Sylvester McCoy #TrainTraveller
Part 2: Mongolia and Beyond...
Part 1 of his journey: London to Siberia, can be found here
(the site is mobile-friendly but we recommend you view on iPad or laptop if you can)
Day 26: Radio Silence for the last few days has been while Sylvester was in Mongolia! He's now gone from there, through a lengthy customs process into Beijing (more on that another time when he's rested!). Meanwhile, here's a video he was able to take quickly on arrival
“Mongolia... Looks pretty modern, not how I imagined it! It is an urban sprawl. The new, the unfinished, the Soviet, the Greco-Roman buildings, and the odd Mongolian yurt. It looks successful; people well-dressed, public transport in a much better condition than the ones in the cities of Russia.”
Day 28: Sylvester is now in China and fully enjoying the wonderful experience there (more news of that later). Meanwhile here's his look back to time in Mongolia.
"Ulaanbaatar. Thought it would be a Frontier Town with yaks, Yurts, and camels 🐫. Instead it had smooth limos, elegant apartments, and Mercedes 4+4s,!! The former were in the suburbs, and the wild country!
"Ulaanbaatar. I was expecting a kind of an outback town - on the edge of a 21st century. But no it’s a very, vibrant , sophisticated, city.
" Russian built!"
It’s a cry — 'Istreblyat! Istreblyat!'
Day 29: Beijing!
27th September 2018
"I’m the only European on this leg of the journey, and the only Peely Wally person in the vast station!"
I don’t know if you’ve heard of the “Call Of the East”?
When I first came out to the Far East in 1974 you could hear it everywhere... (those with a gentle disposition may wish to skip this bit!).
Their throats were cleared of mucus, loudly, and spat out on to the ground, even the most elegant and sophisticated women joined in. Not a pretty sound.
There was, at that time, a big movement to stop this ugly noise and unhealthy habit !
Cut to me, now 2018, on a Chinese train hurtling along from Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) 😛 to Beijing (China )🤪, having ordered breakfast in the dining car. (There was a choice of fried bread and a fried egg.. or a fried egg and fried bread) when I heard the “Call Of the East “ coming from the kitchen. Then my Fried, Runny Egg ,was served to me 🤪
Day 30: where is he now? Press Play and find out!
Day 30: Did you know?
come with him through this doorway to experience the magnificence of this!
Days 24- 30: BEIJING
Beijing was a surprise ! A very modern, clean, well appointed city. She was on her best behaviour, flirting with me by letting me enjoy perfect weather. Clear skies, gentle cooling wind, not a bad breath of pollution. Water tankers sprayed her, keeping her clean and dust free.
Beijing centre is defined by ringroad one. There are 6, and a 7th is being constructed to allow for even more expansion. In the inner ring there are no Skyscrapers. It gives her the same elegance as Paris, and Washington DC. It seems most petrol driven motorbikes have been replaced with electric. Result ... people floating about the broad boulevards in pleasant silence. An engaging dance. There is no feeling of oppression to this superficial traveller. People are enjoying the holiday weekend; there is laughter and happy faces. Having fun with each other.
"There were two of these masks in my room in Beijing! To protect me from poison gas, smoke inhalation etc!
This one though is a bit more old fashioned.
I look like a Bank Robber!
Funny thing🤔is, in the old days people used to rob banks. Nowadays it’s the other way around!!
"This is a police surveillance vehicle. Its Toy Town look disguises its Visio cameras etc. There are posters of police notices with pleasant squat dinky toy police 👮♀ like this. But then I saw a very heavy police presence in big blacked out windows parked menacingly by the road another time."
"I was watching the BBC Word News. It was showing the inauguration on a High Speed train route from Hong Kong to mainland China. So far so proud. Then nothing but snow on the screen 📺...... The bit about how some HongKongers were unhappy that the new station in the city was to be fully Chinese and not run by HongKong!
There were other black outs on other channels from out side the country on other topics, North Korea being one."
Beijing Train station!
On my way to Hanoi.
