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Old November 1st, 2010, 02:37 AM   #1
GM
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From Moscow to Beijing by train. Part Six : Experiencing the Gobi desert.

Here is the sixth thread about my train journey, in last july, from Moscow to Beijing.

The links towards the five first threads :
Moscow
Across Siberia
The Great Baďkal
Going to Mongolia !
Ulan Bator and the surroundings

1- Leaving Ulaanbaatar, early in the morning.


2- The outskirts of the city, seen from the train :


3-


4- A city made of yurts :


5- Most of the houses have one or several yurts in their backyards. Yurts are a common sight in all the neighborhoods of Ulan Bator, we even saw some yurts on the sidewalks not far from the downtown.


6-


7-


8-


9- Hundreds of them :


10-


11-


12-


13- Crossing a river :


14-


15- Back in the steppe again...


16- Last sight on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar :


17- The vastness of Mongolia :


18- Every hundred of miles we come across a little train station with two or three houses standing by :


19- Inside the restaurant car (the best-looking and the best-tasting of the all the restaurant cars that we tested during the trip) :


20- Eastern svastikas again


21- Sometimes we could see little towns only composed of three or four commieblocks, like lost in the middle of pure immensity. Actually I even saw one commieblock standing alone in the steppe... a very eerie sight, unfortunately I didn't take a pic of it.


22- Approaching the Gobi... the heat was unbearable, there was no AC in our second class cars (unlike in the first class). It was 36°C inside the train, when we tried to pass our heads through the windows of the rolling train to get some fresh wind, instead our faces were burned by the hotter outside air.


23- We stopped for some minutes in this train station. On the quay, some local kids had the good idea to sell bottles of ices to thirsty tourists like me.


24-


25-


26- Regular mongolian city with the standard five floors commieblock :


27- Again in the train, ruins along the tracks :


28-


29- Hello man !


30-


31- The Gobi, well there is nothing to see :


32- Oh, a stone (spot it !) :


33- Some hours later... always nothing :


34-


35- Some hours later again... still nothing !


36- Again... some hours later... "hey guys, there is a building in sight !"


37- A ******* long train !


38- Approaching the border


39- Truck drivers meeting :


40-


Then started the worst moment of our train journey : the crossing of the Mongolia-China border. Hours and hours waiting in a very hot train, and contrary to the Russia-Mongolia border we couldn't go out, we had to stay in our car. Moreover we couldn't use the toilets because they are closed when the train is stopped.

Then came the custom officers and the border police of Mongolia and China. They came into our car to check our identity and luggage. It was very long, especially for me... for some reason the chinese police officer was very suspicious towards me, he thought that I didn't look like my passport id pic. He asked me for another ID document (fortunately I had my ID card and my driver licence on me), but he also called his superior. His superior looked at me, at my passport and called another guy... then one of them took a phone and while he was checking something on my passport, the others kept on looking at me very suspiciously.

Then they started to check my luggage and found... my deodorant spray. From that point, from suspicious, they became very nervous. The police officer was focusing on the flammable sign on the spray... I don't know, maybe they thought it was some kind of a bomb.
I did my best to explain them that it was just a deodorant, but they couldn't speak english and didn't know the word "deodorant", so I was forced to mime using the deodorant spray over my body. I must say that all the other passengers (most of them tourists like me) were laughing their ass off. Eventually the chinese police officers understood and gave me back my deodorant and my passport.


41- At the border, they have to change the bogies of the train because they don't use the same tracks in China than in Russia and Mongolia. The process lasted some hours and we still have to stay in the train. Here is a pic of the huge warehouse where they change the bogies :


42- First chinese train station, we could at last go out of the train for some minutes in the middle of the night. Everybody was exhausted. All I can remember was the mini-riot when passengers invaded the supermarket of the train station to buy some food and, above all, some drinks and to spend their last tugrik (the mongolian money). Yes, definitely the worst moment of the trip. Welcome to China.



Some other things I saw but of which I didn't take pics :
- numerous camels in the desert.
- animal corpses along the tracks.
- a mongolian soldier pooping along the tracks, just before the border, while we were leaving Mongolia. A funny answer to these mongolian soldiers saluting our train while we entered their country !


Don't miss the next (and last) thread !

Last edited by GM; November 2nd, 2010 at 03:54 AM.
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Old November 1st, 2010, 02:57 AM   #2
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Surely one of the best topics in this forum. I wouldn't have enough courage to decide for such a trip. Did you have any other unpleasant encounters which you haven't mentioned about yet?
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Old November 1st, 2010, 03:04 AM   #3
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Very interesting thread, like the rest of the serie.

I have a question though, doesn't it get boring in the train?
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Old November 1st, 2010, 03:51 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksionrze View Post
Surely one of the best topics in this forum. I wouldn't have enough courage to decide for such a trip. Did you have any other unpleasant encounters which you haven't mentioned about yet?
No, not so many unpleasant encounters. Most of the people I met were nice. Russian seem more shy and reserved and Chinese more effusive.

Though I remember these two very rude mongolian kids who went up in our car (and in our compartment) just before the Russo-mongolian border and left the train just after the border. They were actually accompanying their mothers whose work was apparently to cross everyday the border to sell goods and do money change with the train passengers. These kids had bad manners... I felt actually relieved (as my other compartment mates) when they left the train after the border.


Quote:
Originally Posted by eklips View Post
Very interesting thread, like the rest of the serie.

I have a question though, doesn't it get boring in the train?
Well, I am the kind of guy who can get fascinated by landscapes. I can spend hours just watching the landscape behind the windows of a rolling on train.
And if it's not enough, you can talk with the other passengers, either local people or tourists like you, it's always interesting.

