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Unfathomable Ulaanbaatar

sunny 12 °C

We thought we knew about Russia, (until we got there), but we had no idea what to expect in Mongolia, and we weren’t thrilled when we got a frosty reception from the Gestapo-trained immigration officer when we crossed the border on the Trans-Mongolian. However, our papers were in order and we didn’t pose a threat to national security so she had to let us in – though she didn’t look happy about it.
Mongolia is a faraway place with an exotic sounding name and after a couple of days here we have found it is as confusing as the many different spellings of its capital’s moniker. Is it Ulan Bator? Ulan-bator? Ulaanbaatar? or, as the ex-pats simply call it, UB?
Getting to grips with UB has been as difficult as herding yaks.
At first glance it has civilized vehicles – more SUV’s and stretched Hummers per capita than California…
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… and even some that have defected from California…
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But it has some of the most uncivilized traffic we have ever encountered. In Russia: red lights were obeyed; the only angry outbursts were directed at jaywalkers; motorists stopped to let us across a road with or without a marked crossing. But here in UB drivers have absolutely no consideration for pedestrians. The pavements, (or the chewed-up, potholed dirt tracks that pass for pavements), are clogged with parked vehicles; motorists play chicken with pedestrians especially when the ‘walk’ sign is green; and a red light is like a red rag to a bull even when a cop is standing at an intersection.

Ulaanbaatar’s architecture is as confusing as the traffic. Magnificent glass towers rise above a jumble of crumbling concrete buildings...
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…while large numbers of traditional felt gers are squeezed into dusty corners…
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Finding the best local food is always a game in a new city and UB has proved bewildering in that aspect as well. There is no shortage of restaurants. Here are just a few…
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Spot the problem?
Since the collapse of Communism the world has come to Mongolia in search of its natural resources and they have brought their cookbooks and espresso machines with them. Canada is apparently a big player in the mining industry, though we have yet to meet any Canadians or spot a ‘Tim Hortons’. However, Alice from Rotterdam serves a great cappuccino made with real Dutch coffee at the Amsterdam Café…
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After much searching we found a true Mongolian restaurant hiding in a run-down building almost next door to our hotel and enjoyed marinated lamb’s tongues, shredded beef with scrambled eggs and fungus, and a mountain of baby lamb’s ribs, for about thirty dollars, including beers, steam buns and rice – all delicious...
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So far we’ve had Korean, Indian and Mongolian – all excellent – but each time we’ve eaten alone. Ulaanbaatar’s restaurants and hotels all seem to be virtually empty. Our hotel has only two other guests in its 25 rooms, so if you’re stuck for something to do this weekend why not pop over for a visit? We’ll happily buy dinner.

Posted by Hawkson 06:13 Archived in Mongolia

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Comments

Book that table, I'm on my way! (I wish...)I notice the temperature is much milder.
hugs, Sharron

25.10.2012 by Sharron

Food pictures! Marinated lamb tongues--mmmmm and those black things look like truffles. Awaiting pictures of you two inside a yurt.

25.10.2012 by R and B

Scrambled eggs and fungus? I'll just have to take your word that it is delicious. Quite a contrast between the two lead photos on the last two blogs - the lovely atmospheric skit of the lake and the urban tangle of the street scene. Gabriola quite lovely this morning, wreathed in its own mists with a break in the rain. A lovely autumnal light.

Tom

PS. Maybe all the tourists are in the gerts!

25.10.2012 by Tom

My memory of Mongolia (early 90s) was curiously watching them put leather "jackets" over the propellors after our prop plane landed and was being tied down. The purpose became clear when a sudden but regularly expected dust storm churned up as we attempted to leave the next day. The engines sputtered, visibility was nil, but of course we took off anyway. I remember a little struggling English school that wanted to be a Malaspina outpost--wonder if it's still there. Two decades later...imported coffee! Very cool odyssey you two are on. Pat

26.10.2012 by pat

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