Riding the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar

Boarding car 10 on the Trans-Mongolian railway

After a month in the Himalayan mountains I join fellow travel bloggers Johnny and Stevo on a Trans-Siberian adventure. Our first stop takes us from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar on the Trans-mongolian Railway.

Three friends, five countries, and one epic train ride; it’s just the beginning. I met up with Johnny, from onestep4ward, and Stevo, the shameless traveler, after spending the last thirty days mountaineering in the Indian Himalayas. I’ve been so used to waking up in my sleeping bag, putting on my mountaineering boots and trekking several kilometers to train on a glacier 5000m above sea level that I forgot how things have changed.

This morning instead of waking up on top of the world, the sun stretching over the mountain tops of the Himalayan mountains, I opened my eyes to the sun rising on the Gobi Desert, in car 10 on the Trans-Mongolian railway. We did it, we’re finally on our way, travelling overland on a Trans-Siberian journey from Beijing to Moscow.

Sunset from our cabin on the Trans-Mongolian railway

Our journey started on platform 5 at the Beijing railway station and by 8:05am on the morning of April 3rd it was on. Loaded up with a few chocolate bars, some water and three bowls of instant noodles we began the thirty hour train ride from Beijing, China across the Gobi Desert and the country of Mongolia to Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital in the world.

Lucky for us April is the off season for travelers on the Trans-Mongolian railway so we enjoyed the luxury of our empty third class car all to ourselves. The acomodations were fantastic, our four bunk cabin fully loaded with pillows, sheets and blankets was more than enough room for the three of us to be comfortable. Sitting on the train as we watched the sun set from our cabin eating instant noodles and chatting about the adventures yet to come all of us were elated; the beginning was finally here.

Sunrise on the Gobi Desert

The train coasted through the Chinese countryside, it’s landscape changing from mountains to desert until it arrived at the border town of Erlian. There we stopped for five hours as the train changed tracks, a repercussion of the Mongolian train tracks being different sizes than their Chineese counterpart. Taking advantage of the time off we headed into town and stocked up on food. Around 1:20am we had finally passed through Mongolian customs and were allowed some well deserved rest.

Readying ourselves for bed we were filled with a feeling of accomplishment; we made it. After three months of visa collecting, reorganizing plans, rebooking flights, and a myriad of other challenges we were finally sitting together on the Trans-Siberian rail trip we had dreamed of since childhood.

Ian Yacobucci

Traveling the Trans-Siberian, mountaineering the Himalayas, or teaching in Tokyo, I'm always trying something new. As a someone who's worked, studied, and traveled to 40+ countries around the world, I'm here to share my experiences so you can do the same.

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