Everyone get up in time and we’re treated to a breakfast buffet likely consisting of everything that’s left in the stores since the Mongols close up shop tomorrow. A bus ride later we’re on the train to Beijing. The view is anything but inspiring; desert and the odd shantytown every now and then. After catching up on lost sleep we head for the lunch cart which seems like it was plucked right out of the Transsiberian golden age and hooked onto our train. The service though is below even Russian standards the heat is turned up to eleven, so we’re left there waiting half an hour in the sweltering heat for our orders to be taken and another half hour for our food to arrive (which is, to be fair, very good).
The afternoon passes much in the same manner. We reach the Mongolian border at sixish and move on without much fuzz. At the Chinese border it’s time to change the undercarriage though since China has a different track width. Why they don’t have adjustable bogies is beyond me, but the process is really cool so I don’t really mind. =P
The carts are wheeled into an assembly hall with several hydraulic lifts in it. Then the carts are separated and hoisted 1.5 meters up into the air, leaving the bogies on the track. Then the new bogies are rolled in all at the same time, pushing the old ones out of the way. The train is then lowered again and put back together. The whole process takes about 45 minutes, the other 3 hours we’re stuck here is spent moving the train back and forth.
Afterwards we get an entire hour to indulge in the taxfree border shop on the station. I go nuts over the pistachios and buy an entire kilo for 35 yuan (~40 sek), 60 cl beer for 3 yuan, some chips, what I hope is dried mango and some other assorted goodies. At the register there’s a girl packing all the stuff and a guy just standing about doing next to nothing. Neither of them are using the cash register and when done packing the girl just quotes me the total. I realize that she’s been summing it all up in her head, and consequently remembers what every item in the store costs since there are no price tags, impressive! A bit less impressive is the guy next to her whos’ job seems to be to accept payment and give us change. He doesn’t even get the amount of change right…
The station itself is kind of fun as they play classical music in large loudspeakers. Imagine our delight when we suddenly realize that they’re playing a classical rendition of “Punschen kommer” (I’m probably showing my ignorance here not knowing that “Punschen kommer” is a classical piece to begin with or something). We pull out of the the station at 1 am and are scheduled to reach Beijing around 14.30 tomorrow.