Minging UB to Ming Dynesty

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Mongolia  ,
Sunday, October 7, 2012

So after an amazing experience in the Gobi desert we are back in the bright lights and the big city of Ulan Bataar (UB). Oh what a miserable, dank city this is.  Out of a population of 2 million in Mongolia, 1 million of them live in UB.  It is also apparently the world's coldest capital, but fortunately after our freezing temperatures in the Gobi, UB was quite mild and sunny.

As there was so little to do in UB, we chose to take some time out to relax update the blog and do some much needed washing, it was quite funny washing everything we owned whilst sat around in our pj’s hoping that our clothes would dry in time for dinner, luckily they were.

UB basically consists of 2 streets, Peace Avenue which is strewn with large shopping malls which look a bit like Debenhams, with the odd restaurant scattered along the way, and Seoul Street which is pretty much just restaurants, both are also the main roads through the city and provide some crazy traffic and some excessive horn use.  Pretty much the only good thing that I can say about UB is that it does have some good restaurants, without a hint of roof cheese or airag!  UB also seems to think that it is Christmas all year with fairy lights and light up green furs lining one park, very odd.

Everything we read about UB warned us about muggers, pick pockets, bag slashers and general hassle from drunks, lucky we survived unscathed but didn’t really get many photos as we didn’t want to risk losing our cameras.  I can’t say that I would ever feel particularly inclined to return to UB, but it was good in a way as it was nice not to feel like we had to be out and about exploring and could take some time out to relax without feeling guilty.

Unbelievably it is now time to get back on the train for the final leg of the Transiberian journey.  UB to Beijing.  It is only a 30 hour journey which includes 4 hours of border crossings.

This is the oldest train that we have been on yet, we still have a private room but as this one includes a shared sink with the neighbouring cabin we get bunk beds, guess who drew the short straw for the top bunk..not peg legs!  One bonus of the older train was that the windows in the corridor opened and provided Tim with hours of photo entertainment.  As we left UB and went through Mongolia, we had some familiar views as we had seen through the Gobi, gurs, goats, horses and camels everywhere, we also got a pretty cool final sunset over Mongolia.  The border crossing out of Mongolia was relatively dull, over and done with in an hour and we weren’t allowed off the train.  Then onwards to China.  Our arrival is Erlian in China was quite an immediate change from the open space of Mongolia and we could see the bright lights and the tall buildings, we were welcomed by some serious looking officials stood on the platform whilst the Viennese Waltz blared out across the platform .  The trains in Russia and Mongolia run on wider tracks than those in China and the rest of Europe, so upon our arrival at the border we had the usual passport checks and also had the new experience of the wheels on the train being changed.  Tim found this significantly more interesting than I did, basically we were wheeled into a big shed.  The train was lifted up on big pneumatic pumps, the old wheels (bogies) were rolled off, a new set were rolled on and the train was lowered again.  I might have been more interested had it not been happening at one in the morning.  Seemingly the process all went smoothly as when I woke up and looked out of the window, there was a very different landscape.  Gone were the clear skies and open plains and they were replaced with factories bellowing out smoke and a haze of smog preventing any chance of a glimpse of the Great Wall (as promised in my trusty Transiberian Handbook).  There were some pretty areas of rolling mountains and fields of corn but pretty much everything was smogged out, lets hope that Beijing has a hint of clear sky!
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