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21 October 2017 / leggypeggy

Luxury on the Trans Mongolian—sort of

Trans Mongolian Railway

Our carriage is the first one. Our attendant kindly let me take his picture

Looking back at Beijing Station

Looking at Beijing Station from the train

The prospect of 11 days on a train was enough to prompt Poor John and me to upgrade our tickets on the Trans Mongolian Railway.

A couple of days ago, we started in Beijing, China, and we are now in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. To be honest, while we have 11 days on the train, we only have seven nights because we are also stopping in Irkutsk and Moscow in Russia.

I’m using the word ‘luxury’ rather loosely.

Trans Mongolian compartment

Poor John settling into his easy chair

Trans Mongolian Railway aisle

Down the corridor outside our compartment

Our first compartment was defined as a ‘luxury soft sleeper’. As the photos show, it was a bit cushy with just two beds (one up and one down) and an easy chair (we took turns). We also had our own toilet and shower (with hot water).

The Chinese dining car was a disaster. Plastic seats and laminated tables. The tablecloths were filthy and the food was mediocre, although the prices were very cheap. Seven or eight staff members were ensconced there—enjoying meals, chats, cigarettes and general laziness. The chef brought out his own meal (not something on the menu) and it looked fantastic! Wish we could have ordered it.

In the middle of the night, we crossed the border into Mongolia. That’s an exercise. The rail gauge changes between the two countries, so the bogies had to be changed. In all, we spent about five hours at the two borders, with all sorts of banging and crashing and thumping and bumping going on. We were finally on our way about 2:30am.

Trans Mongolian Railway dining car

The elegant dining car added in Mongolia

Later that morning we were surprised to discover four or five carriages had been added, including a Mongolian dining car.

Now this was the luxury we were expecting. Frankly, we were gobsmacked when we entered the carriage and saw its elaborate carvings, fabrics, decorations and smartly dressed waiter.

There was only one option for breakfast—an omelet with toast, butter and jam, plus tea or coffee—so four of us ordered that.

We lingered in the dining car for quite sometime, enjoying the atmosphere. Then the bill came. Yikes! It was US$20 or about A$25 for an ordinary one-egg omelet and instant coffee. Not impressed. Especially because the menu said US$15.

Trans Mongolian Railway route

We are following the pink line, then join the red line tonight (all heading west)

Sadly we were there long enough to see the waiter pinch the waitress on the bum. She didn’t smack him, but she should have.

We board the train to Irkutsk tonight and there’s not much promise of luxury. Even though we upgraded, our tickets imply that we have all four beds in a second class cabin. Also we’ve read there is no dining car, so we’ve stocked up on instant noodles, apples, mandarins, sesame treats and nuts. Oh and some beer!

This next ride is about 36 hours with a border crossing into Russia that may last as long as eight hours. It wouldn’t be so bad, but they lock all the toilets for that entire time (same thing happened last border crossing).

So like I said—luxury sort of. I guess we should hope there isn’t a murder on this ‘express’!

Trans Mongolian dining car

The elaborate carving and decorations

Trans Mongolian dining car

More decorations


Leave a Comment
  1. magarisa / Oct 21 2017 8:14 pm

    The Mongolian dining car looks amazing!
    Why do they lock all the toilets on the train you’re taking tonight? I can’t believe they expect passengers to go for so many hours without a pee break!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Oct 21 2017 8:22 pm

      It’s completely annoying, but I think it’s because they can’t flush when stopped.

      Liked by 1 person

      • magarisa / Oct 21 2017 8:44 pm

        Ah, okay. I suppose you’ll have to subject yourselves to dehydration. 😟

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Oct 21 2017 9:50 pm

        That’s a plan, except that I bought beer. Maybe I’ll drink it after the border crossing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ralietravels / Oct 21 2017 8:30 pm

    This is one of those situations where one needs something to click besides “like.” But it certainly is an interesting read. At least on your Africa adventure they warned you what you were facing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 21 2017 8:41 pm

      Thanks to Google, we have a bit of warning about what’s ahead. I’ll be reporting what actually happens.


