Monday, September 25, 2006


I just returned from a week in Beijing, visiting a friend, with the excuse of having to leave the country to switch from a tourist visa to a work visa.

I had forgotten already, after two and a half months in Mongolia, what real cities looked like. I had gotten used to 8-story buildings and two main streets. With its 13 million people, and pre-Olympic buildup, Beijing was initially overwhelming. Luckily, the friend who I stayed with speaks Chinese, and, every morning, would write out in Chinese the places I wanted to go on little sheets of paper that I would hand to taxi drivers and bus attendants.

I took the train there and back, my first experience on the Trans-Siberian. I'm biased because I love trains, but it's a beautiful ride. You pass quickly out of UB and then you are on open terrain, passing by a few power plants and coal mines and a scattering of gers until you reach the Gobi Desert. Then you are surrounded by short grass and small sand dunes. This lasts for hours, until you hit China, which is amazingly more populated, immediately. You pass several sections of the Great Wall, and one station passes through the wall. It's easy, when flying, to believe that all of China looks like Beijing, and all of Mongolia looks like UB. Of course, this isn't true at all, and train trips are a reminder of this. China by train appears mainly like fields of corn and dying sunflowers where few people have cars and everyone has a bicycle. It's a beautiful country.

Yesterday, when I pulled into the train station in UB, it was rainy and dreary and cold. I met up with friends and we spent over an hour trying to find somewhere that looked appealing for dinner. Still, I was glad to be back.


At 7:33 PM, Blogger samraat said...


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