Tag Archives: Trains

Birch trees and Russian Priests… Crossing Siberia

Ryan was awoken to discover the man with a small boy sitting on his lap were talking to him. We had already been in the cramped, musky platzkart (3rd class) carriage, for thirteen hours and we had another eighteen to go, but it seemed for our neighbours that their stop was coming and this was their last chance to speak to the strange non Russian speaking foreigners. Through the man’s limited English (entirely consisting of ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’ and ‘my name is…’), our limited Russian (mainly consisting of ‘piva’ which means beer and ‘banan’ which means banana) and our trusty phrase book we managed to work out the boy was called Alexander and that the man was from Uzbekistan. Another guy, who may have been some kind of travelling religious preacher, emerged and could speak some English, well enough to tell us he’d been to the Netherlands to see a life-size recreation of Noah’s ark. Our conversation ended with handshakes and everyone saying ‘paka paka’ or bye…we had made friends on the Trans-Siberian railway.

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Journeying west…the train to Mongolia

The lights were off in our train carriage and as the door was pulled open the border control guard shined a bright torch in our faces. He was checking our appearance against the photos in our passports and his demeanour was serious. This part of border crossings is often a tense moment, mainly because Ryan looks distinctly different from his passport photo. Lets just say there has been a huge movement of hair from his head to his face which usually goes one of two ways: the guard laughs or he takes a long time examining his passport, presumably weighing up whether Ryan’s a threat to national security…well he does have a beard after all!

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Our Quick guide to Chinese Trains….

So I know with our last post we had technically left China and were on our way to Mongolia, but we couldn’t leave the Middle Kingdom without a post on their train system. For the two months we were in China we spent almost two weeks on a train…I know, China is big! That’s what you get for going overland, without taking any flights. Taking so many trains in China meant we got very used to sleepy as they bumped along, putting up with the lights and music going on as we approached a station in the middle of the night and ‘intimate’ with the squat toilets onboard. 36 hours on the train in one go was our record, which we ended up doing several times. Here’s a little guide for taking trains and sometimes how to survive them!

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The Middle Kingdom…Hanoi to Beijing in two trains

Bleary eyed and confused we were waiting in line, at 3am off our train from Hanoi, to be allowed across the border into China. The young border guards searched our bags and we held our breathe to see if they’d find our guide-book and confiscate it….they don’t like bits about Tibet. But it made it through and we were in…well after the immigration official had a laugh at Ryan’s passport photo and passed it around to all the other officials! We were in….well though we had another 30 hours on the train… but we were in!

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