  3. janowrite / Oct 21 2017 8:50 pm

    I see the train goes through Ekaterinburg! What a journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gerard oosterman / Oct 21 2017 9:06 pm

    One omelette and toast? And I thought you would be having a rice time in China and Mongolia. I took the Moscow St Petersburg train many years ago and it was fantastic.

    Train toilets are always a bit dodgy. But overseas toilets are always on our list of main travel experiences. I will never forget the squat one in Paris sans toilet paper and I used blank cheques. And where was the soap. NO SOAP.

    I think the photo of Poor John settling in his chair is priceless?

    Great shot, Peggy.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 21 2017 9:47 pm

      Blank cheques. Oh Gerard, that will keep me in stitches for the entire night. Thanks for the belly laugh. As for Poor John—he sure looks comfortable in that throne.


  5. beetleypete / Oct 21 2017 9:12 pm

    This reminds me of a trip on a sleeper train in Soviet Central Asia. Interminable stops for no reason, and no dining car. There was a man selling tea from a samovar, and vendors came from nowhere every time the train stopped, selling overpriced snacks from outside the train. They also locked the toilets at random, even though there was no border crossing. Our guide said it was to stop people hiding in them, and not showing their papers to the train inspectors.
    It was different and exciting, but I was much younger then. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 21 2017 9:49 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story, Pete. Obviously, I’ll be letting people know how we fare.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. derrickjknight / Oct 21 2017 9:27 pm

    Perhaps you should have taken the team from your truck trip to help with the catering. Locking the toilets is asking for trouble. They should get what they deserve 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. IreneDesign2011 / Oct 21 2017 9:53 pm

    It looks like an interesting travel Peggy and the Mongolian dining car was beautiful decorated, their prices too 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:11 am

      The prices were a shock in a bad way, the the dining car was a shock in a good way.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Osyth / Oct 21 2017 11:11 pm

    I took the Sapsan from Moscow to St Petersburg four years ago … the omelette was memorable. Breakfast is HUGELY important in Russia so hopefully when you cross the border you might get something a little more hearty and creative. Those inscrutable faces make me smile – but charging you over the odds surely does not! What an adventure though. I’m quite boggled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:15 am

      Oh how I’m hoping for great food on the next two trains. We’re now in Irkutsk for four days (including a two-day trip to Lake Baikal) and then board the next train to St Petersburg. Love your reference to inscrutable faces. Too true. P.S. Potsie can lift his left leg (hope he doesn’t pee on a nurse). Five days ago, he couldn’t move anything on the left. Keep up your amazing efforts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth / Oct 23 2017 6:07 pm

        What great news to stumble upon on Monday morning …. I’m thrilled to read that Potsie has made such progress. Once I commit to something I don’t back down and if I’m making even a smidge of difference through the ether it’s worth it. Enjoy Russia…. i love it. Are you spending time in Moscow? We have many friends there …. And Saint Petersbourg is simply mind blowing (but mine is a quite tiny mind 😄) Bon continuation) 🌸


      • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 9:27 pm

        I like to deliver good news on a Monday. Hope to keep more coming. Three years ago we were in Russia’s Altai Mountains. Now we have a couple of days/nights coming up in both Moscow and St Petersburg. Irkutsk is fascinating. Heading to Lake Baikal tomorrow morning so out of touch for a couple of days.


