Day 05: Ulan Bator

15/07/2009 //

Ulan Bator

Up at 5:30 to get to the airport on time. All goes well, but nearly no sleep.

Arrive in Mongolia. Scary taxi driver stalked us through the airport. Insanely frightening ride to the hotel. We paid double, possibly treble, to get there. Not a huge amount of money for us, but still. The Principle of it and all that. BS detector failing.

At the hotel, they can’t find the reservations. Stig called the agent in Beijing. All was chaos. The receptionist found us after all. We opened two beers when we got into our room. Watched Russian MTV. Douche squared. Think we watched Russian version of “The Hills” — much the same, but with mud wrestling.

Then out. Walked up to Shuqbataar Square, the hub of all things Mongolia. All the other tourists are there. Lots of Commie architecture. How cool is commie design? So cool it’s frozen. In time. Hey-OO!

Walked up to the Natural History Museum. Pretty dull for the most part, but amazing dinosaur collection. Not much signage in English, and what was there was often difficult to understand.

Ulan Bataar not as big as originally thought, so we ended up walking to the Gandan Khiid Temple as well. Traffic is insane, but we got into the groove in the end. Some hawkers, but thankfully, they accept “no” for an answer.

The temple was impressive. At first, we walked the wrong way, so I hope we didn’t fuck up the chi too bad. It was built around a Gilded Buddha some 42 meters tall, surrounded by prayer rolls and small Buddha statues. The rest of the compound wasn’t terribly exciting, but it’s an active place of prayer, and I always feel like a dick intruding on other people’s privacy, so it evens out.

Walk back was OK. Stopped for a beer outside the national Museum. Another place where all the tourists go, apparently. We tried the Gem Draft, the King of Mongolian Beers. Not terribly good, but down it went. (I later noticed that each brand of beer was either “The King of” or “The Premium Mongolian beer”, so advertising is the same here as anywhere else.

Then back to the hotel for dinner. Good freshwater fish.