Saturday, 24 August 2013
Day 18 - First Class to Beijing
Another early start for the 7:15 Trans Mongolian to Beijing and this time I have firt class tickets. It was not by choice really but all 2nd class tickets were sold out.
The good news is that the train starting in Ulaanbataar is not only cheaper than the train starting in Moscow, for first class, but also nicer. It's also cool to be able to travel first class for a change as this will not happen often during this trip.
Travelling first class means you only share with one other person and have a toilet with shower you share with the compartment next to yours. Aside from that, there is no actual difference.
The landscape begins to change very soon after the train leaves Ulaanbataar, slowly at first, then very fast until you reach the Gobi area from where it's mostly the same until you reach the border in the evening and it gets too dark to see much after.
Reaching the border here is even more an exercise in waiting and frustration than when entering Mongolia from the Russian side. Now you don't have to deal with passport checks but the train gauges get changed here so you will be locked in to our carriage, without power, AC or even toilet access for hours until this whole process is done.
What strikes me here, more than at the Russian border, is the inefficiency of this whole process. If it was possible to do the border and customs checked in the train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg while the train was moving in a less than 30 minutes, this should be possible here.
Changing the train gauges, is such a long and labour intensive process that I would think it easier to jut have people change trains at the border and walk through border control is not only more efficient, cheaper but also faster and less frustrating for passengers.
I mean, who likes being stuck on a train from 19:00 until almost 00:15 before you can get out to get some air and buy food or drinks.
Should I do this trip again in the future, I would have to think of maybe just taking trains to and from the border and crossing it myself. Other than this arduous process, everything went smooth and it as a pleasant journey.
What is always nice on this trip is the different people I meet in the trains and guest houses, everyone has their own motivation and reasons for this trip, same as everyone has a different starting point, destination and itinerary. This part I enjoy very much and I met some very interesting people.
Tomorrow afternoon I will arrive in Beijing, where I will stay for a few days.