Sunday, June 21: Trans Siberian Railway Train K23, between Ulaanbaatar & Beijing
7:20 I’m up and dressed and set off in search of the restaurant car. A trip through the train confirms that all cars are as spotless as the one I’m in. The Mongolia-Beijing train is nicer than any in North America, that’s for sure.
7:30 After walking half the length of the train it dawns on me that the restauant and bar cars were removed when the train was reconfigured at the border. I’ll be having instant coffee and a Snickers bar for breakfast.
11:44 We pull into Beijing Railway Station, on time, to the minute.
11:55 I was led to believe that someone would pick me up at the station but when I don’t see anyone holding a sign with my name – and there are lots of these people on the platform – I head for the exit.
12:05 I step out the main doors of the station and see a woman wearing a Dragoman t-shirt. She introduces herself as Helen. She’s accompanied by Jason, the Chinese guide who will be with us for the next 7 weeks. They are instantly likeable. We’re going to be spending a lot of time together over the next three months so this comes as a relief.
1:00 We emerge from the subway at Ping Yao station and I see a Dragoman truck parked nearby. This is my first view of Xara. She looks much like Yana and Sura, the other two Dragoman trucks I’ve been on. I instantly feel right at home.
18:00 The group meets in the lobby of Hu Guo Si Hotel, but Duncan and Helen suggest that we head out to the truck. They have cold beer and we can drink on the truck over the pre-trip meeting. There are only 6 passengers for the first three weeks, but 4 of us will be going all the way to Istanbul. By mid-trip we’ll be up to 22 passengers. The initial group consists of:
Duncan – Dragoman Driver – New Zealand
Helen – Dragoman Driver – UK
Jason – Guide while in China – China
Kirk – Civil Engineer – Australia
James – Civil Service – UK
Heather – Geologist – Australia
Mark – Exercise Physiologist – Australia
Beck – College Instructor – Australia
Mike – Long-Term Traveller – Canada