  9. suzlearnsfrench / Oct 21 2017 11:57 pm

    Yikes no bathroom for 8 hours. Such a cool adventure. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lesley Snow / Oct 22 2017 12:34 am

    What an amazing trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. circusgardener / Oct 22 2017 1:38 am

    A fascinating insight, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. lexklein / Oct 22 2017 1:39 am

    I assume the man pictured in the Mongolian dining car was not the smartly dressed waiter! Oh, what fun you are having … I have only been on a Russian train once and none in China and Mongolia, but the border crossings and lack of amenities were quite similar. What did you think of Ulaanbaatar? I quite enjoyed my days there! (Maybe you’ve been there before?) Happy travels!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:17 am

      Well called. Mr Belly Man is the waiter before he got tarted up. We enjoyed Ulaanbaatar. It’s the second time we’ve been there.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Tasty Eats Ronit Penso / Oct 22 2017 3:24 am

    I can’t imagine traveling so long on a train, let alone 36 hours with locked toilets??! You are very brave! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Laurie / Oct 22 2017 4:43 am

    You won’t be able to forget this adventure! The no bathroom for 8 hours is no adventure though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:18 am

      Yep, there’s no forgetting this adventure.


  15. Dorothy / Oct 22 2017 6:55 am

    Oh Peggy, 8 hours, dont think I could last that long. Especially when they tell you it will be 8 hours, that would convince you, you needed to go. Interesting trip, think I will put it on my list of journeys I dont want to go on, you are braver than me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:20 am

      I managed the eight hours. The second train’s wait was 10 hours,, but at least there was a toilet on the platform.


  16. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Oct 22 2017 7:43 am

    You can tell I don’t travel much, especially outside the US – I’m still trying to scrape my face off the floor – bathrooms locked for 8 hours – That would be cruelty to me, I could not wait that long. It’s funny where they put their emphasis, not on necessary amenities but on the decor. which is quite beautiful. I hope this trip doesn’t exasperate you too much.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:22 am

      Yes, the eight hours was a challenge, but we managed—just.


  17. Norbert Haupt / Oct 22 2017 8:59 am

    Peggy, this is so cool. I have had the dream to travel on the Transiberian since I was a youth, and never got around to it. This post is so inspiring. Post more pictures as it goes on, and don’t forget to give us landscape shots!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:22 am

      You can count on plenty of landscape shots. I just need more internet time.


  18. Vicki / Oct 22 2017 10:48 am

    Love the decor in those Mongolian cars, but to lock the toilet doors…….”Curiouser and Curiouser” as Alice would say (down the rabbit hole).

    One of the joys of travelling and visiting ‘foreign’ countries is the experience of the weird and wonderful, the manners and customs, the sights and sounds. To travel overseas is one of the most enriching experiences in life.

    Perhaps some cultures only go to the toilet once per day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:23 am

      We’ve decided toilet-locking is just some sort of perverse power play.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vicki / Oct 23 2017 5:01 pm

        Just realised that if it was Mongolia, when the door locking occurred, perhaps it might be the country herder’s diet of yak meat and cheese products (with little vegetable & fruit fibre) and not as much fresh water that might make once-a-day the norm 🙂

        (Having studied Tibetan culture and customs and reading of their yak, cheese and Tsampa (millet) diet I was being serious about my last sentence in my comment).

        Of course power play in China (and Russia?) could be the reason.

        I wouldn’t last more than about 30 minutes on the train in that type of situation as I’m a big water drinker 🙂


      • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 9:30 pm

        Door-locking has happened in China, Mongolia and Russia. I think it has to do with how/where the toilets flush/disperse. Mustn’t dirty the town’s tracks. The toilets stay locked for 20 minutes before and after a major stop.


  19. Chris Riley / Oct 22 2017 11:56 am

    Just as well you upgraded – the mind boggles at what the lower classes may have been experiencing. Some things make you appreciate what we have in Australia that little bit more – the PC incorrectness of a pinch on the bum. Perhaps she’d have lost her job for responding with a slap.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. adventuredawgs / Oct 22 2017 12:33 pm

    That Mongolian car looks so luxurious for sure but that breakfast would have been a total bummer. Having the bathroom locked for 8 hours? Did they say why that happens? Seems a bit extreme. And unpleasant to say the least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:26 am

      We’re still not sure why they lock the toilets. My only guesses are a power play or the fact that the toilets flush on to the tracks (don’t know if either is true).

