Ulaanbaatar has been my ‘home’ for the past 5 days.
I needed a decent break, needed time to collect my thoughts, catching up with blog-responsibilities, re-organise my gear and clothes and have I said needed a break….
In doing all of the above, I get out of the hostel every day and take a look at the city.
Thus far, Ulaanbaatar has not really turned me on. Sorry to say so, but that’s how I feel. Riding in from the east side a looong east-west street – Peace Avenue – carries right through. Somewhere in the middle you hit the centre, marked by the Parliament building and a huge place in front of it, Sukhbaatar Square, named after a hero freeing Mongolia from foreign rulers (Chinese or Russian – not sure).
The city’s shape is elongated, as in the south a river and then a mountain range contain any sprawl. The north is similarly contained, another mountain range. Buildings are ‘Russian’, meaning square and square. Not many highrisers, just a few, opposite to the square on the south-side, dominated by The Blue-Sky Tower, kind of Mongolia’s Shard (London).
I walked into this prestigious building, popping on my most-confident Expat expression and ask the Hotel Receptionist for access to the top floor. More font than Myers, but it worked. Lift went up and one had a splendid view from the men’s loo.
A few more steps and I found myself in an expensive looking restaurant with brilliant 270 degrees views over UB.
Well, so I felt to learn more about UB and standing on the square, I was accosted by an older man, seemingly just for a chat. Further into the conversation he mentioned that he used to own a hostel and run tours. So, I pricked my ears! Could this friendly mature man be my tour guide?? 60 seconds later we had a deal: 60 000 Mongol Tugrits. I roped-in two travel-mates , so 20.000 each + approx. 15 bucks.
Next morning at 9.00 am we again met Bolgon, a 62-year old witty, well-informed, politically decided man, with a little inner-Anarchist and off we strode.
Was great! Learnt a lot, which all of you can read here.
Here are a few pix.
These ones are taken atthe square. It is large and feels Soviet-style. The building is the Parliament of Mongolia being a relatively young democracy. It seems to struggle like many young states who moved from a Russian influenced Communism to a western government. Apparently Mongolia ‘borrowed’ a lot from the West German constitution when establishing their own.
Below we are in the largest Buddhist Monastery in UB: Gandantegchinlen (Gandan) Khiid:
They even have their own university on the premise ….
…and are about to complete a brand-new large temple. Money is not an issue. The amount of money given as gifts by the visiting believers is enormous. Large, transparent plexi-containers are full of it.
Entrance fees, albeit small, are charged at several temples and an extra fee, often more than the actual entrance fee, is charged should you want to take photos. Opulence is large. Welcome to yet another commercialisation of religion. Here, there and everywhere.
However the approach to this place is through some ‘normal’ dwellings
In our wanderings we saw several men and women collecting plastic rubbish and cans. With the help of our guide I struck up a conversation with one. I was ready to give him a banknote, however was also mindful not to pre-judge and not to act disrespectfully. Turns out that he made a reasonable/good living.
He has dirty clothes on cause he works in the dirt. At home his three children are working (two) and the youngest is in form 9. His wife is currently unemployed, however life is good. Seven years ago he came from Mongolia’s south-west, has established himself here and travels back from time-to-time to visit his remaining family. I left the banknote in my pocket.
Later that arvo, we had said our ‘Thank yous’ and ‘Good-byes’ to our guide, we saw an Austrian-Mongolian event on the square. Seemed to be a sister-city partnership between Wien and UB. Lots of Vienna Waltz, Radetzky Marsch etc etc was played, Vienna Waltzs was performed and taught to all spectators. I now can dance the Wiener Waltzer, come and ask me for instructions 😉
I also wandered into a Ger-shaped building. It was a wrestling-Stadium, but locked. My most-charmant approach to the guide made him un-lock and I had a look through. I could even smell the liniment smell
A few miscellaneous shots from UB
Finally, here are a few pix about eating & drinking …..