Beijing to Mongolia

The next morning we got up too early and head over to the train station to catch the train to Ulanbataar, capital of Mongolia. The diverse scenery of China along the way was fascinating. There were all kinds of small industrial and farming communities. As we traveled further, the landscape transformed from grassy fields and rocky hills to flat, barren desert with sparse vegetation and back again. The wait staff on the train was horrible. One guy, my friends had nicknamed “pork rind face” kept messing with us. The staff in the dining car were always hanging out refusing to serve food (at least whenever we went there) and coupled with the 30 hours of travel it made for rough going. Andy and I felt sick. My head really hurt and I felt weak. All we could eat was ramen and chips etc. We made sure to stock up, but after a while you really want something with more substance. 

There was this hilarious little Mongolian kid who spoke some English, Mandarin and Mongolian on the train. He’d come by and visit, and each time we’d wonder which split personality would be on exhibit. Sometimes he was really nice, and polite, saying sorry, as he squeezed past other passengers hanging out in the hall. Other times you could say something to him and he’d get this adorably evil look on his face and just keep telling people to shut up (not so cute). That’s when I’d worry that little Chengaiz would lunge forward and drink my blood at any moment.
Apparently the tracks are different on the Mongolian side versus China. So once we reached the last border town in China, we stopped for 5 hours, going through Chinese customs, and a lovely train wheel replacement process that involved lots and lots of ramming. Most of the passengers were let off before this began, while those of us who were foreign to China or Mongolia were forced to stay on the train as our passports were scrutinized by customs outside. No one told us anything as we waited, My friends and I were the only ones in our car left with “Pork Rind Face” who slept in his room and told us we could not get off the train. The cars were disconnected as the laborious process of replacing wheels took place.
I felt pretty miserable at this point, and we were all pretty irritated.
Eventually, they were letting some people from other cars (we could see out the window) out. “Pork Rind Face” tried to tell us we still could not leave and by this point we realized that this jerk was trying to give us a hard time for nothing, so we just got off. We walked over to the general store at the station in the middle of the night. It was all pretty surreal. All the foreign passengers were emerging from the cars at last as the rest of the passengers re-boarded with bags full of food from the store. We stumbled to the general store with Celine Dion blaring from speakers all over the station.
We grabbed a whole bunch of food and sat outside in a daze with all the other foreigners. Finally, it was time to re-board and we got back into our “cells”. My head hurt really bad and I felt weak so I tried to sleep. The guys for some reason thought it would be great to play cards with the neighboring Mongolian girls so they all squeezed into our compartment, woke me up and scrunched me up into half the bed. I tried to keep sleeping…but it was pointless. They played for a little bit then decided to call it a night. Just long enough for me to be wide awake as the lights went out and they were all ready to sleep. I was really angry and let my frustration out on the guys. My head pounded pretty bad, and I really wasn’t in the mood to be anywhere at that point. It probably wasn’t the best time to get mad, but sometimes that’s just how goes.


On the plus side, I did my first watercolor sketch of the trip today, before I started feeling terrible.

3 thoughts on “Beijing to Mongolia

  1. Thanks Paul! Thanks Waqas! Yeah, Little Chengaiz was cute…but evil. Andy and I picked up Mongolian jackets of that kind from the black market for about 23 dollars or less each.

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