Trans Mongolian Express


On September 1, Dmitri (the guide from Tiara Tours) picked me up from hostel and drove me to the homestay where I would stay before my adventures in the train would start. On the way over there he gave me nice information and tips on what to do on my last day in Moscow.
Funnily enough, the homestay is next to Park Pobedy where I still wanted to go. So after having met the lovely host, I went to the park and to the Radisson hotel (as suggested by Dmitri) for a diorama of the historic city of Moscow and a beautiful panoramic view.

park pobedy


At night, the Dutch traveler Emmy arrived at the homestay. She would take the exact same trains as me 🙂

In the evening of the next day we met Bart (also from Lisse) and Anouk, a Dutch couple that would also take the same Trans Mongolian trains. The four of us had the entire wagon of the modern Mongolian train to ourselves, which is kinda nice.

bart, anouk, and emmy

During the train travels to Mongolia you have quite a few stops and the view changes from a flat landscape with many trees and some small villages to that same beautiful landscape with hills. The villages have small, wooden, colored houses and everyone seems to have a garden to grow vegetables.


On September 6, I saw a small lake on the right side of the train. It had multiple mountains surrounding it and one of those even had snow on top! Anouk asked me if I had seen Lake Baikal on the left side of the train that morning. I was afraid that I missed it, but a little further we were back at the lake again and it is absolutely stunning!

lake baikal

In Ulan Ude, some more Dutch travelers joined the train to also step out in Ulaanbaatar. Three Dutch students (Sophie, Jarno, and Vincent) also stayed in the same guesthouse in Ulaanbaatar and Sophie and I went looking for an agency that offers horseback riding daytrips. Sophie met a guy at the Chinggis Khaan Square that offered to take us to a real nomad family. After a good search on the internet, Sophie made the arrangements for the four of us for the next day.
Sixty percent of Mongolia’s population of three million people is living in the capital city. But the city itself is dirty and ugly. Outside of the city is beautiful, though. From the Chinggis Khaan Square you can really see that the entire city is surrounded by nature.

ulan ude

chinggis khan square


You can also see that from the beautiful, Buddhist Gandan Monastery. I wanted to take a look around at the big temple, but I was pushed back and the guy informed me that you should walk clockwise (in the direction of the sun).

bird feeding


gandan monastery


The next morning, we met our local guide, Bolod. The ride to get out of the city was crazy. People just put their cars in front of other cars, squeeze three cars next to each other on a road designed for two, and honk… well… whenever. Needless to say there are loads of accidents and it took us a long time to get out of the city. We first visited a Buddhist monastery in a mining village.



After that, Bolod surprised us with a visit to the enormous Chinggis Khaan statue in the Terelj National Park. We went inside and had a great view from the top of the horse’s head.

chinggis khan

The landscape of Mongolia is truly gorgeous! All those green mountains! And the animals (horses, cows, sheep, goats, etc.) walking freely. They all belong to someone and return “home” at night. Except for the horses. They are halfwild and have to be captured first.
Bolod was not able to contact the nomad family before our arrival, because they had moved again. Nomads move their gers at least four times a year within the (large) region of their clan. So we actually had to search the nomad family. The family trains their horses for the Nadam festivals and were happy to make some money by providing us with a two-hour ride. The scenery was breathtaking and we also went up a couple of mountains.



terelj shamaan






nomad family


On September 9, I stayed in the “concrete city”. I walked towards the Winter Palace and had dinner at a vegan restaurant, called Luna Blanca.

The next morning we already had to leave the beautiful Mongolia and step onto the Chinese train that would take us from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing.



The Chinese train is old, dirty, and crowded. Nothing like the Mongolian train. Every single bed was taken and somehow four of the (adjacent) wagons were filled with Dutch travelers. I spent most of the time in Emmy’s cabin. She shared the cabin with Lisa (German girl), Bert and Rudi (older, Dutch brothers). The brothers spent twelve days traveling all over Mongolia and have the most wonderful stories and photos. I already want to go back there someday and take my time to visit the amazing nature! And look for the Przewalski horses, of course.
Okay, back to my story about the train. Late in the evening we arrived at the Mongolian-Chinese border where the wheels of the trains had to be changed. Luckily, another TME train arrived next to ours and we got to watch the changing of the wheels of each other’s trains. It is quite a spectacle and it took a couple of hours.

changing wheels

changing wheels

On September 11, we woke up with beautiful views of Chinese mountains, fields with corn, and sunflowers, among other things.




In the train we found out that Lisa was going to the same hostel, so we decided to go together. When we arrived at the central train station of Beijing, we said our goodbyes to our travel companions and went looking for an ATM. Apparently, they don’t really use Maestro here, so the search took a little longer than expected… We decided to take a taxi to the hostel and coincidentally met a Spanish couple that also needed to go there. However, none of the taxi drivers wanted to take us there (not far enough, discrimination as non-Chinese people) and we had our first experience with Chinese corruption. Some men arranged that a taxi driver would take us to the hostel for 100 yuan (whereas it would normally cost 25 yuan, max). When we arrived at the hostel, the taxi driver actually wanted some more money. But we already had our stuff and the Spanish guy got angry and cursed in Spanish, so the taxi driver took off.
Lisa and I were exhausted, so we decided to have an easy day. We had dinner at the hostel (falafel burger, yum!), tried out the stinky fruit, and had a look around in the neighbourhood. The hostel is located in a busy, old street with nice markets and stores. There is so much food being sold in the streets here! It almost looks like the Chinese people don’t even cook food, but just buy everything here.

I’ve already been in Beijing for a couple of days, celebrated my birthday here, and will travel to Wutai Shan tomorrow. But I’ll tell you about my Chinese adventures in the next updates 😉

Lots of Love, Romana

One Response to “Trans Mongolian Express

  • I’m excited reading all about your adventures and glad that you are sharing it with us. Thanks a lot Romana and I wish you all the best on your travel round the world.
    Hope to hear lots more, bye bye xxx

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