Trans Siberian Railway | Ulaanbaatar to Beijing (8,015km)

Moscow (0km) -> Kazan (820km) -> Yekaterinburg (1,814km) -> Tomsk (3,664km) -> Irkutsk (5,185km) -> Ulaanbaatar (6,464km) -> Beijing (8,015km) -> Hong Kong (10,265km) 

*The km count is based on how far I am from since I started in Moscow, not the actual km marks on the Trans Siberian and Trans Mongolian Railway. 
  • Moscow: Kremlin, Red Square, State History Museum, Izmailovo Market
  • Kazan: Kul Sharif Mosque, Kazan Kremlin, National Museum of the Republic State of Tatarstan, Bauman Street, Epiphany Bell Tower, Nizhny Kaban Lake
  • Yekaterinburg: the Europe and Asia border
  • Tomsk: Tomsk State University
  • Irkutsk: Listvyanka Dog Sledding, Lake Baikal via the Great Baikal Trail and the Circum Baikal Railway
  • Ulaanbaatar: Genghis Kahn Square, Winter Palace, National Museum of Mongolia, Gandan Monastery, Terelj National Park - Genghis Kahn Statue, Vultures, Camels, Traditonal Mongolia clothing, Turtle Rock, Lunch in a Yurt, horse riding, Ariyabal Meditation Temple
  • Beijing: Lama Temple, Forbidden Palace, Tiananmen Square, Great Wall of China, Old Summer Palace, China High Speed Train

March 31 (Thu) Ulaanbaatar 6,464km -> Beijing 8,015km

I woke up around 7am and the sun was barely up. It’s raining outside, I’m glad I had a sunny day for the past 2 days. I got my white jeans and shoes dirty. The hotel prepared a really nice breakfast for me! It was a sandwich, an apple, yoghurt and some water. I also wrote a nice thank you letter for their excellent service and left it on my table. 

My train was one of those cool Chinese dark green/yellow trains with the sign Beijing – Erlian – Ulaanbaatar on the side. The Chinese train is pretty nice and modern! I got a top bunk though, for the first time! I forgot to say I want a bottom bunk to my agent. But oh well, it’s good to experience being on top bunk at least once! Sharing with me was an Vietnamnese/American soldier and 2 Danish ladies in their 50s. The carriage was ful of foreign backpackers from the UK, Netherlands, Belgium etc. I explored the train for the first time since it’s a Chinese train and I can understand all the train conductors. The dining carriage was really pretty with some really Chinese wooden carving decorations! However it was also really pricy with a set breakfast for $15 USD and set lunch/dinner for $25. I think I’ll stick with noodles. I’m glad there’s so many travelers to talk to though! 

I washed my white jeans and flats since they got muddy in the rain. It actually dried by the afternoon because it was so heated and dried inside the train! 

For the first 5 hours or so it was snowing hard. We stopped at a small town for a few minutes and there were people selling things in their shopping karts, anything from water to chocolate, instant noodles and even fresh buns! They are all hustling hard though and fighting to sell things to the same passengers. 

In the afternoon we entered the Gobi dessert. Although it was maybe only 15-20C outside, our train’s heater was malfunctioning. The modern train had a super old coal burning heater per carriage and it was about 30C inside so we had all the windows opened. We stopped at another small town where I went outside to walk around. The dining car said “restaurant” from the outside, even the exterior looked really nice! Continuing in the Gobi, there’s just endless amounts of sand and tumble weed. Occasionally some goats and sheep.

I napped and read for most of the time. Customs was around dinner time to exit Mongolia. This time the officials were super mean and claimed they didn’t speak any English and we couldn’t leave the train even after getting our passports back. The Mongolian officials also checked the compartment again and again. I’m not sure what they think we are smuggling, or if we are illegal, but who would want to illegally go in and out of Mongolia and what would we steal, a goat? The moment we joked about the goat within our compartment, someone else’s mobile phone rang with a goat ringtone. We burst out laughing. 

We were in Erlian, the Chinese border side at around 10pm. First we had the passport check which was super quick. I didn’t need to use my passport, but instead I can use my Taiwanese China pass. After passport control we also did not have the option to get off the train. Good thing though my nice carriage conductor reminded me to use the toilet as it will be locked for 4 hours while the bogies are being changed. Both Russia and Mongolia use the larger 1,520mm gauge while China uses the standard 1,435. The actually change was really quick. The train rolled into a bogie change station, we were elevated to 100cm off the ground, the workers hammered out some nails, the wheels were slidded off and new one back on, we were put back on the wheels. The problem is the adjustment and testing of the wheels took probably about 2.5 – 3 hrs. I had to go pee so bad at about 1am I actually got pissed off. But I found a handicapped bathroom in the other carriage with an automatic door which wasn’t locked. 

You can read more about bogie changes on the wiki page. But North America, most of Western Europe, middle east, China, and Australia use the standard standard 1,435mm track gauge size. 

Early morning, around 6 or 7am, we were already in the outskirts of Beijing. The landscape changed again. Although my favorite is when the scenery is covered in snow throughout Siberia, the scenery here in China was also very impressive. There were many really tall mountains close to the train, with valleys and a river running through. We were chugging along the river, passing by small farms and plantation. The trees were also blossoming with pink flowers everywhere.

We passed by a few massive stations near Beijing, and finally arrived at Beijing Main station. This is the most crowded part of the trip, I can feel the effect of China’s population of 1+ billion.

The journey continues in Beijing in the next blog including exploring the city and also going to the Great Wall of China! 

Read the Trans Siberian series here (vlogs included), please click on the links below:

Trans Siberian Railway - Moscow (0km)
Trans Siberian Railway - Kazan (820km)
Trans Siberian Railway - Yekaterinburg (1,814km)
Trans Siberian Railway - Tomsk (3,644km)
Trans Siberian Railway - Irkutsk (5,185km) Dog Sledding
Trans Siberian Railway - Irkutsk (5,185km) Lake Baikal
Trans Siberian Railway - Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar (6,464km)
Trans Siberian Railway - Ulaanbaatar (6,464km)
Trans Siberian Railway - Ulaanbaatar (6,464km) Terelj National Park
Trans Siberian Railway - Ulaanbaatar to Beijing (8,015km)
Trans Siberian Railway - Beijing (8,015km)
Trans Siberian Railway - Great Wall of China & Back to Hong Kong (10,265km)

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