Our Trans-Mongolia trip only saw us stopping at five cities, including the beginning and the end cities. We did this because we wanted to maximize what we could do and see while still feeling like we had gotten off the train.
The jumping off point for our adventure was Beijing, a city that I have been to on three different occasions before. We had decided to visit the Summer Palace the day we landed, get some food, find the train station and just generally get ready for our train the next day. Unfortunately, United caused us to be three hours late arriving, so we just had time to wander about the area we were staying.
The best way from the Beijing Airport to the city is the Airport Express. It is cheap, fast, and reliable. It takes you to one of two metro stops. A quick ride on their metro with one transfer and we were a few blocks away from our Hostel, Peking Station Hostel. Carmen picked this hostel as it was extremely close to the train station, plus the reviews were good. When we arrived, Nate and Matt were waiting for us with our tickets, which were delivered to our hostel. That day, Matt had spent the day at The Great Wall. He used the same tour company we had used a year or two before.
After we set our stuff down and had a shower, we went out to look for the train station, an easy few blocks away, and to find food. We ended up at one of Beijing's many malls, where Matt, Nate, and myself all ate at a noodle place. Carmen found food at another restaurant. I really enjoyed being in Beijing with Nate and Matt, this being their first time and my third, I really felt like I was showing them around even though I was not.
That night, Matt and I went walking around to shoot some night photos, he wore flip flops like a weirdo, meanwhile, I loaded up my P6x14 with a roll of Provia 100f. Beijing really is an amazing city, both in the day and the night. We spent about an hour wondering about before turning in for the night.
I think the coolest thing we happened upon was a few older men flying kites. These were not just normal kites, but kites hundreds of feet in the air with lights on them. They were tethered to the fellers with a massive reel and steel cable; they were harnessed into the reels like deep sea fishermen.
The shot to the right is the men flying the kites, click on it to see it in its full size. The lights up in the air are the kites. I had to take a long exposure and a few of the guys moved. This was just at a busy intersection's park in downtown. You could see these kites above the railway station as well.
The following morning, Nate, Carmen, and I went over to the Forbidden City and the surrounding area. We had all already been, even Nate who went the day before, but the area is interesting and it was a nice way to kill some time before our train. If you find yourself in the area, pay the Forbidden City a visit. It is located near a metro stop, easy acess.
We went back to the hostel and packed up our bags, ready to head to the train station. The station might have only been a few blocks away, but it was through a winding set of back alleys and small streets. Matt, Nate, and I had our cameras out, this slowed the walk way down. I believe it took us about 15 minutes to make it to the station, and another 20 to figure where to go.
We first entered the wrong area of the train station. We went back outside only to have to get into the throng of people we though were just buying tickets. The ticket lines were massive, absolutely massive. We had hoped to avoid them, but this did not work out. We picked a line and were inside in about five minutes, so not a big wait.
We only had to wait a few minutes after getting into the station before we were able to board a train. Beijing, as it always is, was a great city and I loved being able to visit again. It was a short stay but a fun one. Making the decision to start in Beijing was the right one in the end, and I'm very glad Nate and Matt were able to visit. I would suggest a stop in Beijing to anyone, you will not be disappointed.
You can read about the train trip here.