Day 5: Beijing to Ulan Bator

We are four hours into the first day’s adventure and I just saw the first yurt of the trip! At the same time, the Beijing smog has finally disappeared. It was indeed very ominous during the entire stay in the city, and the sky only just became decipherable as we know it. The initial mountains and abundant tunnels outside Beijing lasted for about an hour, until lush terraced fields and valleys of corn and wheat took over. The first yurt led to a wide valley and truncated concrete piers were telltale signs of a high-speed rail line underway.

The valley also reflected sparse yurt-shaped graves and modern human settlements attached to farmland. Cows, horses, goats and sheep begin to appear in small herds and power lines string the landscape as far as the eye can see. Huge stretches of flat farmland are indicative of future scenery.

Despite our four-berth compartment not being air conditioned, there are only two of us so far. From Beijing to Ulan Bator, it looks like we will be alone. Our near-disaster plan to book through Travelchinaguide left us without tickets five days before the trip, with everything booked on both ends! While there are a number of ways to book the Trans-Siberian, we chose to use the Chinese service. This may not have been the wisest, but we did. As Gee Kin discovered that the pinch point was between Beijing and Ulan Bator, we are hoping that we can upgrade from a four- to a two-compartment with a shared toilet. So far the train itself has been very comfortable and with all the amenities necessary—a Western toilet in each train car, an electrical outlet, lights, hot water, and bedding. We were given complimentary tickets for a lunch and dinner each, but haven’t ventured outside the compartment yet.

As the sun sets, we will check out dinner service and the big “I” word…whether internet service is available or not. Farewell for now.

JULY 29, 2015, 16:37.

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