Off to Mongolia
Not a lot to blip today. We got up at 3:30 am and caught the 5am train for Beijing via Mongolia. The trains alternate between Russian and Chinese trains travelling between Moscow and Beijing. Unfortunately our train is Chinese and vastly inferior in terms of cleanliness and service. Half the time the water in the samovar is not hot and we dare not use it unless boiling. Only Chinese is spoken on the train so even Wally is redundant, except for entertainment value. The restaurant car gets unhitched at the Mongolian border so we decided to have lunch there to make our food last the trip. We had purposely spent all our roubles knowing that we would be able to pay in $US. However that was an error as they charged us 25% over the current exchange rate. We have now spent 2.5 hours exiting the Russian side of the border but at least have our passports back so can't be much longer here. Various officials have paid us a visit and they have twice searched the cabin. We really wonder what one might try to smuggle into Mongolia.
Having said that, it is all part of the experience and we are still enjoying ourselves. I have just been reading "The Man in Seat 61" as quoted in "The Lonely Planet". In answer to the question "what's the worst experience you've ever had on a train?" he says "if you mean a bad experience as an uncomfortable, dirty or late train, paradoxically, some of the experiences on dirty, run down trains have been the most memorable. There are people who are so scared of having a bad experience that they'd rather have none at all. I think any experience is worthwhile and better than none."