This 29 hour trip from Ulan Bator to Beijing had much more variation than the 4 night journey from Moscow to Ulan Bator. The Scenery changed more often, as too did the wheels on the train as you can see from the photos above.
The width of the railway track differ between Mongolia and China by only 10cm however this then requires the train to be lifted onto a different set of wheel. This process takes around a couple of hours and as interesting as it is a few of us on the train could not understand why they just didn’t have a different train that the people could transfer on to at Erlian train station.
Unlike last time when I had the cabin to myself for most of the journey, I was in a full compartment. Once again, I met some interesting people. The first in the cabin was me, unsure who, if anyone would join me for this trip. The first was Joanna from Portugal, but is working in Liverpool, she was very friendly and chatty. The next to join and introduce themselves was Andy who is a sound engineer and had 5 weeks to spare between jobs, his next contract being in Beijing decided to make an adventure of it by catching the train from his home town in Brighton all the way to Beijing. He stopped off at different locations on the way including Belarus, Poland, Russia and Mongolia. As we introduced ourselves I couldn’t help thinking that this whole experience was a lot like when everyone introduces themselves as they enter the Big Brother house. “The final person enter the cabin is Valerina from Italy” (Imagine I am saying that in my best Geordie Accent like the voice over guy from the program 😉 ) She had been travelling through Russia and had the final four days of her trip in Beijing before flying home.
The person I spoke to most was Andy whose job allows him to move around the world training people how to use technical sound systems or setting up the sound at concerts and going from venue to venue on tour buses. He mentioned he may have time on Sunday to visit the theme park in Beijing, so we may meet up there to see and experience that.
Upon reaching Beijing it was time to work out how to get to the hostel. The first problem, like most others on train, was having no Chinese Yaun to spend. As we entered Mongolian somebody got on the train to exchange our Russian Rubles in to the Mongolian Tugrik, this did not happen in China. So I found a bank withdrew some cash and headed to the Beijing Subway. It was busy but luckily the signage was also in English.
Talking on the train with other passengers who had read the Lonely Planet book in more depth than I had stated that you can only buy a ticket for the line you are on. To get to the hostel I needed to use line 2 from Beijing Train Station and then change on to line 4 to get to XiSi station which is nearest to where I was going to stay. The sounded complicated, especially if the person didn’t speak english at the kiosk. I search through my copy on the Lonely Planet and found that you can buy a Travel Card, a little like an Oyster and it lets you travel where you like and you top it up from time to time. It was a little awkward to communicate my desire to get one of these tickets, however an english speaking Chinese person in the queue kindly helped me out. I then had a card with 20Yaun (£2) on it. Apparently this will be enough for about 7 to 10 trips making each trip around 20 pence.
It was then simple to get to my stop and not much different from using the London Underground. Then I needed to Ulmon once again to help me get to my actual hostel. I found it pretty simply. The person at reception was very helpful and let me check in an hour an half early. I then got settled, had a shower and went to find some food. The lady at reception kindly wrote in Mandarin a note which explained that I am vegetarian and do not eat meat.
What I learned today:
- There are lots of example of kindness everywhere.
- Time on the train has helped me feel I am getting closer to knowing where I want to head in life and what I want to do on this trip to make it happen. I just now need to make it happen!