Friday, May 25, 2012

Guide to the Transiberian Railway

We went to Mongolia via the transiberian railway. It's the normal route taken my most tourists because it not gives you a chance to view the countryside, it is also relatively cheaper than a plane ride (hehe).

The Transiberian railway spans from Beijing - Ulaan Bataar - Moscow. It takes 30 hours from Beijing to Ulaan Baatar with a few stops in between. There are only two trips in a week so you have to schedule your travel around the train's schedule.
We stayed in Beijing for a couple of days prior to the trip because we arrived on a Saturday and the train was set to leave on Tuesday. We took the K23 train from the Beijing Railway Station in Dong Cheng district.

A note to the faint hearted: the people who use the railway station are mostly locals--and by locals I mean the not-so-rich kind. Be wary of your things, don't be disheartened by the uncleanliness, and remain hopeful! It gets better, I promise :)

We got a 4-berth hard sleeper which we found very cozy:
Our cabin was for four people, but luckily not a lot of tourists go on the train during spring so we had the cabin all to ourselves.
As I said, the trip lasts for 30 hours so you have to come prepared! For us, being prepared meant bringing food, a book, and an ipod to ease the blues.
Don't be too worried about getting bored though because the view outside is spectacular and you'd be too busy getting awed to even feel an ounce of boredom.
If you didn't bring food, there's a restaurant in the train. Be wary though about the time because it has a schedule and if you miss it, you won't be able to buy food. If, however, you didn't get to eat, you could go down at Erlian (the last stop in China), and get some supplies. The trains stops at Erlian for three hours so it can change tracks.
Note however that it would be best if you just go down for a while because the train has to change tracks and if you're left outside, you would freeze from the 2-hour stay outside in negative weather!
Crossing borders is another thing. Immigration is tough but relatively harmless. The immigration officers go up the train and visits berth to berth. It just gets a little scary when they climb up and the Chinese/Mongolian officers shout "wake up! wake up!" or "LOOK AT ME". It feels like being in a military boot camp. Still, no worries, they're just tough but they're harmless :)

The one thing that is not so harmless though is the weather! We crossed the Gobi desert at night and I felt like I was about to die from hypothermia. It was so cold! What made it worse was the fact that I was currently suffering from hyper teeth sensitivity. I literally cried in my bed. I was already covered by two thick blanks but the cold still penetrated. It was the worse feeling ever.

When morning came, all worries dissipated and a few hours after, I found myself in Ulaan Baatar :)
What an amazing experience! Truly, it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing :) So that's it! Watch out for my next post--TMF guide to Ulaan Baatar!

Related post: A photo tour of Ulaan Baatar , Guide to Mongolia

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