The train journey back from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar was, in many respects, better and more interesting than the journey down (we do, after all, drop from 1316 metres about sea level at Ulaanbaatar to 55 metres about sea level in Beijing).
We got to see the Great Wall of China a third time as the train passed through it. The compartments we were travelling in were a whole lot nicer (well, they were deluxe after all). We got to rock across the Chinese countryside again (and to rock I would suggest a 1 gigabyte MP3 player as there is a lot of countryside to rock across).
However, probably the most interesting thing (well, apart from the Mongolian Immigration folks at Zamin-uud disappearing with my passport for what seemed an eternity), occurred at Erlian. When the bogies were changed on all the carriages from the Chinese Standard Gauge (4 foot, 8 and a half inches between the rails) to the Mongolian Russian Gauge (5 foot between the rails), the restaurant car was also changed.
Gone was the Chinese Railways Restaurant Car, with its sweet and sour pork, with the funny beef dish and so on. Gone was the “greasy spoon” appearance of the car (I swear there was Formica on the tables under the dirty tablecloths). Gone was the Restaurant Car. Replacing it was a Mongolian Railways Restaurant Car.
What a difference the car made. The Chinese menu changed to Mongolian foods. The car was clean but most impressive of all was the decoration. I cannot find the words to describe this. Best I just let the picture speak for this one – click on it for a larger view.