Leg 1 : Beijing to Ulanbator

The traffic jam in Beijing starts as early as 6.30am and I was determined to get to Beijing station before that. I almost had to brave through the traffic peak hours for it was hard to get the cab along the hostel’s alley. Tadaaaa! Made it to Beijing Train Station and arrived before 7am. And yes, the queue for the security check was already long. So, it’s better to arrive before 7am so you have ample time to go through the security and rest a bit before embarking on the train. Bear in mind that you have to check in 40 minutes before departure time.

Beijing Train Station is huge so read the electronic board to make sure that you go to the right hall for checking in your Trans-Siberia ticket. At the waiting room, you can see train personnel with dozens of water bottles with her. Just show your train ticket and you will get free water. If you have a huge backpack like moi then fret not since there is an escalator going towards the train.

Once I saw the train, the first thing that crossed my mind was: Are you sure? It’s going to be a total of 6 legs for me. And having to carry my backpack around wouldn’t be that fun in winter. But that’s where the challenge lies. So, once I stepped into the train I was greeted by the coach supervisor and he took away the ticket. He came in later on with the meal vouchers that came together with my ticket but I didn’t use any of it. And to my surprise I was the only one in the cabin and in the coach. I could have extra blanket and extra pillow. Hurrraaaaaahhhhh!

The train started moving slowly and my heart was racing. Would I be bored? Would I sleep the whole way through? Would they let me in to Mongolia? Would I be licking the window at night? And all of the silly thoughts one could ever imagine. Luckily none of it happened except for occasional napping here and there throughout the journey.

It was sunny and bright the whole day. I’ve been spending my time taking pictures of all the sceneries and after I got off in Mongolia I realized that I took over 1 thousand pictures just for the first leg. It was hardly a dull moment on the train with all the reading and writing. So, it’d be silly to think that you’re going to be bored to death on the train.

My coach supervisor couldn’t speak English at all but he’s been great in making sure that I feel comfortable throughout the journey. If I left my cabin door opened, he would stop by to ask if I have eaten or if I am sleepy. Well, we both use gestures and hand signals of course to communicate.

When we got to Erlian Station, it was almost 9pm and extra chilly. The coach’s heater was not working so they had to get it fixed. And of course it is at this station that they changed the locomotive head. I went down to get some heat from the station and waited until 11pm.

After that, it was crossing the border. You will have to fill up 3 forms: China’s departure card, Mongolia’s immigration form and China’s customs. But in my case only 2 were submitted. I was almost taken away at the border if not for the coach supervisor. It was a misunderstanding of my ethnicity and I was mistaken as one of the Chinese Muslim clan, which is involved with the domestic fiasco. Luckily the coach supervisor stepped in and explained that I am from Malaysia. Phew!

When crossing the border, you are not allowed to sleep or closed the cabin door. So do whatever business you have before this since it usually takes up to 2 hours. I dozed off a bit and I heard the immigration people coming in so I got ready and greeted them. I was stunned to see that the immigration personnel wore a knee length skirt on a 2 degree Celsius night with black stockings only. I salute you!

When I woke up, it was already 7am and the sun was shining bright. It was the best feeling ever for I was already at the desert.Yeeharrr! And what else to do besides taking pictures? Made Nestum mixed with serunding, of course!

The sceneries are breathtaking and I could just imagine how fresh the air is. The snow covered mountains, the horses running around. Life is good! It was a while until the train passed through the farms, industrial area and small towns. You can see yurt just about everywhere along the way. It snowed about half the inch but definitely freaking cold! I saw some school kids walking home from school and all bundled up with thick coats and fur hats.

Then it’s time to step out of the train and brave on the harsh Mongolian weather. In the meantime, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.