Day 20: China Railway from Moscow to Beijing (Trans-Siberian Day 2)

Day 2 was almost an instant transformation from the urbanisation of Moscow since the late night departure a few hours ago, making this view of Siberia the first daylight scenery of the journey. Lots of birch trees around.

First thing to do in the morning – breakfast.

There are 2 breakfast sets on the Russian restaurant car, one slightly local and the other slightly western. I opted for the slightly western “Option 2” on the menu. Ресторан is not pronounced “pectopah”, but rather, the letters directly converts to, and surprise surprise, is pronounced as “restoran”.

White and brown bread to start. The white bread here is called wheat bread, and the brown bread is actually rye bread.

I kid you not, the menu stated that this was a ham sandwich. It’s the same white (wheat) bread as the starter.

And I kid you not again, the menu states that this is a tomato and cucumber salad. True to it’s word, it’s a sliced tomato and a sliced cucumber in a bowl, with a pinch of presumably dill garnish.

It came with a cheese omelette which I forgot to take a proper picture of, but it probably came with 5 shreds of mozzarella cheese melted into the very crispy omelette.

The interior of the restautant car, similar to the one attached between Brest and Moscow on the Paris-Moscow Express.

The bar on board.

Opening hours of the restaurant: 9am to 11pm local time.

Do take note of the times on the train, it’s very very important.

The train while in Russia, and the whole Russian railways run on Moscow time, which is GMT+3, irregardless of actual location. When the train is in Mongolia, it runs on Mongolian time at GMT+9. The staff on this Chinese train run on Beijing time for their shifts, which is GMT+8, irregardless of current position. Your actual local time may not be any of these two, since you will pass through 5 time zones on this journey. As a simple rule of thumb, you gain around 1 hour for each day eastbound on the train, making each day last for 23 hours instead. Westbound, you will lose 1 hour, making each day last for 25 hours.

Confused? Don’t be! It’s really simple once you understand the concept, and it’s very important that you do. Always have your body follow the actual local time especially when you sleep, and ignore the position of the sun. If not, you’ll suddenly gain 6 hours in darkness when the train crosses over from Russia to Mongolia. You also need to understand the times for applying for your Russian visa. On a positive and useful note, you will also not get jet-lagged at the end of the journey this way.

The exterior of the coach.

More birch.

I got the attendant to help unlock the window, so it makes for cleaner pictures, not to mention cool the train down.

Oh I haven’t mentioned it yet? There’s no air-conditioning on the whole train, not even the Russian restaurant car and the single Kupé coach behind. If you are expecting luxury, this train is not for you. Thankfully though, the weather during my journey did not require air-conditioning for most parts.

Meet my new guest, Captain Mongolia. We (my neighbours in my compartment) did get his name, but unfortunately I couldn’t remember it. More on his nickname later.

And his sidekick, his sister. More on “her” later.

Here’s Captain Mongolia having fun with my neighbour’s camera.

They seem to be regulars on this train, knowing how the beds and doors function. They are Mongolians, and their father studied in Russia. He speaks English, Russian and Mongolian, making the trip more interesting since he could point out or advise on things to take note of that a typical tourist wouldn’t know of.

It’s almost lunch time, thanks to the 1 hour gained. So off to the restaurant car again.

I ordered a “roast home made”, and it actually turned out to be a soup. The Russian restaurant car is full of (unwanted) surprises. It was funny until I still felt hungry when I finished it.

It was served in this elaborate bowl.

More birch.

A passing passenger train. Trains are very frequent on the lines here, watch out for your head when sticking it out of the window. Trains passes every 5 to 10 minutes or so, most of which are freight trains. I got this shot only because the tracks were far apart when crossing independent bridges.

Halfway through chatting with my attendant, another attendant from the next coach informed him that a window got broken on my coach.

Someone presumably threw a rock from outside, and it shattered spectacularly.

The hole formed in the window. On closer inspection by a senior attendant at the station though, the small hole on the top left seems to be knocked from the inside of the train instead. Hmm. The mystery of the Trans-Siberian.

If it was a rock though, it’s a good thing they threw it a second late, else it will end up in one of my open windows and in my head instead.

The end of the Chinese rake, with the Russian restaurant car and Kupé behind.

Rounding a bend along the line. Most parts of the journey run on electrified double track lines, a little too smooth for my liking.

The most useful thing in the coach has to be the hot water dispenser.

I bought a box of tea and some disposable cups in Moscow to make use of the hot water.

More birch again.

For dinner, Escalope (pork) with roast potatoes. This turned out to be the most expensive meal today despite being a single course, thanks to the menu counting the pork chops and the roast potatoes as two separate items, and the service charge imposed for dinner. Strange. It was my first and last dinner on board the restaurant car too.

The last sunset of my journey in Europe.

The train will cross from Europe to Asia at Yekaterinburg, 1777km from Moscow, at 1am, when I will be sleeping. It will be pitch dark to take a photo of the symbolic obelisk anyway. Click here for an internet picture of it, and a little bit of the railway’s history.

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