yes, that’s right. The tracks in China are smaller to that of the rest of the world and, although you would think that you would simply change trains at the border – oh no, they simply lift the carriages into the air AND CHANGE THE WHEELS WHILE YOU’RE STILL INSIDE. This is nothing short of mental.

Soon. Beijing.

We’re not there yet and already I’m in love.

China is stunning.


PS. Lunch in the restaurant car.

Yes! Decent food! Yes!

Time Travel

Moleskine Entry 14/411

Moleskine entry: April 14th, 2011

Within the train, we’re on Moscow time. The timetables, dining schedule and bar opening hours are all on Moscow time.

When we get off the train however (at various stations and stops along the way), we’re suddenly on local time, which could be anything upwards of +2/3/4hrs more.

Time travel.

Day One*: The Czar’s Retreat

Mongolians packing a LOT for the trip

Moleskine entry: April 14th, 2011

Where do I begin?

It’s 11:30 Moscow time* and we’ve just woken up somewhere in Siberia. It’s OK, we are actually on a train (the trans-Mongolian express don’tcha know) and after a first, somewhat restless night of sleep, we’re around 850km outside of Moscow with another 3800km to go – it should be a long five days of travel ahead.

But that’s just it, it should be. However I doubt very much that it actually will. My four travel companions are quite frankly, awesome and last night – our first night aboard – was hilarious.

First there was the smuggling incident.

Some background: each cabin beds four. There are five of us. The others are two pairs and then there’s me. Which in turn means that there was every chance I’d be rooming with three random Mongolians. Except, I’m not. I’ve got the whole frickin’ room to myself [for the time being, at least]!

Which brings us to the smugglers. Marina, our Honcho in Moscow, had warned us about them already and – before we left – offered some handy advice:

“When you get in your cabin, check everywhere. If something looks like it doesn’t belong, put it outside your room. Not out the window, just put it in the corridor. The smugglers will just take it and move it elsewhere.”

Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

I checked my compartment quite thoroughly and still managed to miss two bags of stuff and one plastic torso [don’t ask] – the cabins aren’t even that big! Next door however, a mad Mongolian woman had started taking stuff out of their ceiling!

Mongolian. Smuggling.

The woman was fairly camera shy [they’re smugglers after all], but I managed to get this one of her son who climbed up after her to reach into another compartment within the ceiling.


Later, after said smuggler had left, we realised that my room was free [apart from me – see above] and have since transformed it into a makeshift bar – aka ‘The Czar’s Retreat’.

3800kms to go. This trip, like I said before, is going to be – in the truest sense of the word – epic.


I’m just wrapping up this diary entry and I need to add in one more thing. Sally has just asked if someone could go with her to get beer. “I don’t know where the bar is.” she says. “It’s OK…” we reply “…we’ll draw you a map.”






*Day One on the train, obviously…

Moscow 0.1

En route from Moscow Intl.

Moleskine entry: April 11th, 2011

There’s a larger entry to come later today I’m sure but, it’s 19:50 local time, I’ve been in this taxi for nearly an hour and if the Godzilla Hostel doesn’t actually look like the Japanese legend of old, I am going to be thoroughly, thoroughly disappointed.

That is all.