Beijing, P.R. China 5.15.2007 This is my train ticket to the Chinese border with Mongolia in the Gobi desert. I had to dodge a good tourist trap punch to end up with it. It would be really nice to get out in the desert for a few days before I have to get to Ulaanbaatar [...]
Beijing, P.R. China
This is my train ticket to the Chinese border with Mongolia in the Gobi desert. I had to dodge a good tourist trap punch to end up with it. It would be really nice to get out in the desert for a few days before I have to get to Ulaanbaatar to register for a 90 day entry permit. After being in China and India for the past nine months I am real excited to get to a place with wide open plains and relatively few people. From the two most densely populated countries on earth to the least! A smile comes to my face at this notion. This is the title page to Harry Franck’s seminal book of travel. It was his first book so it maintains the rawness of youth and the unabashed splendor of life on the road. I am currently travelling around with this book in my rucksack. It is big, heavy, and almost a hundred years old. Seriously, it is a first edition copy, and was published in 1910.
Photos from the book. Oddly enough, Franck travelled with a Kodak camera and spent all of his funds on photographic supplies. This is kind of funny because he often times did not even have enough money to eat. But he wanted to document his journey in photographs, and now little vags like myself can look at his photographs and ponder at how everything still looks the same. If Adam Katz– World Traveller ever happens to read this travelogue I suggest that he read this book. There is a really awesome section on travels through Egypt. I am going to begin a writing project based off of this book soon, but I will write more of this later.
Now, I am fully faced towards Mongolia!
I bought my train ticket to go up Mongolia way yesterday. I had to dodge a hard right hook to get it though. I went to the train station and asked around how I should go about getting a ticket and nobody seemed to know anything. Well, until I asked one particular ticket vendor and he just sat in his little booth for a moment thinking about it, and then just looked up at me and said “there” while pointing to the imposing structure of the, appropriately nomenclated, International Hotel. I knew what was to follow.
So I walked through the throng of people mulling around in the station’s large courtyard, across the street, down one large Beijing city block (among the largest in the world), past the sharp dressed chauffeurs standing vigilantly at the front doors, and into the International Hotel. Inside was just rich. There is nothing more that I really wish to say about it. As I feel real uncomfortable around such company (my place is with the butchers, planters, and day laborers of the world) I quickly asked where I could buy the much sought for ticket. He directed me to go upstairs, and I hastened up them.
I found the CITS office rather quickly, as it stood out amongst the cafe latte stands and jewelery shops, and walked right in and asked for a ticket. The fellow behind the desk spoke unsteady English, so I switched to my unsteady Chinese. I asked for a ticket to Ulaanbaatar. He named the price- 678 kuai. Nearly eighty dollars! No way. It is only a thirty hour ride from Beijing. No way. I could get to Moscow for $250 on the same train! But this was the price for a hard sleeper, so I requested a hard seat. He wouldn’t sell me a ticket for one. “It is a long way,” he said. I requested a hard seat a second time. He still would not sell me one. He then proceeded to tell me that there was not any seats, only sleeper compartments, on this train. Which may or may not have been true, as it was the Siberian Express that I was trying to take a ride on. I then questioned him about train number 23 which was not the Siberian Express that was also suppose to run to Ulaanbaatar. He told me that there was no such train. Which may or may not have been true. Either way I had enough of these dealings and quickly left the International Hotel. I returned to Beijing central to get a local train out to the border town of Erlian. It cost me 142 kuai (little over seventeen dollars). Thus satisfied and happy, I stuck the ticket into my breast pocket and returned to my hostel to begin studying a little Mongolian.
“US citizens need none visa because Mr. Bush has blackmailed the Mongolian government with his signature to the contracts of the development aid.”Quoted from Hairibo on LP Thorn tree.
Well, I take it. Thank you, president. This is perhaps the first time that the regime has done anything that has personally benefited me. I knew that 50.00000001% of the voters in my country voted for him for something. Now I know, it is so we can all go to Mongolia for 90 days without a visa! Tommy-rot. The agreement was probably made so that Mongolia looks more attractive to US visitors (really, how many are there?) to boost their own tourism industry, or (more likely) so that they can boast of an apparent “show” of “friendship” with the big bad USA. I do not really think that Mr. Bush had much concern for my desire to tramp through Mongolia. I don’t think that he spends much time sitting around the oval office thinking about all of the dirty backpacking vagabonds of his great land that would love to go footloose in Mongolia for three months without needing to bother themselves with a visa. If this was the case then please Mr. Bush patch up things with Iran, there are plenty of American backpackers who would love to travel there without visa hassles; remove the troops from Iraq, there is a whole bunch of vagrants who would jump for joy to travel through the fertile crescent! That just sounds so ridiculous to me.