World Trip HomePost Twelve

Post Twelve - Beijing

Beijing ExpressBeijing Express

In Ulaanbaatar I boarded the "Chinese Train" to continue on to Beijing. In many of the travel references I found, people claimed the Chinese Train was nicer than the Russian Train. I thought the Russian train was better with Persian style carpets in the compartments and hallways, and burgundy colored bunks and walls. The Chinese train was lighter colored inside (showing the dirt better) and had thin cotton carpets. The Russian train had cleaner toilets too. Of course 'clean' is a relative term.

My Travel CompanionsMy Travel Companions

The journey from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing took about 30 hours. For this trip I shared a compartment with three Mongolian women. One of them (the woman on the far right) spoke a bit of English so we were able to converse. They were very interested in where I was from, if I was married, and what I thought of Mongolia. They also kept me fed with crackers, yogurt, and fermented camel's milk (the two-hump kind). Mostly they talked amongst themselves and with the woman from the next compartment over. The Mongolian speech, especially when spoken by women is an interesting and pleasant language to listen to. They speak almost in a whisper and the words sound like a collection of consonants without any vowels. I can't really explain it and I wish I had a recording of it to share.

Beijing Train StationBeijing Train Station

I stepped out of the train in Beijing, the biggest city in the most populous country in the world. I was expecting to see people crawling all over each other. Instead, I found a city (and a country) that was mostly well mannered and well managed. This huge train station, obscured by snow flurries, was the first thing I saw.

Modern ChinaModern China

I'd expected China to be fairly backward - languishing under its communist rulers. I was shocked to discover a country rapidly transforming itself into a modern, powerful player on the world's stage. Beijing was clean and orderly with wide sidewalks, eight-lane roads (including one large bike lane in each direction), and rows of modern skyscrapers. This is a shot of one of the five star hotels along the boulevard by our hostel.

The CityThe City

This is a shot of Craig, my friend from Seattle who was joining me for the trip to Bangkok, and Tina, an exchange student studying in southern China who we met at our hostel. The accommodation in China was always high quality. Our hostel in Beijing was located in a modern 9-story building behind the second building on the left.

Me & CraigerMe & Craiger

When it was decided that I would travel without Karen from Seville to Bangkok, I immediately put out the call to my friends to see if anyone wanted to join me for part of the trip. Dave met me in Eastern Europe and Craig signed on for Asia. Craig is always up for a challenge, which was good because we had three weeks to get from Beijing to Bangkok and not a clue on where we wanted to go or how to get there. This is a photo of us in Red Square.

Forbidden CityForbidden City

After exploring the massive Red Square (sadly with no protesters in sight), we crossed under the (eight lane) road and entered the Forbidden City.

Exotic AsiaExotic Asia

The Forbidden City literally blew us away. We thought this building in the photograph was all there was to it but it was only the entrance. We walked through square after square surrounded by grand palaces and intricate decorations. In all, we probably covered a kilometer walking from one end to the other. The scale of the Forbidden City makes Versailles look like a country house. It was a memorable day. At one point I turned to Craig with a silly grin on my face and said, "I can't believe it, we're in freaking China, this is awesome!"

Next Up: Great Wall

Copyright 2002
Scott & Karen Semyan