Strangely, there were more Chinese Railway Conductors on this train than actual passengers. Our entire car has a grand total of 4 people (James and me included). So far, we met a German couple, some Danish guys, two Frenchmen, a couple Mongolians, and one Russian. The one Russian we met actually now lives in Beijing and is only traveling to Ulan Bator to visit his sick mother-in-law. We ask him if he visits his family in Russia often. He laughs and says most likely not ever. “The next time I visit my homeland, I will be in a tin can.” I love dark Russian humor.
There are a few explanations why our train seems so deserted. I suppose we are technically taking this train the “wrong” way – East to West; also this is an off season as most people don’t generally want to travel through Siberia during the start of winter. Or maybe, everyone realized that flying is just as cheap and much faster… Either way, I am happy to be on this outdated form of travel. I feel transported back in time, to a time before electronics and iPods crowded out conversations. We relax in the dining car over coffee, feeling the tracks underneath us, chatting with travelers from other distant lands about what adventures they have embarked on. Taking a train is more than just getting from point A to point B – it represents a different way of life.
Next stop – Mongolia.