Trans-Mongolian Railway, Pt. 1

The Trans-Mongolian Railway.

An epic train journey.  Aside from my chosen route of cutting across Mongolia, this is essentially the more traditional Trans-Siberan train route connecting Europe with the far east.

6 days of total train travel to go the almost 8,000K from Beijing to Moscow.

If a person really wanted to explore Europe and Asia via rail, you can actually traverse the continent of Eurasia from London to Singapore, all on a train.

Epic Journeys.

Beijing, China to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

How was the first 30 hour leg?

Well, pretty uneventful.  I had the ENTIRE 4 berth cabin to myself from Beijing to Ulaanbaator.  I stretched out, sat in every seat, danced with my headphones on, read an entire book and decided I probably eat too many peanuts.

I probably ate too many snickers bars too.  No more than one per day but its not like I’m crushing calories dancing in the room and sitting around reading…The good news, you can buy a size of snickers in Asia that is not as big as the normal US snickers but not as small as a halloween snickers, so its less candy bar guilt.

Speaking of food, the dining cars are not really as cool or as delicious as I had hoped.  So far on all of my trains in China and now the Trans-Mongolian,  the dining cars tend to be full of sad looking people who would rather you not interrupt their smoking and conversation by asking for food.  (Hence the peanuts and snickers.)  I did receive a few meal tickets on this train so I took advantage of those “free” meals.  As you can imagine, sad people cooking who would rather just be sitting and smoking do not make the best food.

Uneventful, peaceful and relaxing was leg one – which contrasts sharply with parts 2 and 3 of this story.

Destination – Mongolia

Mongolia is rich. At least it seems some people are making some cash around here. I get off the train and see G Wagons, Range Rovers and Hummers cruising the streets and as I go to the hostel, a Louis Vitton Store. Louis Vitton in Beijing, Milan, Paris, New York, Shaghai – I get that.  Mongolia?  I was not prepared for that in Mongolia.

I was also not prepared for the cold…

What happened next, I did expect.  I joined a little group to head off the Teraji National park to hike, ride the tiny mongolian horses and sleep in a Ger for a few nights.  A real Mongolan experience.

It was wonderful.  The people are beautiful and the scenery was great. The food, which is heavy in milk based products was unique and good. (Not so much cheese mind you but creams, yogurts and a variety of other cultured products – even local hooch based on milk.) Mongolia was a nice break from the train and this was a good little taste of this unique country.  A return trip however, will be in the spring or summer :)

I say summer because I did confirm in Mongolia the axiom, that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate gear.  This was very true in my case.  I knew this part would be cold but I didn’t realize how cold nor how much snow there would be in Mongolia and Siberia.  (It is almost winter, dumbass, was all I thought as the train slid across FREEZING, snow covered plains while I considered my gear.)  I have great gear for all climates in general…I do not have good snow gear for the feet.  I learned that Birkenstock clogs, while warm, do nothing for snow and minimalist Merrell barefoot trail runners, are neither warm nor good in snow.

I’m writing this more than a week after nipping my toes and my right big right toe is still numb.

Travel Tip – don’t be so cheap you don’t buy boots when the high temperature is -10C and you are essentially camping for 3 nights.  I did buy gloves though. Decent pair of fake leather, lined gloves. They go with everything.  They are warmer than hands in a pocket but I was told they were more of a creeper, rapist style of glove.  That was the last thing I thought upon purchase. If its true, I guess I’ll get plenty of attention rocking creeper gloves in Kansas City this January.

Don’t worry, the gloves will make an appearance in a Trans-Mongolian video in Part 3 of this series.

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3 Responses to “Trans-Mongolian Railway, Pt. 1”

  1. Joel Cansler
    December 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    You’ve sure covered a lot of ground and seen a lot of things on your Trans-Mongolian Railway experience. Way to go Grant!

    It won’t be long now and you’ll finally be back in Kansas City. We’re all looking forward to having you home for Christmas!

    Love you!!

    ~Happy Pappy

  2. Loof
    January 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Hi, could I ask where/through who you booked your group trip to the Teraji National park? Many thanks

    • January 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

      Loof – I used Doogi with Dream Mongolia tours. She was fantastic, I found the price to be quite fair and highly recommend her services. Here is her site –

      Thanks! G.C.

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