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Train-ing It

There is something quite romantic when you think of riding the rails. You do conjur up all these visions of being on the train, glancing out at stunning landscape, laughing and joking with your travel companions.

It's bascially like this. Except maybe companions bit. Because if you can't really communicate, laughing just makes you check to see that you don't have anything on your face and the jokes, well, lost in translation.

I was pleasantly surprised by our journey from Beijing to Ulaanbataar. So many times when you set your expectations for things you are let down, either because you have been imagining it too long in your head or because other people's imaginations and descriptions have not been exactly justified.

But this was exactly what was written on the box. They could have guaranteed it. There we were, in this berth all to ourselves, snacking away on sunflower seeds and potato chips, watching the Chinese landscape go by. And it is breathtaking.

We saw parts of the Great Wall that were not yet touched. After stepping foot on a part of the wall, I was taken aback by the appearance of it outside my train berth window.

And then there was the mountains. And small villages inserted into the mountains.

The evening and darkness came so quickly, as our relaxing journey turned out to be just that. What else is there to do on a train but sit and watch the world go by? How often do you really ever give yourself permission to do that?

And when you travelling, siteseeing, checking things off your list, you give yourself even less time to do that.

The sleeping was hypnotic. Kind of like an adult baby rocker, lulling you to sleep. And since our train didn't arrive in Ulaanbataar until 1:30pm, you might as well sleep in!

Even the annoyance of the closing of the dining cart before I had eaten dinner or the nighttime border check didn't really take away from my enjoyment. I fell asleep by 2am - I didn't wake until 10am.

And when I did, it was magical.

Outside my window, was the Gobi desert. Miles and miles of barren land. Flat. Dry. Frozen. Deserted, except for a few goats here and there.

And then there were these villages, out in the middle of no where. People in houses that reminded me of row houses in northern England, just plunked down.

What did they do? How did they survive? What was THAT like?

It was almost too soon when we got to our final destination. I wanted it to keep going, to continue taking it in, never letting go of this adventurous feeling that I thought perhaps I had travelled-out of myself.

We have 5 more journeys. And another one tomorrow. And this one is into Russia. What many people associate with the true TransSiberian Railway.

I just hope the rest of them live up to our first journey. If not, I know it's something I will never forget.


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