Just can't wait to get on the train again

Trip Start Jul 02, 2010
Trip End Aug 02, 2010

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Flag of Mongolia  ,
Thursday, July 29, 2010

We both had a really bad night's sleep last night – Ted was having problems with the heat, whilst I was sick again most of the night. As our transfer was coming at 6am, we both had a shower knowing there was a good chance we wouldn’t get to have another shower until tomorrow evening.

We met up with Steve and Katie and were picked up by our Mongolian guide for the station transfer. Steve has been sick too so we’re wondering if it might have been the mare’s milk or dried yoghurt sticks. At the station we again saw Paolo the Spaniard, Anja the German and Anna the Indian. We are in the first class cabin whilst everyone else is in second class which is a few down from us.

When our train pulled up, it was obvious it was newer than the other trains. But when we boarded – OMG! This train was pure luxury compared to the previous ones. Or to put it into perspective, it’s exactly the same as the last trains except that the cabins have a private shower and toilet, television, lounge chair, wardrobe, longer beds, thermos, slippers, a selection of teas, power point, temperature control, is 20 years younger and 10 times cleaner. Or to put it in Ted’s words, it basically shits all over the other trains.

We probably said the same quote about 100 times – that if we’d had a train like this previously, the entire journey – including the 3.5 day segment – would be remembered more fondly. Even with the Mongolia – China border crossing, we hoped this 31 hour, 1551km journey wouldn’t be a chore.

We watched a few movies we’d brought, which including Hitchcock’s "Strangers on a Train" (somewhat appropriate) and “The Lady Vanishes” (also set on a train). During our brief stop in Choyr, it was like a reunion of all our previous journeys, including the Intrepid Tour group from the Moscow journey, the lady we met in Listvyanka and a Swiss couple we met on our Irkutsk leg are all on this train.

We went to see Katie and Steven who are in the same room as Anja and Paolo. Ann is in the cabin next door and is sharing with two blokes from London, Charlie and Keiran, as well as a Qantas SO named Alex Sewell. It was no surprise that Alex and I knew virtually all the same people from work (Jono, Adrien, Millie) and I think we talked shop a bit too much. Hey it’s not a small world; it’s a small aviation industry.

Our stop in the town of Saynshand was like being in the middle of nowhere – a lonely railway station surrounded by desert and a ramshackle town. After departing there, we went to the dining car and played the card game “shithead” before the dining room attendants asked us to leave for incoming dinner guests. When we reached the Mongolian border, the process was surprisingly fast (faster than the entry anyway).

On the Chinese side, we thought we would be given the opportunity to disembark during the bogie changing process. Instead we were kept onboard whilst they hoisted each carriage up and operated on it underneath. The process of separating and re-joining the carriages was both noisy and rough. Try to imagine a giant kid smashing his toy train carriages together and the effect was pretty similar.

This whole process was still going after 11pm. I lay down and closed my eyes for some rest and the next thing I knew, it was the middle of the night and we were continuing our way to Beijing.
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