This is a continuation to my previous post, with the second part of my summer travel on the transmongolian route.
The arrival to Mongolia was interesting, with very nice views in the train of the typical mongolian ger’s. Mongolia is a country with a third of its population still nomadic, which makes for an interesting countryside.
We stayed in Mongolia for three days… based in Ulaanbaatar, the first day we walked around and visited the city. Highly recommended is the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, which includes a couple budhist temples and a few buildings. The central area of the city is Sükhbaatar Square and the area around Peace Avenue road. There are also a couple of sightseeing places in the hills nearby, a couple museums and a few shopping centres, but there is not much more to see in the city.
The second day we decided to hire a driver, who basically drove us wherever we wanted, and helped in recommending places and explaining stuff. This is definitely the best way to move around mongolia, as in many places you will encounter people who don’t speak english and the driver will help you out and translate. We went to a couple places, including a huge equestrian figure of Genghis Khan (supposedly the biggest equastrian figure in the world) and to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park which has, besides a turtle-shaped rock, a very nice buddhist monastery and Ger’s prepared for tourists. We decided to stay for the night at one of the Ger’s below the buddhist monastery, and it was an unforgettable experience. At the park we also took rides on camels and we went 2 hourse horse-riding.
After Ulaanbaatar, we took the transmongolian train again now headed to Beijing. Although the train seemed to be pretty much the same as the first one, this was operated by chinese people and you could really tell the difference in the (scarce) service. Again, this meant two days in the train, but only one night. Still, it seemed as a long trip and we spent quite a few hours crossing the border between Mongolia and China, where besides doing passport and visa control, they also have to change the width of the train tracks. This is an interesting process for any engineer, since they lift the whole train, including passengers, remove the weels, adjust the tracks, and put chinese wheels on.
The arrival to Beijing was a bit overwhelming. The city is huge, full of a mixture of mist and pollution, and overall quite dirty. The differences in cultures can be a bit shocking, specially the spitting and peeing on the streets. However the city turned to be very very interesting. In beijing we visited the typical tourist places… from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, to the Great Wall (at Badaling) and the Summer Palace.
For the next and last stop, we took a night express train to Shanghai. This turned out to be a very modern train which even included a tv for every bed (although all movies were in Chinese). The train arrives in the early morning to Shanghai, which is an amazing city. It is not as historical as Beijing, but it is full of lights and nightlife. Overall it feels like people are ‘cleaner’ in Shanghai and you don’t see as often things such as spitting. In Shanghai we went to the Pearl Tower, a sight-seeing tunnel (with no sight to see) and the Expo 2010 (which was very impressive), but overall the city is more about walking around and living it rather than visiting tourist places. I have to admit I really liked the city and would be a very interesting experience to live there for a while.
For the trip back home, we started out with the Maglev Train to the airport, whose typical maximum speed is of 431 km/h, although it has reached 501 km/h. This was an amazing trip, although very short… about 7 minutes for 30 Km. From Shanghai we flew to Moscow (with Aeroflot) and from there back to Madrid. An amazing trip which I will never forget.