How I survived the 52-hours train ride

This is the longest train ride for me in this trip. 52 hours in a coupe with strangers. And not any stranger, but Russians for God sake! The next paragraph definitely is not for the faint of heart. Some of the stories would be labeled as 18+, as seen on one of the books read by my fellow berth members. Yes, they have age appropriate guidelines printed on the book cover. Sounds absurd? Welcome to Russia, boys and girls where vegetables are more expensive than vodkas and fur never goes out of style.

For this leg, I have to pick up the ticket from the train station. So I decided to arrive at the station 2 hours before, just in case of the long lines at the counter. When I arrived, the station was already full and hardly any seat available at the waiting room. I was then ushered to the first floor to pick up my ticket. And I would like to congratulate the ticket counter personnel for they are officially on par with their fellow comrades in Malaysia. More than ten persons queued up and only one counter was open. Eight more people in front of me then suddenly the ticket counter personnel in counter 4 yelled in Russian. While I was still trying to make up my mind on what to do next, the rest of the queue had run to the next counter.  It turned out that she was about to take a break; hence the service shall resume in counter 3. Everybody started complaining and mumbling in Russian and a few in Mongolian. In solidarity with my fellow comrades, I joined in and started cursing in Malay under my breath of course. Then we were told to yet again to queue up in counter 3 after she came back from her break. And I got my ticket exactly 40 minutes before my train ride. I rushed back to the information counter and I was told to wait in front of the counter by the personnel. She was very kind indeed for she kept tap on the schedule and once the train was due to arrive she called me up and told me to follow another passenger to the platform.

Now, the most important thing after you have the ticket would be having the knowledge on how to read the ticket. Bear in mind that the ticket will be printed out with Moscow time on it. Depending on where you are in Russia, the time will differ either +2:00, +4:00 or +6:00. It’s best to confirm with the hostel so you could schedule your journey time to the station and of course to ensure that you get on the right train that is. The next thing is to ensure that you get your coach number right. I had confirmed my coach number numerous times and I was perplexed when the ticket checker told me that I was at the wrong platform. It was -4C and my patience was wearing thin, obviously. As I was walking to the next platform I heard someone yelling and signaled for me to come back. Another passenger had double-confirmed my ticket details and pointed out to her that I was in fact at the right platform. She mumbled something in Russian and I just smiled and got on the train. It was already full since most of the passengers are from Ulan Ude and have travelled at least one and a half day in the train. I stepped into my coupe and found this Russian man who was on the phone. He paused from his conversation and asked: Are you Chinese? I laughed and replied: Unfortunately not. And he continued talking on the phone while I made my bed. It was awhile before he finished talking on the phone. I was reading my book when I suddenly heard him asking: Would you like to have some tea? To which I replied: not for now. We started talking and he confessed that he wanted to practice his English for it is now rusty. Next thing I knew, he showed me the pictures of his family and garden. At times we used Google Translate when I couldn’t fathom what he was talking about. Most of the times, it felt like I was playing charade. In return, he provided me with security by taking care of our coupe when I went to the loo and at least the thugs who had been drinking vodka not stop didn’t dare to come to our coupe and asking questions about me.

After we reached Krasnoyarsk the next day, he was on the phone again with his wife. I stepped out to give him some privacy when I spotted a foreigner from the next coupe. You could only imagine how excited I felt upon seeing a foreigner who could speaks English without me having to guess what he was talking about. I suppose the feeling was mutual since I was the first foreigner that he spotted in 2 and ½ weeks. What makes it more interesting is that he is also doing the Trans-Siberia trains and this is his 6th times in Russia and he’s been travelling around for 28 years now. We were sharing our stories in his coupe when suddenly one of the thugs had the nerve to stop over and asked where I am from. I politely replied Malaysia and my fellow Trans-Siberia traveller replied in Russian and even showed where Malaysia is on the map. We both decided that these guys might be up for no good and just ignored them.

Before my coupe mate left the train, he told me to lock the cabin and keep my Swiss Army knife in my pocket before I go to sleep for he also sensed out that the thugs would have something in mind. And of course, I took his advice. I locked the door and switched of the light and not long after I heard someone trying to open the door. So, peeps please be very careful and keep your eyes open. Not long after the train stopped and I heard coach supervisor knocked on the door. Let’s welcome the couple and a football star in the coupe!

The couple came in with two trolley bags. Bear in mind that the space in the coupe is as small as your grave. I sat on my bed and just looked at them both in disbelief. Then came the football star and the girlfriend told him to change the coupe for they want to have his bed. I was already irritated by that time and the football star mentioned something to them, put his bag, took off his jacket and left. And the boyfriend had no choice but to put one of the trolley bags on his bed. He ended up putting them on the comforter compartment and based on how he was panting after he had done so, I assume that it was freaking heavy. I thought they’d make themselves comfortable and go straight to bed. But, no way Jose! At 3 a.m the girlfriend decided that she wanted instant noodles. And they didn’t want to open the door so the smell ended up being trapped in the coupe. I was awoken by the smell and looked at the watch. They got the hint finally! And that was how my longest night in the train ended. For me at least since the football team decided to party all night.

I couldn’t take any pictures in this leg since the window was way too dirty. I had a hard time trying to find a clean spot on the window so I could gaze into the scenery. It was breathtaking; with rivers starting to freeze and the snowy mountains. You could easily zone out while looking at Siberia scenery. Again, no sign of Jon Snow this time around. I guess he might be busy fixing the wall.