5192 kilometers and three days (of no shower) later, we have completed our longest leg on the iconic train journey, from Moscow to Irkutsk.
The days went by quite fast – eating, reading, napping, daydreaming, admiring the scenery, taking pictures, walking around the platforms when there is a stop, chatting with others in car and eating some more. :).
This Russian train#20 is a bit compact compare to the Chinese trains that I have been on. The compartments are less spacious and the beds are more narrow.
But I love the storage space. There is a big one for your suitcases if you lift up the top of your seat. When you are ready to sleep you can pull down your bed that is held against the wall and acts as your backrest in the daytime. There is also a shelf on the top bunk. There are hooks and hangers on the wall for your jackets and some more small storage space above the chair headrests. There is a flat screen TV in each compartment that does not seem to work. No wifi on the train, which can be good for a change.
Now for the bathroom. It is not bad at all. I have been on trains where I can smell from a distance where the bathroom is. I usually drink less water so I don’t need to step in there. I hold my breath. But this time is okay. There are even toilet seat covers and an air freshener. They are cleaned often. The sink inside the bathroom is too small, making it challenging to brush your teeth and wash your face in.
Thirty minutes before the train pulls up in a station, the conductors go around locking all the bathrooms. Even if you are in the middle of doing something, those fierce ladies will keep knocking until you come out.
A bedsheet, a blanket cover, a pillow case and a small towel are provided in a plastic bag. There is also a wool blanket but we didn’t use it as it is a bit smelly. The blanket cover itself was warm enough for the night. The temperature on the train is quite comfortable, with just enough air conditioning.
You prepare your own bed. When you have arrived at your destination, you take the linen off your bed and give them to the conductor.
Food that we bought on the train with us: cup noodles, bread, cheese and salami, crackers, chips, can fish, chocolate, fruits and water. They make delicious meals and snack when you don’t feel like eating at the train restaurant. I like eating instant noodle bowls but I feel guilty whenever I eat those unhealthy food at home . But for a trip like this, it is a great excuse to indulge in all the junk food that you usually don’t allow yourself to eat.
There is a samovar at the end of the train compartment for making hot drinks and cup noodles. There are souvenir cups for sale and I get the impression that you can rent them too. We just went to the restaurant car and ask for a plastic cup for our tea.There are shops on the railway platforms where you can pick up drinks, ice cream, fruits, bread and some cold-cuts and cooked food. Locals are also around selling
their baked goods, dumplings, fruits and dried fishes. They don’t jack up their prices too much and they are not pushy. A 1.5 liter of water for about US$1, cup noodle for a little less than $1, a hard boiled egg for 15cents, a banana for 50cents, a chicken leg for about 70cents.Even though this Russian #20 train that runs twice a week from Moscow to Beijing is a non- smoking train, it is interesting how some people can still find a way to smoke between cars without getting in trouble. The secret is to make a souvenir purchase with the staff and she will stand by you while you smoke away. Even if others see you smoking and want to join she will not allowed it unless they have the “pass”. Very interesting.