Okey, here comes a longer one!
Slightly worried to miss our 23:55 departure and eager to settle down in our coupe, we took an early taxi. Igor, a bald, humours, 30-something driver, played trance techno music on the way there in his Volkswagen.
The Chinese train 004 was going to be our home for the next four days and five nights. With some experience of Chinese living standard, questions started to pop-up and expectations were set quite low; Will it smell? Do they have drinkable water? How bad are the toilets? What type of food can you buy? How are the bunk beds?
The Chinese train officers.
Our cabin. We chose first class in order to have our own space.
Hallway, outside of our cabin.
After a long sleep-in, trying out the restaurant, settling in and organising some routines, our mentality has adapted to its environment. A long train ride. Time flew by. Playing games. Reading books. Watching trees. Stretching legs. Eating noodles. Reflecting.
… playing cards…
… and stretching our legs at the stops.
It’s a surprisingly bumpy ride, despite the slow pace. Our view consist mostly of bushes, birches and the occasional small village with houses made of rusty tin roofs. Kind of what you would expect from the Russian countryside. Our window faces the trains’ sunny side, creating a not so lovely dust filter to everything during the day.
At this point, we also realise that we did not withdraw enough cash and nor did we buy enough groceries to keep our stomachs full during the trip… I must say however, that being hungry was an interesting and good experience.
One of the 20+ stops along the way.
Viktor scanning the landscape.
Babushkas selling water and other groceries.
Minna filling our kettle with hot water for our noodles and tea.
I fell asleep like a baby after sharing two packs of noodles and powder mashed potato, and woke up around 12:30pm local time. Best night sleep in a long time. Minna, on the other hand, didn’t get many hours in dream land.
The landscape is slowly transitioning into rugged territory. Less bushes and more pine trees with the occasional “as long as the eye can see” view. I bet travelling in autumn and winter, with beautiful leaves and snow landscape would look amazing.
The small villages have changed their appearance as well. From dodgy, worn down and dirty, sort of slum-looking areas where wild dogs eat from the trash, to colourful houses on hills with gardens full of sunflowers and vegetables. Some of the cottages look like a self-sustainable dream. Turquoise, blue, green and purple are popular colours, which really pops out in their environment of tin-roofs, grey-brown wood fences and green vegetation.
Outside our cabin window.
Landscape along the way.
Alarm clock was set on 7am local time, which is Moscow time +5hrs, to not miss the scenic ride next to the Baykal lake. Once we reached the Baykal lake, the scenery changed to hills and steppes, and the last day was a beautiful ride. Russian and Mongolian border controls were tedious with long stops and interrupted sleep.
The last night, we had nothing but powder oatmeal left to eat. But luckily we had made some Dutch friends during these days and they kindly took us the train restaurant to have a proper meal.
The last night!
After five nights and four days, we’re almost there. Alarm was set to 6am to pack and get ready. Ulan Baatar was in sight. Large industrial plants poured out smog into the air, which blocked the sky. It left a quite sad, depressed impression. We had read that the capital of Mongolia was nothing in itself to see and, at most, a stopover for heading out into the wilderness. Luckily for us, that’s exactly what we will do. Thank you Trans Siberian Railway, you truly are something special!