      Liked by 1 person

  21. BoomingOn / Oct 22 2017 1:15 pm

    The definition of luxury varies as you wander the world. Don’t drink too much water!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:26 am

      You can be sure I’ve been careful about water consumption.


  22. Brian Lageose / Oct 22 2017 2:48 pm

    Still, it’s all about making the best of the adventure, right? At least that’s what you can keep telling yourself… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Catnip Blog / Oct 22 2017 3:36 pm

    What are bogies?

    Love the ride . . . especially from my own home where the toilet is never locked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:31 am

      The bogie is a framework that holds a train’s wheel set. When the gauge changes, the bogie and wheel set have to change too.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Author: Sadaf Siddiqi / Oct 22 2017 5:43 pm

    Nice pictures

    Liked by 1 person

  25. thewonderer86 / Oct 22 2017 7:11 pm

    Love it. What an adventure. I would hold off on drinking that beer though.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Amanda McInerney / Oct 22 2017 10:58 pm

    I’m assuming the bloke standing in the dining car in his singlet is not the ‘smartly dressed waiter’? what a fabulous adventure. Is this the trip that Joanna Lumley did on her tv show?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:32 am

      I think it is the trip Joanna Lumley did. And yes, Mr. Belly is the waiter before tarting up. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  27. simpletravelourway / Oct 22 2017 11:31 pm

    This is fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. susan@onesmallwalk / Oct 23 2017 1:29 am

    I have always wanted to take this train trip. Your photos and description are so interesting. Looking forward to the next part of the journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Alison and Don / Oct 23 2017 7:04 am

    So many little details in this post I could imagine being there (but not sure I actually really wanted to). I see what you mean about luxury kind of. Is the guy with his belly hanging out the smartly dressed waiter? 🙂
    I wish I’d been there when the waiter pinched the waitress’s bum. I immediately had an image of going up to him and pinching his bum. Hard! Not that I would have probably, but I’d have wanted to!
    That dining car is beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 23 2017 11:49 am

      Yep, Mr Belly is the waiter before he got dressed up. Oh yes, a pinch for a pinch is a brilliant idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Phil Huston / Oct 23 2017 9:34 am

    Oh man! The pictures alone are fodder for a great short story. I can see the ghosts of Murder on the Orient Express in the hallway shot. Man, oh man, what a great trip! This one deserves video! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Brenda / Oct 24 2017 12:03 am

    I had always had visions exotic luxury on this train ride. That notion has been deflated. I’m not surprised that Mr. Belly is also Mr. Pincher. Nasty old goat. Let’s hope that a pinch is all she has to put with. So good to hear that Potsie is doing better.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Christie / Oct 25 2017 4:11 am

    I don’t really want to know what would happen if someone would REALLY need to use the toilet.. 8 hours?.. wow, that is too much! Happy travels Peggy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 25 2017 8:38 am

      I just wish they alerted everyone about 30 minutes before stopping the train and locking the toilets. I can wait 8 hours, but a warning is useful. We were vigilant so more or less prepared.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Dave Ply / Oct 25 2017 7:54 am

    Just looking at that map of Asia gives me the sense a train ride would seem endless. But you could certainly say you’re seeing the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. jeanleesworld / Oct 27 2017 12:53 pm

    But this is the PERFECT place for murder! I can just imagine the poisoning, and the suspects gathered for Poirot!! 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 31 2017 4:33 am

      Luckily we all made it safely to Moscow. There wasn’t really anyone on board that I wanted to see bumped off. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  35. MichaelStephenWills / Nov 10 2017 12:52 am

    I liked the touch of the chef’s meal. ugh….

    Liked by 1 person

  36. barkinginthedark / May 28 2020 5:52 pm

    I am jealous. What a fantastic trip…”luxury” or not. And, they do manage to get you by the omelet. But boy, I would love to take that ride. continue…

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Luxury on the Trans Mongolian—sort of — Where to next? – 100star

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