Back in Ulan Baatar

We had 2 full days in UB to recover from the jeep trip and get ready for our next country. We put the laundry in, got the blog almost up to date, posted the Mongolia guidebook home and found a really nice cafe that did really good food. It seemed to be where the office workers went after work. It meant our evenings were sorted and that we got a couple of nice dinners.

IMG_5219We visited the National Museum one day, which was good but somewhat overpriced, and the Gandan Monastery the next. The monastery was pretty cool. In the big iconic temple they have a massive 26.5m standing Buddha statue, a 2 high row of prayer wheels round the path for circumambulation of the statue, and glass cases of small Buddhas filling the outer walls 8 high. Mainly though we were knackered. The weather was funny, one day it was 29C, the next it was 18C at lunchtime, it did rise to 23C in the afternoon but by 8pm it had dropped to 14C and it would have dropped lower that night.

Flight day and we were up early to find it was foggy and so cold it felt like it could snow, but this didn’t worry us as we were flying at midday and had 7 hours between flights in Beijing. The guesthouse in UB was useless, the only things they did right was pick us up from the airport and have our reservation for each time we stayed, though the first time even that was a faff. We wouldn’t have stayed there the second time, we would have preferred to have stayed at the guesthouse we got the driver through as they were super helpful, but they were also rammed to the rafters and turning heaps of enquiries away.

Our guesthouse even managed to screw the laundry up, 2 full days they had it and the night before our flight and it had only just gone in the machine. We finally got the last of it back at 9pm. Still it was easier to book our transfer to the airport with them and as a parting gift they screwed that up. They insisted we needed to allow 2 hours for the journey early on a Saturday morning. It hadn’t taken an hour to get into town on a Saturday afternoon when we arrived so this made no sense to us. Three times we checked, yes we’d need to leave at 7:30am. It actually took about 20 minutes and we were there 4 hours before our flight.

IMG_5245Chinggis Khan airport is a bit confusing, you go through the international departure gate before checking in and 2 security guards stop people going through until your flight says it is checking in. Check ins all seem to open 2 hours before so we had a boring and quite cold wait. It also meant when check in finally opens the queues quickly formed. To be fair it was all quite quick and efficient and their security checks are very thorough. They hand frisk everyone and it is no cursory check, they have a good feel everywhere…

The rucksacks are down to a comfortable 13/14 kilos. We had a browse at the souvenir shops to kill time, but of course didn’t buy anything. Mongolia has been expensive, hiring a jeep and driver wasn’t cheap to start with but Russian jeeps consume a lot of fuel and we were paying for it. The fuel almost doubled the cost of the trip. Usually we do manage to acquire a practical souvenir – we have a t-shirt each from Borneo and an umbrella and t-shirt from Burma. But from Mongolia all we have are 2 lengths of rope!

Observations:

  • The older teenagers in UB are really trendy and would easily fit in in Sydney. Luckily the 80’s revival hasn’t hit here yet either.
  • Buses in UB are no way near as crowded as buses in other Asian cities.
  • It is still hard to understand why with such a vast landmass and very sparse population people want to get in your space and elbow you in the ribs in the supermarket.

Click on any image to enlarge and scroll through


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