This page: the dining car is a focal point on the train; a view on the trip from Beijing to Ulaan Baatar; Sukhbataar Square in the Mongolian capital

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Jessica Gregson braved low-carbon travel, Mongolian plains and contraband smuggling when she hopped aboard the famous Trans- Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow

he 'I‘r‘anx-Siherian r'ai|\\a_\ ix the Mill Ul- tra\e| e\perienee lllttl dl\ idex people. The idea ol~ rntrltiple nights on a train. sharing a cahin \xith \tranger\. no aeeexx to \litm el'\. dependent on the \agat‘iex ol‘ the httllet car lot

sustenance ix mam people\ idea ol

hell on earth. l5or others. incltrding mtsell'. it's a unique chance to

trawl o\erland ilel‘tt\\ one-third ol'

the glohe. meeting the locals and \L‘elllg‘ ;l '01 till \pectaeular \cener} along the \\a} and in these climate eolheloth times. ll.\ al\o a chance to take on a \ct) hig trip \xithout l‘ecling too guilt} ahout polar hears floundering on melting ice l'loex as a direct result of _\our carbon l’ootprint.

'l'hat'x certainl) ho\\ l justified it to in) self ax I boarded the train in Beijing in the earl} hours of the morning. dodging the (‘hinexe and Mongolian traders \\ ho \\ ere sprinting along the platl‘orm Using their teetering trolle_\\ Ul~ gttoth ;l\ hattering rains. I “ax sharing in} scruff} hut coml‘ortahle tour-berth compartment \\ ith an .-\merican. on his \\;1} home l'rom teaching in Korea. and the _\oung

94 THE LIST . 9 \

\on of

Mongolian diplontah \\ ho \\ as eager to learn linglixh \uear \xordx.

'l'he lirxt le\\ hourx ol' the journe}. through the jagged mountains \xext ol' Beijing. snatching tantalising \ie\\\ ol~ the (ireat \Vall ol‘ China. \\ L‘I'L‘ \pectacttlar'. lltm e\ er. one \i\th ol‘ the \xa} through the 30- hotrr journe) l'rom Beijing to Mongolia's capital l'laan Baatar. \xe \\ ere in the heart ol'(‘hina\ coal region. characterised h} distant chimney halting hlack \moke and gt'ittt}-lookiltg ltt\\ll\lllp\ uhere \\e \\ ere allo\\ ed to jump ol‘l~ the train and plunder \uppliex lrom platl‘orm traders. B} Llll\l\. the landscape hecame [latter and drier th \\e headed into the (ittl‘l tlL‘\L‘l‘l. ttlitl the temperature dropped. \xith \parltx l‘rom the train\ coal heater lloating pa\t the \\ indou \.

:\l the border hem een (‘llllitt ttlitl Mongolia moxt or the passengers. old hands at the journe}. got on the train to spend a couple ot' hotn'\ in the station cal'e. hut m_\ .-\merican cahin mate ttlltl l elected to \ltt} on

the train l‘Ul' lllL‘ llU\ L‘l e\perience Ul'

seeing it lit‘ted into the air a\ the l‘ttgle \\ ere changed to ill ill] the marginall_\-\\ider Mongolian track.

.'\II the carriage\ are uncoupled and then lil‘ted Indraulicall). a proccxx \o gradual and gentle that \\ e didn‘t

r‘eall_\ leel it until \\L‘ looked out till

the \\ llltltm and l-tllllltl tttll'\t‘l\e\ \l\ l‘eet aho\e the ground.

We \xerc also entertained h} our clteerl'ul cahin attendantx \xho. as \ttttll ;t\ the Pil\\L‘ll:_'L'l\ \\ ere till the train. hegan l‘illing empt} pillo\\ caxex \\illt eonlt‘altand to


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\rnuggle rt ado“ the holder

l\trrred lrrrell_\ at da\\tl to we the \un rr\e met the (iol‘t. and then \koke properlt a tee. llt‘t|l\ later to ltla/ing \un\hrne. hrz'h on the \lttttz‘ttlta \eenred da//lrrrgl} ernptt. the

\longolran plateau

ltto\\tl grawlanth dotted \xrth nornadre tent\ and the occa\ronal lo\\tt conxhtrng o! no more than a \Inglc prrxtrne ltlock ol tlatx and a ten gaudrl} painted outlttnldrngx. arnrd the lug. eaglex \\heelrng .tl‘o\e. and hor\e\ prckrng then “at through the eath ()L'lttltt‘l \lltt\\.

B} lunchtime \xe reached l laan Baalar'. capital. \xhere l \\a\ spendrng the night. II that he lo\\ on xightx hut therc\ a \cr'_\ dramatic rnatn \tjuaie. Sukhhaatar Square. dormnated h_\ a gigantic \tatue ol (ienghrx Khan. a lteautrlul \xoikrng Buddhnt rnonaxter}. and local\ walking through the \treetx rn traditional Mongolian drew. l \xotrld lra\e liked to \ta_\ longer. hut alter l\.ire|_\ 2-1 hour\ I \\;t\ on the train again. read} lor another ill hour lttlllllt'}. hound lor‘ lrlxutxle Siher'ra.

'l’l1i\ time | \xax \harrrrg a caltrn with a tattooed Mongolian rrrarr. the patriarch ol a huge lannl_\ tr'a\el|rng together. \xho dre\\ an enorrrroux cr‘oud ol \teeping people to the platlor‘nr as the train departed, .\l_\ cahin rrratc cleatl} an c\perienced smuggler. and \pent nruch ol the journc} tearing open large plastic hagx. \taxhing the contents in a \arict} ol IlljJt'lllttlh location» .\ltcr crowing into l<ll\\|;t

ltald lllttlllll.llll\.

MongoliaK engaging