51 photos

Up too early for hotel breakfast, walked to Beijing station buying bits for the train, cucumbers, tomatoes, MSG noodles. Pandemonium at the station- we had already checked it out yesterday, just as well we knew where to go, 1000s of people pushing and shoving through the gates.
Train berth with bunks, tiny bathroom with 2 doors, one for the Spanish guy in next door cabin, table and armchair, good firm mattresses, left at 8.05, only took 1/2 hour to get out of Beijing suburbs, block after block of immense apartments the thick smog persisted, all the way to Erlian near the Mongolian border
About 10am went through a beautiful range of mountains, just visible through the smog, dozens of tunnels, huge rocky hillsides and pinnacles, rivers, power stations wreathed in smog and pumping out more, coal trains ripping past. After the mountains, intensely farmed district with stone fences, sunflowers, grapes on the dry hillsides, apples, unknown red and green fruits, some huge towns/cities, another huge range of hills, piles of coal, bridges over dry rivers, fields of sweet corn and piles of it against people's houses, drying.
About 11am saw the first stock, a pen with grey and dusty sheep. Everything very dry, miles of sweet corn fields and some sort of wheat, villages with donkeys, a few cows, strange stunted trees, a huge area of brightly colored garbage with people picking through it, hutongs with brick houses, small backyards filled with rubbish, a huge city - Dutong - great apartment blocks, dam, villages, donkeys pulling heavy rollers in circles crushing grain, men with long straw brooms, winnowing grain, cows, geese donkeys, river, camels, another huge city surrounded by old hutongs some with cows in the courtyards, grass growing on roof, some falling down, other districts with renovated hutongs but mainly high rise. Saw a family in a cart pulled by a donkey, with 4 goats/sheep and a crazy looking dragon dog who was racing along behind them with a big smile
Spitting with rain about 4.30, small flocks of sheep with shepherds, the smog continues everything clouded and hazy, now windows splashed with dirt and rain so photos will be even more blurry
Flat fields suddenly interrupted by high rise apartments in the middle of nowhere then another city of red brick, hutongs, huge wind farm on the hills behind, putrid piles of rubbish and green and purple toxic pools on the outskirts, then market gardens and a lake
We got chicken rice beef and capsicum dishes in the dining car, we're offered Great Wall red wine but had tasted it last night, truly awful, seems to have the faint sewer smell of Beijing. Talked to a Mongolian guy Arman who was eating, drinking vodka and smoking with a Canadian traveller, gave us his ph no in Ulgii if we needed it, had another dish of eggs and tomatoes then back in cabin with a scotch, nearly at Erlian, the Chinese Mongolian border.
Arrived at Erlian station about 8pm and didn't leave until about 12.30, incredible rigmarole. As we pulled into the station we heard triumphal patriotic type music blaring from large speakers set in the middle of a huge square, empty of people but blasting with music, was eerie. First they took our passports, said it would be a 2 hour wait at the border while they changed the bogeys so I persuaded Andrew to get off the train and look around, big mistake. Everyone was directed to the shop - a dutyfree, we bought bananas oranges and water. Then instead of going back to the train which was still sitting at the station we went upstairs to the bar (closed) in the cavernous customs building then heard the train pull out, going off to the sheds to get the bogeys changed
Not only were we unable to get back on, they also locked us in! So for 2 hours we sat on uncomfortable chairs talking to Canadian guy and arguing about climate change and the environment which he wasn't worried about in fact thought the scientists part of a world wide conspiracy.
Finally the train came back and with a flourish the attendant unlocked the doors and everyone piled out onto the square and onto the train.
But that was only the start .... then follwed constant visits from officials who returned & took away passports, entry papers, came back to check for fugitives in the toilet, all while the train shunted forwards and backwards, lights flickering on and off, Andrew asleep, customs finally returned our passports.

Beijing railway station

Beijing railway station

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Mountains through the smog

Temple on top of hill

Temple on top of hill

Categories & Keywords
Category:Travel and Places
Subcategory:Asia
Subcategory Detail:China
Keywords:China, Trans Mongolian Express