Wake up to gently rolling hillsides which then turned into huge jutting cliffs with trees and foliage clinging to them. Every little space is taken up with agriculture of some kind. Many plants I recognise, a lot of sweetcorn, different berries, grape vines (maybe for the raisins we bought in Mongolia which were from China) all grown in tiny plots inbetween the steep jutting rocks, it is very different to the huge expanse of fields we saw being cultivated in Mongolia and Russia. The scenery is stunning even when shrouded in grey cloud and drizzle. Our train carried on through the many tunnels that were carved into the rockface.
So after 42 days on the road, 14 trains, 2 ferries, 3 buses, 6 metro rides, 3 taxis and a lot of walking later we finally arrive at our Trans Mongolian destination. Some people would take a plane and do it in 7 hours but they are wrong, slow travel is the way to go.
We got off the train and smoothly transitioned onto the platform, revelling in the luxury of a same level platform instead of the perilous decents onto other platforms previously. We then had another luxury of escalators! Ooooh how excited were we?? The modern world is fabulous. We have spent weeks watching people with trolley bags, elderly relatives in wheelchairs, Americans with 3 huge suitcases each stop abruptly when getting off a train and realising they have to lug their luggage/relative up/ down a massive load of stairs.
Whilst revelling in the convenience of China we entered the train station square and our senses were assaulted, firstly the noise, loud speakers everywhere shouting at you, the smell of Chinese food (although worryingly Melody said she only smelt dirt) and bright neon lights and lots and lots of people, everywhere.
We needed to get money to get on the subway. The convenience of China faded there was not an ATM insight. We wandered around the massive square then spotted a bank over a 6 lane road so clambered up the overpass, past the old lady begging (who had enough yuan for our journey) and down the other side where we bumped into a couple from the hostel whose cards didn’t work in the bank we were heading for. We commiserated with them and kept our fingers crossed when we tried the machine. It worked for us!! Yuan’ed up we crossed back over the overpass, met some other westerners whose bank cards didn’t work and commiserated with them and started our queuing life in China. One queue to get a ticket, next queue to get into the subway station through the security checks which means putting packs through x ray machines whilst no one actually looks at what is going through the machine. Not pointless in the least.
We successfully navigated the subway system which, although is massive is really easy to follow signs and coloured lines, and got to our hostel easily.
We were welcomed by a very smiley Candice, who knew who we were and was expecting us! We are back in Asia where all backpackers have cafes and bars (with happy hours) and a variety of tours on offer (noting the Tibet tour had a massive black cross over it.) It is nice to be back. Our room has ensuite and damp, we were only expecting ensuite. We needed to do washing and laundry is a service offered, 20 Yuan per kilo, which we didn’t really think through as we dropped off 8 kilos of washing and had to pay £20 for!!!!! Well and truly scammed.
As we were leaking money we decided to carry on and go for Peking Duck at a swanky restaurant, using up the rest of Guy’s birthday money from the in-laws. As it looked like a posh place we showered and put on fresh clobber.
It was another world, table cloths, glassware, fancy chopstick holders, and waitresses. We ordered our duck and also some green vegetable dishes (as a treat) and a bottle of house red!!!! And finally a bottle of still water that turned up on the bill as costing £10, half the price of our washing.
Suitably full were went back outside into the grey skies and drizzle and had a wander back to our hostel for happy hour and met a Korean lass we had previously met in Teralji and also on the train and a young fresh Dutch kid who was on his first nights travelling! Ahhhh, bless.