Arriving in China (Mon) 17 May 2010

Now that the end is near, I suddenly realise that I’ve been so zealous about saving food for “later” that it looks like I’m having surplus.

At 2am last night, after the border-crossing, pee-holding, and dinner-free excitement, I gobbled down two Russian cup noodles and inspected my stash to find that I still have plenty left for just one more day on the train. (Yes, I did count. Yes, I did buy enough. But after starving on the train from Berlin to St. Petes, I’ve become Train Traveler Paranoid About Food [TTPAF]).

Neat and tidy in the beginning

We used our lunch coupons just now at the now Chinese restaurant car. The Chinese restaurant car had been highly anticipated by everyone all round. The Russian car was nice but unremarkable. The Mongolian car was an oily salty rip-off. All our research have declared the Chinese car to be the best of the lot and it was all we talked about when we hated our potty foods. If they meant it to be a gesture of hospitality, and esp. if they thought it to be an introduction to Chinese food….they very sorely FAILED.

Food was a complete disaster, on a scale comparable to the pot mashed potatoes that J&V bought by in Moscow coz they thought they were noodles. Everyone was issued the same bland watery winter melon goop and “meatballs” with rice. The so-called meatballs were more like MSG + flour + water. We were very disappointed.

Classy hotel next to a station in Mongolia

Meanwhile, the attendants have been rushing about clearing the carriage. The carpets in the corridor have been rolled up and curtains removed. Our rooms were also being cleared of carpet, sheets, pillows, blankets, tablecloths, and seat-covers.

This saddens me and we all started feeling pretty nostalgic about the train.

Sleeping. The blind is pulled down to keep out station lights and the early sun.

We rolled through mountainous regions and in and out of tunnels…

£1 an apple. Anyone?

In anticipation of our arrival in Beijing, I was kept busy and nervous. In fact, so much so that I have no photos of China from the train at all! We packed. I told myself to relax and tried to sit and read. But my room looked different. It’s all bare. I stood in the corridor, staring out the window. I recheck my bags. Count my cash. Pat my passports. Push rubbish into the bins. Clean my mug.

I was actually sweating about being regurgitated back into civilization again!

The Russian section of the train timetable in the corridor

We pulled into Beijing bang on time. J & V and I stumbled out onto the platform and I waved a heartfelt goodbye to my carriage attendants as they dragged the bedding and bin bags out.

At the end of the platform, we walked into an underground tunnel and in no time, we emerged out into the sun to be confronted by a mass of what looks like 10,000 people. The sheer number of people stunned me. Bags and parcels and people milling about, going here and there. Waiting.

Ahhh....I will miss this

J & V were picked up by their friend and we said a hasty goodbye that definitely did not do our journey justice. I will miss them. We all agreed that our trans-siberian journey would’ve been very different if we hadn’t met. We met various other characters on the train and perhaps being slightly off-season, there really wasn’t a great deal of people to talk to if you’re travelling alone. I have been very very lucky and Jack and Vanessa made all the difference to my time on the train.

This is how I lived...

They disappeared into the underground station and I was left standing at the end of what looked like a 20-person line trying to get a ticket for the tube…

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