I remember this russian girl met on the Moscow-Irkoutsk part of my journey. She was living in some city in the middle of Siberia and studying in Tomsk. She was travelling on the train to come back home after some holidays she spent in Moldovia to visit friends and party. I found that so exotic.
I already talked about these numerous europeans globe-trotters we met during the Irkoutsk-Ulan Bator journey, one of them had started his world tour on a moped which he rode from Netherlands to Russia !
During the Ulan-Bator-Beijing journey (pictured in this thread), we also met this french hippie-looking couple in their fifties. They lived in Australia where they were gold prospectors since the 1980's !

So plenty of landscapes, plenty of people, not time to get bored !
BTW, time seems to flow differently while on the transsiberian.
For example, from Moscow to Irkoutsk, we had four nights and three days on the train. But in my memory it feels a lot longer, like weeks...
Yet, we weren't that happy to go off the train at Irkoutsk, there was almost a bit of sadness, like the end of particular time of our lives.
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Old November 1st, 2010, 08:50 AM   #5
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Big respect to those responsible Chinese border staffs. Sounds like you were really pissed but that's the necessity to keep the security of Chinese side. I think it would be much better if you go through the airport but still a bit discriminative towards foreigners I feel 'cause foreigners usually have to wait in a very long queue in Beijing capital airport. Unfortunately that caucasian looking people are more being suspicious of holding terrorist weapons maybe because of media propaganda, but apart from the checking part, everything else seems to be equal.
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Old November 1st, 2010, 09:08 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by veoveoveo View Post
Big respect to those responsible Chinese border staffs. Sounds like you were really pissed but that's the necessity to keep the security of Chinese side. I think it would be much better if you go through the airport but still a bit discriminative towards foreigners I feel 'cause foreigners usually have to wait in a very long queue in Beijing capital airport. Unfortunately that caucasian looking people are more being suspicious of holding terrorist weapons maybe because of media propaganda, but apart from the checking part, everything else seems to be equal.
Getting a border official who can speak English in order to communicate with 100's of people you know are going to come across train in order to lessen miscommunication and improve efficientcy would likely be a help to the Chinese and their forigen guest.

......Again, great set GM. Can't wait to see the last set.
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Old November 1st, 2010, 09:42 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nomarandlee View Post
Getting a border official who can speak English in order to communicate with 100's of people you know are going to come across train in order to lessen miscommunication and improve efficientcy would likely be a help to the Chinese and their forigen guest.
Even if you get english speaking border staffs, you'll still have plenty of language problems during your visit 'cause people don't speak english firstly or not that fluently at least, and the cities are not built for english speaking people. The best for you is to learn some basic mandarin and then life will be much easier. If you can speak Mandarin in China, you'll find attitudes of people will be different.
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Old November 1st, 2010, 01:18 PM   #8
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Very interesting and also very nice photos as well, GM
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 12:23 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by veoveoveo View Post
Even if you get english speaking border staffs, you'll still have plenty of language problems during your visit 'cause people don't speak english firstly or not that fluently at least, and the cities are not built for english speaking people. The best for you is to learn some basic mandarin and then life will be much easier. If you can speak Mandarin in China, you'll find attitudes of people will be different.
I don't want to derail GM's nice thread but you seem to need the education. The fact is that English is by far the leading 2nd language used on earth by the most diverse amount of people. This isn't a boast or an indication other then that fact. It will not help every forigen travel but it will help plenty.

Chinese is very hard to learn for foreigners and it isn't reasonable to expect foreigners to learn even a rudimentary grasp of the language in short time. It is best for professional border people who deal with many travelers everyday to be professional and acquiesce to the circumstances for efficiency if nothing else.
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 01:20 AM   #10
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cant wait to see the last part of your trip
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 01:35 AM   #11
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Extremely interesting thread, GM! I love all of your added commentary and humor.

When I get home from work, I'll have to look through all six (and hopefully, later, all seven) of your threads.
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 04:59 AM   #12
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Your words show that we the English speaking people should not be so stubborn and learn a second or third language, people specially in the United States expect everyone to learn English, but we we are so arrogant that we can not belittle ourselves to learn another language. Specially we our new so called ultra-conservative ideas, where we tell ourselves that everybody should do what we tell them, not to exchange opinions.
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 02:00 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesús E. Salgado View Post
Your words show that we the English speaking people should not be so stubborn and learn a second or third language, people specially in the United States expect everyone to learn English, but we we are so arrogant that we can not belittle ourselves to learn another language. Specially we our new so called ultra-conservative ideas, where we tell ourselves that everybody should do what we tell them, not to exchange opinions.
It has zero to do with the U.S., UK, or Australia appeasing their unilingual or about any inherent characteristics or merits of the language itself. It is about the number of 1st and 2nd language speakers from a diverse range of places are by far most likely to speak and interact with. Be it in education, science, aviation, or the business world English is by far the most used medium by second language speakers in the world and hence is the most practical in order to communicate with the most amount of diverse people in a truly international context in which an international border crossing fits. It is stpuid to fight off something that is little more then pure practicality.
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 05:36 PM   #14
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great trip report! looking forward to see more ...
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 06:18 PM   #15
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the rail isn't the same size,that's interesting.
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 08:37 PM   #16
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Nice serie of threads ... what an incredible trip!, Gobi desert is breathtaking although its monotone landscape

(I agree that Chinese border officers should be taught some english, most of traveleres use this language worldwide)

Last edited by Tyrone; November 2nd, 2010 at 08:44 PM.
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