That’s it. I am leaving Mongolia for China right this minute. Yes, a little earlier than expected. But it gives me more time in China and Laos. And, given my current mental state, China’s energy is very appealing just now.
With the benefit of some further reflection, it occurs to me that I did not really give Mongolia much of a chance. I was too remote from it. Not like me at all. A jeep tour. Few locals. No effort to learn the language. Obvious efforts by people we stayed with to stay out of our way, and even to get other people out of our way (most famously, the woman who ran the guesthouse where we stayed the last night of our Gobi trip rang the bar we were going to (there was a big group of us) to tell them we were coming and to get rid of the locals).
Even just on this train, sitting in the restaurant carriage beside a man with seriously bad table manners (the kind that put you off eating), and laughing at the reaction of the guy I am travelling with, this simple thing makes me realise how getting closer to the people who live here is crucial for getting anything much out of the trip.
So maybe I will have to come back here after all. But differently. I met a woman the other day who advised me to spend my last week hitch-hiking around in the north of Mongolia. Do I regret not taking her advice? Or maybe I think that Mongolia will still be here when I get back. A little older perhaps, but not so different for all that.