Wednesday, October 24, 2012

There were two in the bed and the little one had their legs out the train window

“Seat there”

A rather large Mongolian man, had decided to delegate our seating and was pointing at the luggage rack near the roof of the compartment.


Tim, a cool English backpacker I had picked up in Beijing, and myself looked at the two tickets we had in our hands and glanced up at the luggage compartment. Surely he was joking, we thought. But then arguing with a Mongolian is trouble. Looking around the train I can almost understand why the Mongol race, all apparently descendants of the great Genghis khan, had control over 22% of the world. The men look strong and large, with their Mongolian belly putting the china belly to shame.

After inspecting other compartments no one else had the “privilege” of also being delegated these luxurious seats. But still sometimes it’s better to bite your tongue and just “enjoy the ride” so to speak. So “enjoy the ride” we tried, sharing one bunk bed between the two of us, designed for one small Chinese person I’m sure, with my legs dangling outside the train window (as it was the only way I could fit) most of the trip, occasionally pulling them in when someone yanked on my leg telling me there was pole coming.

Waking up early on the train you see the sun appear in its amazing red colour, almost like the opening scene to the Lion King. The ground is flat, making the sunrise and sun set spectacular. The sun first appears in its glorious red, illuminating the carriage and blinding those opposite, it then ducks behind a small hill, only to reappear a few seconds later an even brighter colour, this time yellow. The sun shyly appears and disappears, teasing you for about 10 minutes before it decides to make a full appearance.

Internationally the sunrise or sunset has the same affect on people in general. Early risers on the train (or those, like me, who just couldn’t sleep) are all mesmerized, deep in thought whilst staring at the amazing phenomenon that gets us all up in the morning, all around the world.

The smell of irish coffee fills your nostrils and the morning coffee lady comes around passing out hot water with irish coffee sachets and people eagerly rip them open to get their morning caffine fix after a long night on the train.

Peering outside the train window you notice the ground is so flat that any sort of incline, seems to create huge mountains in the distance. The ground is flat and just keeps going and going all into the horizon. 

After gazing out the train for hours you realize that this landscape may not be so different to that of other countries, the main difference is the lack of development and infrastructure obscuring your view of the flat land and gentle mountains. Mongolia has the least dense population in the world, which is a shock after coming from the busy and overpopulated China, and Beijing in particular.

As you pull into Ulaan Baatar the capital city seems to appear out of nowhere with the empty fields being replaced firstly by a couple of gers in the distance, then as you move closer the gers start to become surrounded by fences and the distance between them shrinks until the gers are replaced by houses and then eventually apartments and skyscrapers. It is almost a great indication of how this country moved from the Nomadic lifestyle and then with the mining boom, the development has turned a once small city into one of the most economically advancing cities in the world. 

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