Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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I'm on a train Sainshand, Mongolia, Thursday, 26 August 2010 10:51am

I'm on the train to China. I spent the last few days in Ulaanbaatar taking it fairly easy and getting some things done in preparation for this new phase of the trip. Mostly downloading and skimming guidebooks and writing some postcards.

I did do a bit of sightseeing in UB, taking in the National History Museum (lots of items from the time of Chinggiz Khaan, including his horsehair standards, and a collection of the traditional dress of many different areas of Mongolia), the Zanzabazar Fine Arts Museum (fine examples of Buddhist statuary and painting, and masks and costumes used in rituals), and the Gandan Khiid temple complex.

I also got out of the city on a day trip to the Hustai National Park to see the Takhi (aka Prziewalski Horse). I had the good fortune to share a tour minibus with a group of naturalists researching the Mongolian wolverine population, who were able to identify many of the birds we saw and to tell which animals had been in the area by their tracks and scat. We succeeded in seeing a group of three adult takhi and one foal.

Buying a train ticket turned out to be fairly easy. The only snags were that there was no ATM near the ticket office (they didn't take credit cards), and it was a little unclear which class of ticket I was buying. Different people told me that 2nd class and 1st class were sold out, and the ticket printer was misaligned enough to make it ambiguous which box was checked.

This is definitely 1st class, though. Only two passengers in the compartment and a bathroom shared with one other compartment. There is even a little flatscreen TV for each bunk. This may be the poshest rail travel I've ever done. At 30 hours, I think it'll also be my longest single train trip to date.

I feel very underprepared for China. I've barely skimmed the guidebook and can't speak the language at all. But I don't think I'll be at a loss for things to do, and I've gotten pretty used to communicating with gestures over the course of this trip.