I wanted to get off…so was it worth doing the TME (Trans-Mongolian Express) from Beijing to Moscow? I explained in an earlier post about my pursuit of trains and train travel initiated by a stint at the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corporation. Sir Edmund Hillary, when asked why he was climbing Mt. Everest, said, “Because it’s there”. While this obviously cannot compare to climbing Everest, taking the TME is certainly an achievable goal by any able bodied individual with a penchant for the absurd. In a good way.
For starters and the curious, the best intelligence on this venture is through the website http://www.seat61.com. The author, whom I believe is British, has mastered every angle of all the trains throughout Russia. He gave me all the information needed to help me decide that this was worth it…for me and Gee Kin.
OK, so pros and cons.
First and foremost, you get to spend time with someone. Five and a half days of dedicated time will flush out your true selves and your relationships, good or bad. That’s a good thing.
Secondly, you get to put things in perspective. Food and pooping are important. Seeing early sunrises out the window with the sun and the moon at the same time with the world whipping by. In Chinese. In Mongolian. In Russian. Giving yourself time to look at colors of the sky when you never bothered to before. Making time of time.
Third, it’s a curiosity satisfied. The vast continent linking Asia and Europe caused and enabled human migrations and wars to be fought. Humans have stepped where I am stepping to create this civilization as we know it. The German traveler we met informed us that Ghenghis Kahn had traveled from Beijing to today’s Steiglitz in Germany. That’s a lot of horseback riding. The TME is a pretty good way to trace his tracks. Ghenghis-baby got the benefits of belonging to all of the above too.
Cons, well can’t think of too many for the big picture. A lot of small stuff, but why sweat it?
Yeah, there’s a few weird cultural inconveniences and this is not for anyone. Themanincar61 best describes these.
In the final analysis, I heard myself uttering more than once, “this trip is already halfway there?” And “I don’t want it to end!” We are already talking about Vladivostok to Ulan Bator via Korea or Japan. Overall, it must have been a good decision.
1. Birch woods along the Trans-Siberian-Mongolian Express
2. Endless birches by moonset