After arriving in Ulaanbaatar, our first stop was a bank. We needed some local currency, some Tugrik. After accessing the ATM I was confronted with a few possibilities regarding the amount. Not knowing (as in badly prepared) what the Tugrik was worth, I settled for a medium option: 10,000 Tugrik. Right after that I found an open Wifi at the bank. It appears I have withdrawn the equivalent of 4 Euros. Oh kay, lemme try that again. Meanwhile Steffen’s guess was better, he just needed more than one run to get his desired amount.
Our hostel, the LG Guesthouse, wasn’t far away. On the way there we met a fellow traveler who just needed a room for the night. While he had some reservation at another hostel, he wanted to check out ours and decided to stay afterwards. So we probably had booked some decent enough accommodation. A shower later in the dorm bathroom the world looked better and the dirty train was part of history. Shortly after that we even got our own room, which was quite nice, aside from the fact that the main road was right within sight and hearing range. But we were aware of that before and accepted it because it was close to the train station.
Later we headed out for our first walk around the city, which of course included some geocaching. Our first impression of the city was that it is quite dirty. But after walking around a bit more, another thing became obvious. It’s not so much that the city is dirty, it is just one huge construction site. Seriously, they are working everywhere. Some sites are under active construction, some seem prepared but not started, some seem to have stopped before finishing and others seem to be finished but still have building materials lying around. In between are building that are not under construction, but should be. I’m sure half of the population consists of construction workers.
On this first day we were able to visit most of the important tourist sites, including the Chinggis Khan Square with the statues of Chinggis Khan and Sukhbaatar, the construction site of the Mongolian Circus and a few smaller statues or memorials dedicated to a children song, Marco Polo or the Beatles. We didn’t visit any museums, but stopped for dinner in the “Broadway”, where the serve westernized Mongolian food. This isn’t the most touristic city we’ve been in.
Another thing you see at all places are Gers (Mongolian yurts, the word means “home”), even if they are just symbolic like the one made of flowers at the Chinggis Khan Square. So obviously, even though we are in the metropolis of Mongolia, their nomadic roots are still present there today. As we noticed during the next days, this even goes so far, that people have their own parcel of land with a fence and everything somewhere in the city, but live in a Ger there. Regina (see next post) even has been in a Ger like this, that had a full bathroom… but no running water.
[Images will have to follow, because the internet (or at least our connections) in Mongolia and China sucks!]