|We met downtown at the main train station in Beijing at 7:00 AM, and then hurried in to catch the train, which left at 8:00. The train circled Beijing, passed over the mountains and past the Great Wall, going first west, and then north. The terrain gradually got more arid as we continued.
We hit the Chinese border in the early evening, but it took several hours to get by it. After we passed Chinese customs (twice), the train had to be broken up and each car individually lifted into the air and the wheels changed - the track in Mongolia is different than in China. This took a few hours, after which we had to clear Mongolian entry procedures, which was somewhere around 1:00 AM, and then we had a nice rest until 3:30, when we were called (1 1/2 hours early!) for the arrival at Sainshand. The total trip was about 22 hours.
We were met at the station by our translator and 3 cars, which we jammed full with people and luggage - besides the luggage we brought for ourselves, we had clothes, medical supplies, and seeds for distribution by the NGO. (the plastic sacks on the platform are the NGO supplies).
Though all were tired when we got to the hotel, we had to get ready quickly for our meeting with the governor, who was leaving later that day for Ulan Bataar. Our hotel, recently built by the Governor's brother, was located less than a 5-minute walk from the governor's office.
The governor studied in Russia and Czechoslovakia, and we were told he understood and possibly spoke English, though would not (for protocol reasons?) do so with us. He was a very charismatic man, dressed well but not ostentatiously, and did a lot for us during our trip, including getting us cars, access to areas not usually welcoming tourists, and (I heard) plainclothes protection to make sure there would be no "problems".
Scenery in China