On the road...
Trip Start Jun 12, 2010
27Trip End Ongoing
With that decided we thought we'd better get our railway tickets before we head off. The railway station was the sort that I'd seen many times before in Ukraine and China... people everywhere, chaos.
With that out of the way we now have two more nights in Mongolia...
Bayar suggested we have a look at the capital of the aimag closest to Ulan Bator. Plus that's on the way to a temple up on the mountains that he thought would be worth us looking at. I also liked the idea of staying in a small town rather than at some resort in the middle of nowhere so I was all for it.
On the way we passed the usual yurts and horses...
But Zuunmod was much smaller than I'd imagined the capital of an aimag so close to Ulan Bator could be. Clearly under the soviet model no town would be complete without a huge square.
It makes sense when you think of it though. Every now and again you need a big area so the best thing to do is plan for it. It's really the same thing as the medieval market square... except that with capitalism they're surrounded by cafes and bars... And because the market squares grew naturally, the cafes fit right in but I suspect there's something too planned about the soviet style city/town square. They're made for military parades and the balconies from where the generals would wave don't lend themselves easily for conversion into pubs.
Connected to the square was also a park with some cute items of sculpture here and there.
Even monuments to war heroes are cute compared to Ulan Bator.
A list of locals killed during the war perhaps? Of interest is the fact that on the right the inscription is written in the traditional Mongolian script no longer used in Outer Mongolia... though they do still learn it at school... presumably so they can still read the inscriptions on monuments...
No matter where you are some tourists will always ruin your picture... oh, Nora and Sally... sorry.
We parked outside the city museum and went for a meal. Again, a recommendation from Lonely Planet. Yeah, it was pretty impressive that Lonely Planet would be recommending a restaurant in such a small place. The restaurant had quite an extensive menu too... but what they didn't have was alcohol! Well, they sort of didn't have it. It turns out that once a month Mongolia has a day of no alcohol. We'd heard about that already so we were prepared for it the next day in Ulan Bator but it turns out that in this particular aimag the no alcohol day falls on the last day of the month...
Well, we survived as Bayar talked them into selling us some vodka in tea-cups again. This time though they were a bit more paranoid about it as apparently the police do watch out for this sort of thing... and they were even worried that other diners might dob them in.
I was pretty keen to stay in Zuunmod so we went to check out the hotel. From the outside and in the lobby the hotel looked great but the rooms had definitely seen better days... Sally and Nora could not be swayed.
Next the museum tour. I was happy to just quickly walk through but we ended up with a tour in English (and Russian for some reason) by the museum director. Most of the exhibits were about local minerals, famous local people,
dinosaur eggs (of course),
wars (of course)... but they also bizarrely had a display of calculators through the years. Just about all made in socialist countries. That must have been a relic of the soviet years.
Coming out of the museum Sally spotted a couple of horses hitched up outside the local shop. Might have been a taxi service actually...
Then on we drove.
The scenery was spectacular and I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Asia. It just wasn't what I was expecting.
Though this helped remind me.
The area near the temple seems to be a really popular place with visitors.
There were heaps of people in groups sitting in circles and singing and... drinking. The really seem to know how to enjoy themselves.
Up at the temple it was locked but luckily we had Bayar to yell out to a nearby yurt for the caretaker.
Well, I suppose she could still be called a caretaker but she turned out to be a teenage girl. She let us sit on the thrones or whatever they were...
Is Sally so especially regal that she gets to be in all the photos?
Good view from the balcony of course.
Apparently there used to be a huge number of lamaseries in Mongolia but with the advent of communism just about all were destroyed. The buildings remaining were mostly saved only because they were used for other purposes - barns, storage for weapons etc.
Well, perhaps buddhism in Mongolia was a bit over the top...
Coming back down some local decided this would be a good time for a photo opportunity.
According to lonely planet there were some yurts that could be rented as accommodation near the temple.
We managed to find someone to ask about the yurts... but true to form, Nora and Sally decided that nothing short of Genghis Khan's personal yurt would be good enough for them. Looks like it would be another night in Ulan Bator for us.
The rolling hills just seem to go on for ever. Their empire may not be as big as it used to be but they do seem to have kept the best scenery for themselves.
On the way back we stopped for a bit of a picnik. Well, we had no food but we did have a bottle of vodka in my backpack.
No glasses either but Bayar fashioned a nice longish stemmed glass by cutting the top section off the top of a plastic water bottle. It wasn't really our idea to stop off for a vodka... we weren't that desperate... we just wanted to walk onto grass to take a few photos but Bayar drove right off the road
and produced an animal skin out of his boot for us to sit on...
Near the international airport - Genhis Khan International Airport of course, we came across this fancy building. Mongolia won gold in judo at a recent olympics so they've built this fancy judo stadium.
Back in Ulan Batar the traffic was horrendous. The Mongolians must be the world's most impatient drivers.
While we were stuck, hardly moving, cars were constantly going past us on the right (even though we were in the right most lane already) just so that they could push in a few cars ahead. Insanity.
We decided that it would be too embarrassing and perhaps too far to go to return to the Miami so was asked Bayar to take us to someone convenient on the way to his place.
The hotel we ended up staying in was quite good and must have been superb in it's day. Every room seemed to be a suite...