I’m the only non Asian on
this route. It’s packed, and I'm flying by my pants. ( I know flying and
training🚂don’t go but you get the gist). By pure chance I manage to
get on the correct train despite not being able to read the indicator board! The whole journey was like that. It’s a fluke I’ve got this far!
Last of the Train Journeys
Now the last of the train journeys. I’ve saved the worst for the last!
Beijing to Nanning, then a change on to the train to transport me to Hanoi!
These trains had all the worst of the others and none of the best! I shared the carriage with one other who hid in his cabin all the way to Nanning. At one station I was locked in the carriage unable to get down and go for a little explore. The stewards were lined up military style and lectured.
From Nanning, where I changed trains, there was no food or drink. On the train there was no Café or restaurant. Nothing. And this time I was the only passenger in my carriage. Felt lonely and a little hungry.
I was woken roughly after midnight and told to descend on to the tracks with my cases and drag them across rough ground to Chinese customs. It took an hour to be processed. I then dragged me and the bags back, climbing up on to my transport. An hour later all is repeated, now for the entertainment of Vietnamese Customs !
Finished about 3am . Next stop Hanoi Arriving 5am. I had no sleep ..am exhausted.
Welcome to Hanoi!
Chinese High Speed Train
My washing facilities on the
last leg of my Great Train Ride
At the border control of China I found this brilliant way of making sure boys and men did not splash their wee onto the floor!
Every man and boy wants to score a goal! ⚽🥅
It works, there were no splashes! 👏
What a Joy,
McCoy has travelled from London,
by train, to Hanoi!
Forgive this drivel, it will annoy.
But hey what a boy,
(With apologies to McGonagall and everyone else😱!)
The King and I! I'm in Siam... Oh yes
( and there's a giant cat!)
At last I've gone as far as I can by train, to meet my Bonny wee Grand-daughter and welcome her to the world. A quick flight to Bangkok before I can hold her in my arms.
But before that, a few days exploring Hanoi. Of all the cities I visited on my Odyssey, this is my favourite. I love the romance of the French influence here. I love the Fusion of the East and West (French) in the architecture, the food, the fashion. The women, as are all in French Indochina and Thailand, are stunningly beautiful, elegant !😍 Graham Greene, James Cameron, John le Carré, and many more great writers and Foreign corespondents found inspiration in this part of the world. I’ve often been asked “If you weren’t an actor what would you like to be ?”
Well; Foreign Correspondent !
The people are very welcoming, and considering the negatives of colonialism, forgiving. They have forgiven the Americans for their appalling destruction of their country. Their unjust invasion of this country. I can't wait to go back.
From the sublime to the ridiculous...
- or is it the other way round.... I spoil myself in this lovely hotel. By the way, the statue is that of Uncle Ho! the David who defeated the US Goliath! "
More Hanoi: The Catholic Cathedral in Hanoi. It looks like a concrete replica of Notre Dame ! It was built by the French, its surface burnt by the sun🌞. On Sunday evening it was overflowing with parishioners, so much so that many were sitting outside in the courtyard on the ubiquitous little plastic stools you see everywhere in Vietnam. This is still a communist country. The Buddhist Temples were open as well! Paradoxical (?)
I love Hanoi street life! It's vibrant, colourful, welcoming!
Ok, service was a bit slow!
In some countries you'd give your right arm for prompt service here it's different!
(Note the ubiquitous plastic stools!)
I’ve just read 449 homeless people died last year in UK. In all my journeys through many cities I saw no examples of homeless people sleeping on the streets. The last time we had that was 1997-2010.
We are one of the richest countries in the world but we allow our government the freedoms to throw people out on to the streets. Does it not make you ashamed especially when other, poorer, countries don’t allow this to happen?
I am! Ashamed!
Hanoi at Night!
"Bangkok, a city of contradictions! Battered coffee stalls, banks of escalators in the latest Super Shopping Mall; old customs and new! Sparkling in the night."
"I travelled all the way by train 🚂 and returned by Double Decker!"
After six weeks of travelling, time to go home.
Seen so many wonderful things, met lovely people, had challenging journeys and exciting journeys ... and the best bit?