Mongolian boy waving off his family

Again, I had a feeling I was never leaving this bitterly cold and amazing place but as they say, all good things must come to an end. As usual I was up at the crack of dawn to catch my last connection by train to Beijing. Sad to leave but also wildly excited to see the Gobi Desert from the train. On this last train journey I only bought high hopes and windy biscuits for the trip. (I was all done with things meaty or so I thought!)

The Mongolian train cabin.

The Deception.

It all started so well if a little eccentrically. I was lulled into a false sense of security by the frilly little old maids front room of a cabin and the Mongolian welcome music. I had a thermos flask and a glossy magazine, it all felt new and exciting and no warning of the strict country I was facing entering later. I was to be rudely awakened later to Communist China.

However for those blessed last hours of innocence I had a lovely time. The lady who ran our carriage was lovely. Mongolian and lovely.

My innocence at that point

Trotting along to the Mongolian diner I was delighted by the pink frills that matched my cabin, and the Mongolian soap opera that was on the tele. (soap operas can be understood in any language!) Bliss! A new dimension in train décor and I loved it and my sizzling beef (recipe below) There was a good selection on the menu and the ambience calm so I spent the afternoon catching up with my diary. And still I didn’t know what foulness was to come. My lady had kept inferring problems ahead but it didn’t come through and was lost in translation. I just grinned foolishly saying “yes yes” each time she tried to explain that we were going into China and no good would come from it.

Writing my diary later in the day looking over Gobi Desert

ALERT: Next post would get very obscene and foul if I had my way but I don’t want to horrify you all at my disgusting potty mouth but honestly, it would end up being the worst f*****g Valentine’s day ever and a f*****g nightmare from hell.

A nice crunchy snow video before China.

I really should have guessed something was amiss as my lovely lady (I wrote down her difficult name but lost it to my eternal shame) was fretting and miming impending doom about entering China, I just thought that we would have to hang around til they altered the rail gauge on our carriage and then we would hop back on and wait there until the others were done. Wrong.

Gobi desert from train window

So wonderful to see the hypnotising Gobi desert and at last I saw some real live yurts. The yurts were both in town amongst other houses, and out of town, still nomadic and free with their herds around and busy getting on with their every day life. I was treated to caravans of Bactrian camels off to God knows where, and the wild horses yet to be tamed. Braving the bitterly cold winters for millenia and enjoying the summer months of respite, these wonderful people are both brave of heart and kind generous folk. I still miss that magical land and feel lucky I went in the dead of winter to experience it with few tourists about. True I missed the wrestling and the massive statue of Genghis in the desert, the camels and horses and getting close up and personal with those communities. The many other summer events I shall return for one day….

The exit from Mongolia was much the same affair as the other border crossings thus far but entering China would be a different bag of chips. See you on the dark side…..


Recipe for Mongolian beef.

Mongolian sizzling beef dish on train with metal cow server. It had a very good sauce underneath and smelled great but was tough.
  • Thinly sliced beef, chuck or blade, or similar cheap but tasty cuts. Toss in seasoned flour.
  • Fry this in a heated pan with corn oil. Do this in shifts so not to overcrowd pan and “boil” it instead of hot frying it. Set aside each batch as you cook it. Make sure it is fried til its caramelised and crisp on edges.
  • In a bowl place a couple of tablespoons of soya sauce and brown sugar, depending on how sweet you like it, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and as much fresh sliced ginger as you like. Cook up in the beef pan adding water if it gets too thick.
  • Now add your beef to that and stir in, then place in a low oven for around an hour. You’ll have to check that the beef is tender otherwise carry on cooking. If you prefer you can fast cook it on top of the oven but you might prefer a more tender cut.
  • Serve with a spring onion garnish and a bowl of rice or noodles.
  • YUM!

Alert: One week today until I fly to Bogota and start the Colombian leg of my South American trip. Any suggestions welcome as where to go, (not rude please!) and hints for me and others. Cheers.