Sunday, August 13, 2006

Day one on the Trans-Mongolian

Once on the train, the funny tummy feeling subsided. In our four person "hard-sleeper" berth we met two equally sweaty and adventurous Welsh men--Barry and Ian. Ian had spent the past three years teaching English in Japan and met his father in Beijing to take the Trans-Mongolian/Trans-Siberian Railway the long way home. They were lovely roomies. Barry was well equipped for the trip with the best, most up-to-date guidebooks, several board games (including travel scrabble), a positive outlook on traveling, and little treats from back home for the ride.

Before the train got going, we sat their in our sauna of a train car fanning ourselves and discussed our disappointment and thrilling takes on Beijing. Barry mentioned that he was "a bit of a dirty boy" due to some "bad dried prawns." At the time I wasn't quite catching what he meant, but soon found out--that he had a terrible case of deadly flatulence. Every once in a while, on our 36 hour train to Ulaan Bator, we would suddenly be overtaken by an unbelievable stench. If this were depicted in an animated series, you'd see me laying there, content as could be, and then a huge green smoky fist would have worked its way through the air before finally coming and decking me in the face. I felt quite bad for the kind Welshman. He was so proper, it must have been torture for him, and I'm sure his funny tummy feeling was far worse than mine that morning.

And then the train started. They pumped cheesy music and ridiculous announcements through the overhead speakers--The Rights of the Train Master, warnings against touching the "stop cock," random facts about AIDS, old age, and obesity. I played with all the buttons and switches in the cabin and discovered: the knob above the window turns down the music, the two switches next to the door have some correlation to the lights(sometimes they turn them on or off), and there is a funny little ladder that can extend to help you climb up on the top bunk. I also discovered that there isn't much information about when we will be arriving at a train station, for how long the train will stop there, and more importantly, when it will leave.


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