After receiving my visa for China late on Wednesday, I was to catch the train from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing at 7.30am Thursday morning, which was due to arrive 28 hours later.
The ticket cost me $160 USD booked through the hostel, which I’m sure had a premium attached, but it gave me the flexibility to cancel if I didn’t manage to get my visa in time. Others who booked this leg of the journey in their home country as part of their Trans-Siberian package paid up to 220 Euros for this leg alone.
On arrival I boarded my four berth second class carriage and compartment. Soon after I was joined by Emily and Victoria from the UK, and John from Ireland.
We passed the time during the day by playing cards, scrabble, reading, and later in the day by drinking the 3L of beer I had brought along and Johns Vodka. I was also sustaining myself on a diet of 2 minute noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We also stopped at a few halfway towns in Mongolia where we had a chance to stretch our legs for 5 minutes at a time, but there was basically nothing to see in these towns and we didn’t really have time to leave the platform.
At about 9pm we arrived at the Mongolian/Chinese border crossing. Mongolian Border security boarded the train and took all of our passports. Returning them shortly after with an exit stamp. They didn’t have any interest in taking our customs declaration forms and the whole process was over within an hour.
From there, we moved along the tracks a bit further and the Chinese border security took our passports. They were actually really nice, contrary to border security elsewhere, they wished us happy travels and even laughed at how different I and others look from our passport photos (me with long hair now and John with no hair in particular).
The passport check was conducted concurrently with changing the bogies (wheels) on the carriages, as the Mongolian tracks are 9 inches narrower than China. Our passports were returned, and about two hours later the bogies were changed and we were off into China!
But, then we stayed motionless at the station from midnight until about 1:20am before resuming the journey. We could leave the train at this time but I decided to try and get some sleep.
I woke up at 6am after a very restless night of not very good sleep. But it was an opportunity to see my first glimpse of China.
After a breakfast of instant soup with bread, brushing teeth and repacking my bag, it was smooth sailing all the way to Beijing Railway Station.From there another passenger Laura and I bought tickets to Qianmen station where it was jut 10 minutes walk to our hostel.