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downtown mongolia

MONGOLIA | Sunday, 9 September 2007 | Views [341]

The train trip from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar was certainly something to remember. It's hard to believe the changes in scenery that can happen in over 24 hours.
Rolling out of Beijing it was endless apartment block, construction sites and pollution everywhere. Soon we emerged into a mountainous region that had jagged mountains all around us, with sheer drops, rivers running through the valleys and small villages clinging to the sides of hills. Although it was hard to see much due to the ever present "china mist" and countless long tunnels that the train went through.

After these cleared away we passed through farmland and the land flattened out and it became a lot dryer. In some ways it looked like some parts of australia, except for the remains of the great wall snaking over the hills in the distance.

Things soon got dryer and emptier, and before we knew it, we could see blue sky and fluffy white clouds and the china mist had all but dissapeared. However whenever we passed a town there was always a few factories busy churning out great plumes of smoke of various colours - black, grey and even a horrible green.

By sunset we had reached the beginnings of the desert. Sand kept blowing in the windows, your mouth was always dry and you could taste the dust in the air.
We arrived at the mongolian border crossing at 8:30 and didn't start on our way into mongolia until nearly 2am.
Everyone had to get off the train and go through chinese immigration - that stamp felt so good! - and then wait around for 2 hours while they changed the bogies on the train so that it fit the mongolian and russian size tracks. When the train came back and we got on, there came a thourough search for people hiding anywhere in the train - they even open up the ceiling space. Eventually we started rolling for the 10min trip to the mongolian border where the process was repeated - minus the bogey change and this time we got to stay on the train. It all made for a very long day, as we had been up since before 6 to catch the train early.

I woke up around 5:30 when the train stopped, but there was not much to look at put the window. Sand and rocks as far as the eye could see, punctuated with the occasional power line, ger or small shack.
Later that morning the scene had changed to the green rolling hills that is mongolia. There were ger camps scattered all over the place, with herds of cattle grazing around. There were a few towns along the way, usually made up of a few buildings and a couple of ger camps.
Coming into UB, it was funny to see the surburban sprawl is made up largely or ger camps. When we got to our hotel in the centre of the city I looked out the window to find a ger behind our hotel. It's a very funny city, filled with soviet buildings and manic drivers. Although there are a lot of new buildings being built including large flash hotels.

Thismorning we are headed to visit a monestary before going to the ger camp for the night, then back on the train tomorrow afternoon for a four night trip to moscow.

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