My second experience in Beijing was much better than the first, but then again most things are better than standing on a train for 13 hours.
This time it was cold and rainy the whole time, and the tour I had planned to take was canceled. Instead I decided to use the day to prepare for the train trip - go to the tour company and pick up the information and tickets, and go last-minute shopping. It also turned out that a friend from Spanish camp was in the city, visiting family, so I got to meet up with her.
Transportation is always the biggest issue in Beijing, and this time it was taxis. Much of my day in the city was waiting for taxis and being told that, for whatever reason (it's too far, it's in the opposite direction that I am driving right now), they could not take me where I wanted to go.
Despite missing my alarm clock at 5:45, I was able to make it to the train station in time for the 7:45 train. I was supposed to meet my co-traveler there, but as I later found out, she missed the train. Instead I shared a room with a nice Mongolian girl who studies Chinese in Beijing. She was really friendly and helpful.
It took about five hours to fully cross the border between China and Mongolia, between immigration and customs on both sides, and the changing of the wheels on all of the cars (Chinese train tracks/wheels are more narrow than they are in Mongolia and Russia). The only real hassle about this was that bathrooms are locked just before, just after, and during stops.
Because I slept late, I missed most of the Gobi desert this morning. Instead, I got to see the countryside, which is very nice.
After arriving at 2:00, I've been wandering around Ulaanbaatar and doing a bit of shopping. Tomorrow I plan to go to Terelj National Park for the night, then back to the city for a quick shower before I have to get on the train again.