Day 25 and 26: August 15th and 16th
It was a cold rainy morning as we made our way to the train station in UB. It certainly wasn’t hard to spot our train…it was the one with all the foreigners! Somehow, up until this point we hadn’t met too many people from outside of Russia and Mongolia and how there was a train full of them. We figured that was probably due to the fact that the train from UB to Beijing only runs a few times a week….so all the tourists have fewer options. Of course, it also occurred to us that the locals didn’t take these trains because of the lengthy border crossing. We now knew in advance that it was going to take us a total of 6 hours to get across the border but we were committed to finishing the trip…plus, we had come this far anyway.
The border crossing from Mongolia to China is made more interesting by the fact that the Mongolian train lines(built by the Russians) and the Chinese train lines operate on different rail gauges. Instead of asking all the passengers to switch to another train at the border…the Chinese have an amazingly unique solution…one that I don’t think you will see any where else!:)
After we crossed the border into China and finished up with the basic passport formalities, we were shunted off to a train yard. Each car was then separated from each other and individually lifted by two huge hydraulic lifts at each end of the car….all while the passengers were on the train! We were not asked to disembark. Once we were high up enough, the wheels on the trains were removed and replaced with the Chinese rail wheels. We could really see what was happening on our own car, but we could certainly see the other cars. It was almost midnight at this point and not a soul was asleep. Everyone wanted to see this very unusual practice. Once we had our spanking new Chinese wheels, we were lowered onto new tracks(with us all still inside) and they re-attached all the cars back together and we were on our way again!:)
It was a pretty uneventful time for the rest of the train ride… Stunning scenery! From Mongolian Steppe to the Gobi Desert to the mountains at Badaling just outside Beijing.
After being is lovely cool weather, Beijing weather was the worst imaginable..apparently, China is having the hottest summer on record..and we could certainly vouch for that.
We eventually made our way to our hotel and caught up with my parents which was great.
Next up, showers, laundry, a good nights sleep and 2 weeks in China with my parents!
PS: The rest of the pictures tomorrow. Having issues with the Internet.