Day 06: Ulan Bator

16/07/2009 //

Ulan Bator

After breakfast, the jeep from the tour guide company didn’t show up. We finally found them, around the corner. A stressed-looking lady told us they’d looked all over for us but the hotel had said we didn’t live there. Of course. They didn’t correct their files, so according to their files, we still didn’t live there.

Anyway, the guide didn’t speak a word of English, but seemed jolly enough, at least as jolly as a seriously built guy driving roughly at the sound of speed can seem. The lack of English was not much of a problem, as he was more interested in singing along to to radio than anything else.

The landscape is, only half an hour outside the city, just as you imagine it to be. As the thrust of the city gve way to hillsides punctuated by white gers, surrounded by grazing goats and the odd yak, and markers covered in blue ribbons (never found out if these were traditional or a new thing) stood at attention beside the road, you felt like you stepped out of time. I know it’s a stupid, romanticised view of things, but still. I don’t think I’ve ever really been as far away from anything before, except maybe Borneo when I was a child.

After passing through a newish-looking town, still largely under construction, we arrived at the national park. There was an old museum there, and the guide pointed to it and led us inside. It was full of what I believe was the local fauna, taxiidermied and everything. There was alo some local artwork. Nothing was in English, nor did the guide book say anything, so we were a bit lost.

Then we headed up the old monastery and ruins.

On the way back, we passed some tourists with large backpacks wandering by the side of the road. Our guide pointed at them and laughed. It undeniably looked strange, these people wandering next to the highway, but whatever floats your boat, I suppose. I was secretly impressed.

Back in UB, we had lunch at the Khaan! Irish bar, which is the greatest name for a pub ever, at least if you’re a Star Trek fan, and then we went on to the Supermarket. It was the biggest shopping center in UB, where locals and tourist alike shop. It was very East Blok, but the tourists milled happily around the fifth floor, where souvenirs and antiques could be purchased. I bought some postcards and a t-shirt.

Then to Museum. Lots of info on Mongolia. Good museum, but dodgy English and such. After that, we relaxed in the room, then had a Mongolian dinner at the hotel. It was a meat dish; it was OK, but I left about half. We went out to the Irish again, where we had a few beers and listened to Rod Stewart ballads before a local band came on stage. They rocked, sorta, for about four songs before leaving. I’m not sure if they were there to play or thin out the crowd of people seated outside, but still. There were quite a few pretty girls to look at, and Tiger beer still tastes good, so I wasn’t about to complain.

Final beer at the Casablanca, then watch MTV’s “Made” in bed before going to sleep.