Our travels with 3 kids and a wheelchair.


10 things we learnt living in a Mongolian Ger that will positively change our daily life.

10 things we learnt living in a Mongolian Ger that will positively change our daily life.

Staying in a traditional Mongolian Ger taught us more than we had imagined so much so that we are taking what we learnt on the land and applying it to our every day life at home. 1. Going Green. Our Ger had no power or […]

Seoul with Kids.

Seoul with Kids.

The city of Seoul in South Korea is an amazing destination for families. I am not even sure what initially made me add it to our travel itinerary but I am so glad we did. The city has terrific public transport links to everything you […]

Riding the Trans Mongolian train with kids.

Riding the Trans Mongolian train with kids.

At home in Melbourne we use trains for commuter use back and forth to work or to explore the city on a weekend. It’s about getting from A to B but when we go overseas trains take on a whole new level of adventure and it becomes about the ride along with the destination. It enables us to go from country to country witnessing new landscapes and meeting a variety of travellers.

We love exploring different countries by trains. We have caught sleeper trains in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Germany. We have taken long distance trains in Italy, France and the Netherlands. We have ridden on bullet trains in China and Japan.

There is one train trip we had on our bucket list and that is the The Trans Mongolian ( part of the Trans Siberian Railway)

Image via Russible

The night before we travelled on the train we stayed in Beijing and bought some supplies for our trip. We got packet noodles, fruit, water  ( 4L bucket) and some snacks like chips and biscuits.

Ready to board train K23.

We started our journey in Beijing where the train leaves at 11.22am from  Beijing central station. Make sure you have your ticket and passport at the entrance as these are checked just to enter the station. Your bags then go through security. ( this happens at every Chinese train station). Once you walk in, look up at the big board for your train number and it will tell you the platform. There is also a help desk just below. There is a waiting room at the station which is signed well in both Chinese and English. There are a few fast food options and a small supermarket if you need some extra supplies and water for the train.

The gates open up around 11am with another passport and ticket check done before you can go on the platform. There is no need to rush,, things are done in an orderly fashion with some passengers bringing air conditioners, fridges and boxes onboard along with your regular backpackers too!

Your ticket will show the carriage and the berth number. There are staff able to help you if you need it too.

Dinner on the train

We found our 4 berth compartment easily in the second class carriage and were ready to go! Each berth had a set of sheets, 1 blanket and a pillow for you to make up the bed at night. There was plenty of storage for bags above and also under each bottom bed. There is a power outlet under the little table just bring your travel adaptor.

We left Coopers wheelchair at the end of our carriage tied up to a bar with a face washer with the brakes on!

We watched the city turn into mountains as we left Beijing. Woody consumed a packet of oreos within the first 5 minutes and the kids caught up on some journal writing.

Chinese countryside 2 hours out of Beijing.

We wandered along the halls and chatted with many other travellers and watched the sun go down as we prepared our noodle for dinner. At the end of each carriage there was hot water so you could also bring tea, hot chocolates, porridge or noodles.

Onboard the train I loved seeing families creating whole meals together with some people cutting and peeling cucumbers and making salads. Andrew actually bought a duck in a bag to try which we added to our noodles but it was pretty dry and we wouldn’t recommend it.

At the other end was a bathroom with a toilet and basin. On this note don’t forget to bring some toilet paper or wipes to use. We were next to the accessible toilet by chance and there was also an accessible cabin but I have no idea how you would actually get onto the train or down to the restaurant carriage as the walkway was very slim.

Accessible bathroom on Carriage 7.
Hallway on carriage 7.

We spent the evening chatting with Joey who was Mongolian as he taught Pepper how to count and say a few words. The kids fell asleep around 10pm.

At around the same time we stopped in Erlian to change the wheels from the Chinese gauge to the Mongolian gauge which should take around 3 hours. At this stage the toilets are closed and the aircon is shut down. Some people jumped off to the station and others stayed on. This was within a 5 second window and every story I read differs so what happens on your own trip will no doubt be unique. Don’t count on getting any snacks at this station so come prepared! Although a few people did grab a few packets of nuts!

While at the border the Chinese immigration came and took our passports and a departure card I filled out to the best of my ability ( it was in Mandarin) then 4 hours later we got them back.

Wheels changed and ready to go closer to 5 hours later and we stop at Mongolian Immigration a few moments down the track. They took our passports and then some military people came on and lifted the kids beds up to check we hadn’t smuggled anyone across ( I am only assuming) about two hours later and the sun is rising and we are in Mongolia ready to continue the trip.

( I must add the extra real story in here for good value reading! Around 11pm Pepper projectile vomits off the top bunk onto the floor. I run down the passage asking someone to translate to the guards for me so they can open up the bathroom. The train guard opens it up for Pep to continue vomitting. He sweeps the vomit carpet with a broom and hands Andrew a wet face washer to clean the carpet. All her bedding gets thrown in the passageway where the wheelchair is)

Don’t say this isn’t adventurous or full of detail!

I also have to add that people did smoke between the carriages and often it smelt as though it was coming through the air-conditioning. The guard room was also used for smoking and sleeping shift changes. Just so you know what to expect and everything is done differently depending on which country you are exploring.

The landscape has changed to green green grassy plains and blue clear skies. The train weaves its way through the hills and we start to see gers dotting the land.

We pull into Ulaanbaatar around 4pm and jump off the train all exhausted and looking dishevelled but ready to adventure into Mongolia.

Arriving in Mongolia.

 

The details:

Number K23 ( runs each Tuesday over Peak Summer.)

Starts in Beijing, China

Ends in Ulanbaataar, Mongolia

Covers 1553Kms

Time- anywhere from 27-30 hours.

