• Day25

    Dining Mongolian style

    September 19, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ☁️ 24 °C

    So the purpose of this blog is to try to use up the remaining data on our Mongolian SIM card before we cross the border to China so hopefully this will get through.

    Got to Ulaanbaatar Station at 7am not knowing if we would be on a Mongolian or Chinese train as they run alternate rolling stock on this service so it was a 50/50 chance. A quick glance at our platform revealed smartly uniformed Chinese staff (all male) waiting by the carriage doors so we knew we had a Chinese train all the way. We weren’t sure if this was good news or not.

    Our tickets were checked and we found our First Class compartment door. What would it be like? Well we were absolutely delighted to find that our two bed compartment had smart upper and lower berths together with a nice armchair (both berths were quite wide and should be comfortable for sleeping). There was a small wardrobe and then the biggest surprise, our own en suite bathroom with wash basin, shower and a nice clean toilet. The fit out looked pretty new and it certainly won the award for the best compartment of our trip.

    There is a constant boiling water supply available at the end of the corridor and our Chinese Attendant (let’s call him Mr Woo) seems friendly enough although unlike the Russian Provodnistas he seems more interested in remaining in his compartment watching films on his phone, than vacuuming and cleaning. He appeared pleased enough to receive one of our special pens that we hand out to those who have assisted or may be needed to help us.

    We settle down and make our own porridge for breakfast and soon we are out of the City and travelling through countryside peppered with the usual Gers, livestock and horse riding herders.

    After about 3 hours we arrive, about 20 minutes late, at our first stop the small town of Choir. Now this was supposed to be a 24 minutes stop but as we were running late we suspected this would be cut short and this was confirmed by Mr Woo with help of a translation app on his phone, which he seemed quite proud of. Plenty of people disembarked the train to stretch their legs but no one ventured far and a few local ladies peddled their wares to the passengers. After about 15 minutes a call went out along the platform and we were all hastened aboard for departure.

    We had decided to eat lunch in the restaurant and decided to get our half bottle of Russian Vodka back into play with some Schweppes Tonics we acquired in UB, for a pre lunch aperitif with some peanuts and dried cranberries we were given as a freebie by Hunnu Air (we know how to live the high life!).

    Then we went for what we believed was going to be a highlight of this journey. Lunch. Although this is a Chinese train there is a Mongolian Dining car attached until we reach the border and this has a reputation as being one of the most unique train dining experiences. Just look at the photo!

    So we had a nice set lunch in great surroundings (it was busy with tourists) with a couple of beers whilst we trundled through the Eastern Gobi. There were large buzzards flying alongside us most of the time and the landscape became flatter and drier as we moved south. This train travel is not hard work it’s a real pleasure, albeit we have a massive benefit not having to share with anyone as the four berth compartments we walked past on the way to the dining car are really tight and awkward. The supplement we’ve paid for this is well worth it.

    At 3pm whilst we are still lunching, we make our final stop before the border at Sainshand. In just over 4 hours we will leave Mongolia and enter China. We’ll leave it here as our mobiles will lose signal soon.
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    John East

    Why have I never received one of these special pens ?

    Jon Dyer

    John East makes an excellent point re the pens!

    Alan Brydon

    I’ve never had one either. John has said something like ‘you pen is’ many times though.