Winter in October

Trip Start Aug 06, 2009
Trip End Jan 01, 2010

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Flag of Mongolia  , Ulaanbaatar,
Sunday, October 18, 2009

All that I expected of Ulaanbaatar turned out to be utterly different. It's modern and bustling with life, but nice because it's not an enormous capital like Moscow or Beijing as we will soon discover. Though at first we were quite wary; afraid of pickpockets and hassling children carrying babies begging for money outside of the Save the Children offices.

As we were exploring the city upon arrival an artist approached us showing us his beautiful drawings, they were truly wonderful but we couldn't buy them, they'd get crushed in our rucksacks. He then went on to show us his cotton paintings which were even more stunning, we found one we loved and decided to buy it, our first souvenir. Almost immediately we were surrounded by other artists desperate to make a sale, appearing out of thin air, we sadly turned them all down. Peter also noticed a pick pocket lurking behind him and gave him the evils, and one of the artists yelled at him in Mongolian so he left us alone.

Eating out here has been very satisfying compared to Moscow where we paid huge amounts for the smallest portions; here we pay next to nothing and leave with our stomachs filled to the brim. Our guesthouse has been lovely, practically empty so it's been like having a flat to ourselves. They picked us up from the train station too, and saved us from all the other hostel messengers crowding around us hoping that we'd stay with them instead. In our room we have our very own TV which was never much use in Russia (the only English speaking channel was fashion tv), but here to our delight we have two movie channels that play films in English one after the other with not a single advert to be seen!

Another unexpected delight touched Peter right to the core - we went into a stationary shop to buy batteries and found a whole room filled with Miffy stuff! He went around frantically taking every pen, rubber, glue stick, pencil case, and anything else he could lay his hands on. The shop keeper kindly brought us a basket.

On the other hand, we have failed to find any open museums or theatres. We wanted desperately to see the dinosaurs. We did manage to find the black market however, and found some top quality long johns for next to nothing to help fend off the cold out in the countryside.

We left UB on Saturday expecting to be out with the nomads for one week (already narrowed down from two because of the cold), but ended up being there only one night. There wasn't really anything for us to do there for a whole week as it was winter, and it was so cold that we wouldn't have spent the whole time inside anyway. Since the grandfather and grandmother's family had come to help them move their ger for winter they were going back home to UB on the Sunday so we got a lift back with them. Nevertheless it was still a very interesting experience - getting to see how all the parts of a lamb are prepared and cooked (and getting to eat it) as well as watching the dissection of a goat! Then there was the building of a ger (yurt) and later we were bundled into a tiny car with five other people to go and help with the livestock pen and another ger.

That night we handed out our gifts of a Russian doll with vodka inside from St Petersburg; another much bigger bottle of Chinggis Khan vodka, 3 packets of Marlboro Reds (which only cost something like 60p here), a small sewing kit for the grandmother, and a colouring book and colouring pencils for their granddaughter. They were greatly appreciated (we think) and we were soon offered some vodka from a special bowl as they offered some to the gods with their ring finger. Then we tried to play a card game, we hoped that they would know a Russian game we had learnt on Olkhon Island named Fool, but they didn't but we managed to play a couple of games regardless. Soon after it was time to prepare for bed, it had been dark for a while and the battery or the solar power would soon run out that lighted the light bulb. To our surprise we were allowed to sleep on the bed, as most of the family slept on the floor.

Back in UB again, we've arranged our Vietnam visas, and after two days of trying to find the Thailand Embassy we couldn't get visas as we're not residents here. Peter also went to get his hair cut and we picked a really good hair salon that speaks a bit of English and massages your hands. We decided to go back and get my hair dyed. They prepared something especially, but to my horror they brushed my hair and it was a great challenge to the hair dresser. She eventually combed it all through and after waiting for what felt like hours with the hair dye in, it was washed, hair dryed then brushed again! Oh the agony. As my hair now resembled a frizz ball we asked for it to be straightened and to my surprise it worked! They must have been some bloody good hair straighteners.

So today is our last day in Mongolia before we go to China. We have heard from Dmitri that he has just arrived in UB so hopefully we will meet him before we leave. I forgot to mention the website he runs about Lake Baikal as he put our last blog entry on there: We have also heard that Facebook is completely censored as is our blog in China, so we may not be able to write our blog until we get to Hong Kong or Vietnam. We plan to treat ourselves to some skiing near Beijing, then we're not sure whether we'll go along the coast via Shanghai to Hong Kong or via Xian and the Terracotta Army...

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Telephone number: (372) 59991656
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starlagurl on

I didn't know TravelPod was censored in China. I know a few people that use the site all the time over there. Please tell me what your experience has been so far when you get a chance!

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

desperate-dan on

So far so good well done guys
Hi Sorry I haven't left a message before! You guys sound like you are having a ball. I am very envious. Hannah, did the poland trip stand you in good stead for your adventures? The last time i heard of UB was when Ewan and charlie were there on ' The Long Way Round' To know you guys have been there is great. I hope you are keeping a diary or you may forget so many experiences.Take care and meet each day with positive anticipation.

miffyanddougle on

Hey Dan!
Yes, I wouldn't be doing this trip if it wasn't for the Poland expedition! It totally got me addicted to this travelling business.
Mongolia was a very cool place to be, I'd definitely go back, but in the Summer when it's a bit warmer. But now we're in Hong Kong and it's lovely and warm and everyone wears shorts!
Hope you're well and not too cold and fed up with the Borders weather. :P

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