We booked our tickets a couple of months before travel at CITS. Their email correspondence was great and we paid via paypal online. We sent copies of our passports and collected the tickets from the main office the day before our trip. ( tickets open around 45 days in advance)

We bought 5 tickets for a 4 berth lockable/door compartment 2nd class hard sleeper. Because Woody was 5 and under 120cms tall he had a ticket but no bed. We wanted to all be together but on seeing the train the compartments were really close together so we could have booked a berth next door for an adult to sleep in but spend the day in the cabin together.

$240 adult

$148 child

$128 child (no berth)

( Prices are in USD and what we paid in July 2017)

Australians need visas organised before travel for both China and Mongolia.

Our top tips:

  • bring enough snacks and water for your journey. ( restaurant car is very limited )
  • bring wipes or toilet paper for the bathroom plus a face washer to freshen up.
  • plastic bags for emergency vomitting/collecting rubbish
  • make sure you wander around and chat with other travellers.
  • wear comfy clothes and layers as the aircon is a bit hit and miss at times.
  • don’t expect much sleep ( at night) as passport control requires you to be awake and alert!

 

Self catering ideas while you explore.

Self catering ideas while you explore.

We partnered with Tip Top to bring you this post. One of our favourite things about travelling is trying new foods in different environments. Being a family of 5 we tend to choose to stay at apartments or houses while we travel. These allow us […]

How to get a Chinese tourist Visa in Melbourne.

How to get a Chinese tourist Visa in Melbourne.

If you are an Australian heading to China on holiday you need to organise a visa before you go. Just follow these simple steps and you’re passport will be stamped and the visa pasted in ready for you to explore China. I have learnt a […]

Getaway with Airbnb.

Getaway with Airbnb.

We have stayed in Airbnb properties all over the world. We stayed in an apartment in Verona, Italy just around the corner from the best coffee shop in the world. We stayed in  a house in Mittenwald, Germany with outlooks to the Alps. We have stayed  in Penang, Malaysia swimming high in a rooftop pool overlooking the city. We have stayed in London looking out the window towards the Thames.

Staying in an Airbnb as a family allows us to live like locals, engage with the community and have all the space an amenities that we need to make our holiday adventure smooth running.

Using Airbnb is so easy and a great way for all families to enjoy a weekend away together and for our family of 5 to negate the cost of two hotel rooms.

We were thrilled to work together with Airbnb  to experience a property closer to home on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

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New Zealand Top 10 with kids.

New Zealand Top 10 with kids.

We spent 10 days exploring the North Island of New Zealand. Our kids are aged 12,8,5 and we travel with a wheelchair. It was our first time in New Zeland even though my Dad was born there. With amazing scenery, beautiful people, rich cultural heritage and […]

Exploring New Zealand by Campervan.

Exploring New Zealand by Campervan.

If you are going to explore with a campervan then New Zealand is the place to do it! We had never been camping, caravanning or in a campervan before and honestly it had never really appealed to me. As a young kid we would go […]

Exploring the Docklands, Melbourne.

Exploring the Docklands, Melbourne.

The Docklands in Melbourne is fast becoming THE place to visit. When staying in Melbourne we have usually chosen the centre of town or in the Southbank area. We spent a weekend in the ever changing Docklands precinct and think you should check it out too!

We loved exploring somewhere new and here is why!

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5 Ways to have a Staycation.

5 Ways to have a Staycation.

Not exploring right now? Saving up for that trip of a lifetime? Why not have a Staycation in your own hometown with all the things you love about being overseas? Right now we are living in Melbourne with our next adventure planned for Easter. We […]


Top tips for traveling with a 3 year old.

Top tips for traveling with a 3 year old.

This adventure saw our youngest child aged three.
On reflection it is at this age that some things become easier, gone are naps, nappies and prams but you also have to allow for a lot of flexibility as far as tiredness, determination and moods go!
Here are our top tips:
  • Reduce expectations. Gone are the days of cramming in activities from dawn to dusk! Be happy if you get one outing and limited tantrums.
  • Schedule pool time. It was the hottest month in Laos and a pool was a necessity. We would have two swims a day which kept Woody happy and allowed us all to cool off.
  • Reduce travel speed. Once you slow down to three year old walking pace you get to experience a lot that you may have missed. You get to talk to more people and make new friends.
  • Stock up on favourite snacks and drinks. Woody is not as adventurous with his food like his siblings. He’s happy if there is a steady supply of strawberry milk and biscuits. We always had these handy at airports, on the train and by the pool. We encouraged all efforts of trying something new.
  • Praise all efforts made to say hello to new faces. It’s beautiful the response kids get when they say hello and please in the local language. Encourage politeness but also understand that kids may get annoyed with the costant attention, arm and cheek squeezing and touching of golden locks.
  • Take small adventures in new vehicles. The experience of getting from A to B was enough of an outing if it involved a tuk tuk, push bike or motorbike. Woody loved the journey as much as the destination.
  • Join in activities with local kids. My kids loved swimming in the river at sunset in Vang Vieng and running through the markets with kids in Vientiane. Having kids opens up so many conversations with both locals and other tourists. Language is often a barrier but hand gestures and facial expressions go along way.
  • Bring along notepads, stickers and a favourite toy for the plane and waiting around airports. iPads are also great filled with favourite short tv shows to hold interest. Lollipops are also great for take off and landing as well as waiting in Immigration queues.
  • Tag team parental repsonsibility. We always try and get a morming or afternoon alone to explore while one of us stays with the kids. This allows the kids to rest around the hotel.
  • Our kids were welcomed everywhere we went. We went for family massages, temples and out for dinner and the kids were always greeted warmly. Don’t be afraid to get and and try everything even with kids in tow!

 

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