A shower, some food and a good night sleep..

Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
Trip End Mar 11, 2011

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Flag of Mongolia  , Ulaanbaatar,
Monday, October 4, 2010

Ulan Batar, Ulanbaataar, Ulaanbataar, i guess no one knows how to write the name of this city. I'll try to stick to the latter one, but I can't seem to find a uniform answer on the correct spelling. It means 'Red Hero' in honor of Mongolia's national hero Damdin Sükhbaatar. With a little over a million people it houses about a third of the three million Mongolians in the country. This urban metropolis will be our destination, and oasis of shower and food for today.

In the morning our fire was dead again, and the ger was bloody cold again. I tried to light the fire, but there is no paper to get it going. The coal did not work at all, they only made the ger very hot last night, but they don't last through the night. We got dressed and visited the hole, before heading out to our last breakfast at the Mongolian steps. The drive to town was about an hour long over the bumpy roads and dirt tracks. On the way we saw our first yak's by the side of the road.

Around nine o'clock we head back to Ulaanbataar where we first have our city tour. It is a chaotic and busy city. There is a brown layer of smog that hangs over the city. Traffic is horrible, and pedestrians are free range targets when crossing the roads. Neke shows us the main square where all important buildings are located, government, stock exchange, banks etc. There is a small copy of the famous Dubai hotel Burj el Arab across the square. But this one is an office building, not a 7 star hotel.

You see the occasional glass tower, but most of the city is old Soviet style buildings, unattractive concrete blocks. The buildings around the square are not though. Here you find sleek symbols of the seat of power. Big statues, pillars and lots of marble.

After visiting the square we go to the Gandan monastery where we see the Buddha statue and the many temples. Here I see a land-rover with autoweek logos and a dutch license plate driving on to the parking lot, the world is so small. The Buddhist temple is very impressive, and it is a real shame that the Russians destroyed so many of these historical sites in their quest to make the world a 'better' place. The monastery has about 150 monks in residence and a 26 meter high statue of the Buddha 'Migjid Janraisig'.

After visiting the temple we headed up to a viewpoint on the south hill. Here we found the Zaisan Memorial, a monument that has been donated by Russia. According to Neke Mongolia had, and still has good relations with Russia, even after the horrors of the soviet era.The monument is a typical Russian propaganda piece, but is now used by teenagers to hang out and make out. Form the viewpoint we saw he city covered under a thick layer of smog, which only would become worse during the harsh winter when even more coal is burned to keep the houses from freezing.

After visiting the viewpoint we stopped at the tourist trap stop of the tour, called a cashmere factory, but actually just a cashmere store with outrageous prices. They asked as much as a months salary for one sweater. Luckily we did not spend that much time there, so we quickly headed to the hotel where we said goodbye to Neke. We will see him again tomorrow when we take the train to Sainshand.

At the hotel we had a nice and much needed shower, we relaxed a bit and we got on-line to check mails and update a bit of the blog. The hotel was simple, and the shower had almost no water pressure, but it all was well appreciated after two days of ger. For dinner we went out to a restaurant that Neke recommended a Mongolian BBQ place. We had a feast on thinly sliced beef, pork, horse and chicken meats topped with real BBQ sauce, lots of garlic, onions and shallots. Then grilled on a giant iron wheel by a BBQ master that was throwing is swords and bowls around.

As we walked back to the hotel we managed to get some magnets for our collection at the state department store. We had to go to the top floor (5th) for souvenirs. On our way we passed all that is available for sale in Ulaanbaatar. Somewhere along the way we saw a store attendant mobbing the store floors. This was a painful process to watch as the floors had where carpeted. On our way out we stopped at the grocery store at the bottom of the building to buy some water. After that we risked our lives crossing the peace boulevard but made it safely back to our comfortable double bed.
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