So, the final leg was finally upon us! After a jolly in Mongolia it was time to move on to Beijing, where our trans-siberian adventure would come to an end. Our new Australian friends we met in Mongolia turned out to be on the same train to Beijing, in the same carriage! This made for a good last day and night spent on board. One more border crossing out of Mongolia and into China, along with the changing of the bogeys and the trip was over.
The train ride itself was uneventful, freezing for the first half, and rather sleepless. After crossing the border and being stamped out of Mongolia our passports were whisked off by the Chinese border control and the carriages swiftly parked up into what can only be described as a giant shed. For the next hour or two, we were cranked up and down, jerked around and bashed about until the good old bogeys (note: I don’t actually know what a train bogey is, other than than it had to be changed to fit the Chinese railway gauges) were changed and we were ready to roll. A bang on the door later and we had our passports back and were officially in China. By this point it was pretty late into the night so an attempt to sleep was had. It was bloody freezing on board (for the first time on all the trains) however upon waking in the morning, having travelled quite a distance it had warmed up nicely.
Arriving into Beijing there was a sense of relief and excitement. The trans-siberian was over which meant new adventures awaited us! This excitement soon dwindled out to nothing but stress and hassle when we exited the platform into the station, and into the biggest sea of people you could imagine. Getting out of the station was a painfully slow process, too many people and too many wheeled suitcases that just love to stop right in front of you and try to trip you up, complete with too many people trying to squeeze outside onto the street through the narrowest little doorways. Welcome to China…
After feeding ourselves and attempting to purchase tickets to Chengdu, and failing as the English speaking counter was unable to understand ‘Chengdu’ we made an informed decision there and then that we would go straight to Hong Kong and bypass China. Having been before for a month, the stress of the previous trip suddenly flooded back and the idea of returning to one of our ultimate favourites, HK, was too good an idea to turn down. Still, we had 4 days to explore Beijing so we were determined to make the most of it.
On our last trip to the Chinese capital, we failed miserably to see the Great Wall, so it was a ‘must-do’ this time around. We booked up a tour with our hostel and finally made it out there. Despite the smog that would not leave us the trip to the wall was a gooden and it was quite a sight to see. We managed to escape the hordes of Chinese tour groups and had the wall to ourselves. Returning back to the city just acted as a reminder to the sheer size of Beijing and the absolute ludicrous volume of traffic. It took almost 3 HOURS to get back to the hostel, and the stop-start journey through central Beijing was almost too much to handle.
We did the other stuff most do in Beijing; Tienanmen Square, markets, and our favourite – exploring the hutongs (partly because this was delightfully intertwined with eating). We stumbled across a little dumpling house with numerous veggie options on the menu, and tonnes of street food sellers with sweet treats that I could never refuse. The food was good, apart from when we ordered a tofu dish that arrived stirred in to a big old bowl of mince. Delightful.
After 4 days of the city we were more than ready to move on to Hong Kong and have a break from travelling, and just… be. We made our way to another of the train stations, found (with great difficulty) where we had to enter and soon enough we were on board the train. On the top berth of a hard-sleeper. In a carriage with a Chinese tour group… who would not stop talking, eating nuts, talking, eating nuts all…day…long. A night of claustrophobia ensued (top berths mean no sitting up unless you like to have your neck stuck to the side of your body) but, 24 hours later… we arrived in Hong Kong, and the start of our South East Asian adventures.