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  • Day18

    Getting to know UB

    September 12, 2019 in Mongolia ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    We arrived at Ulaanbaatar (aka UB) Station bang on time at 6.50am. Our bright young female guide Davka and our driver, a little old bloke in a flat cap interestingly named Egg (that’s no yolk....sorry I mean joke) were waiting on the platform right by our carriage.

    Egg whisked us back to the hotel by 7:30am (that’s enough of the egg jokes!) and we were checked in to our very nice hotel, showered, breakfasted and out by 9am for a three hour City Tour with Davka and Egg.

    Ulaanbaatar has a population of 1.4 million and to a certain extent feels like any other Capital City. It has some high rise offices and apartments but they don’t totally dominate the vista. One thing we realised quickly was that the traffic is a nightmare. Throughout the day we were either entrenched in or witnessing some horrendous traffic queues and most of the time it was probably quicker to walk.

    However when the traffic does move you are exposed to one of Ulaanbaatar’s greatest dangers...crossing the road! Where there are traffic lights it’s fine but most crossings here are the equivalent of our zebra crossings and in theory the rule is the same as ours - motorists must stop to let you cross. No chance. You literally have to take your life in your hands at an appropriate point and just go for it. Our favoured tactic was to use locals as a human shield so at least we would not die alone.

    After the City Tour, Davka helped us to get Mongolian SIM cards for our mobiles. For 31 pence each we are now covered for calls and internet for the duration of our 9 day stay! Then the luxury of a few hours rest before our first evening out in Mongolia.

    After some research we had a 15 minute wander from the hotel to the ‘Hop and Rocks’ Brewpub for a beer brewed on the premises, then for dinner we had chosen a local speciality, the Mongolian Hotpot which we enjoyed at the well appointed Bull Restaurant located in busy Seoul Street. As we had been warned we had to wait a while for a table and were pleased to see we were the only foreigners in the place. Mongolian Hotpot consists of sitting at a table with an induction hob built into the the glass table top which heats a boiling pot of stock. You are then presented with an array of vegetables and noodles, together with our chosen selection of beef, which you submerse in the broth for varying amounts of time before eating, using a selection of dips from the choice presented. We chose the local draught beer ‘Legend’ to go with it. It was great fun to eat this way and the quality of the ingredients was great - we were delighted with our choice.

    So we went to bed content and with the chance of a good sleep before Thursday’s trip to the Terelj National Park. Davka was again our guide and our driver remained the same although his name seemed to have adjusted overnight from Egg to Eggy!

    Now Davka is a real character. She is 38 and speaks great English, which, after completing University in Mongolia, she travelled to New Zealand to learn. Her time in NZ has certainly enhanced her vocabulary as the occasional use of words such as ‘loo’ and phrases such as ‘pissed off’ shows. She is also very good at letting us know her personal temperature which tends to be ‘very cold’ or more regularly ‘very hot’ to which is normally added ‘Oh I’m sweating so much!’ and on one occasion ‘I’m sweating so much I hope I’m not smelly’ (which she wasn’t by the way). She is a self confessed non-conformist to Mongolian culture. We have spent much of our time here laughing and joking with her and also with Egg/Eggy once Davka had explained to him what we were laughing at.

    The trip to Terelj National Park lasted all day and we travelled 70 km North from UB to get there. This Park is part of the Mongolian Steppe and very different from what we will be seeing in the Gobi. It is a vast expanse of grassland with wide flat areas surrounded by hills. It is teeming with Mongolian livestock, that is primarily Cattle, Yak and Horses, together with dwellings and the occasional ‘resort’ hotel to blot the landscape a little. We spent time just looking at the wonderful scenery through the car window and having the occasional walk to look at a landmark. Lunch was a ‘Tour included’ gargantuan Mongolian feast of various meat related dishes at a 4* Hotel deep within the National Park which was unexpected and extremely filling. An enjoyable journey back was frustrated by hitting UB at rush hour so arrival at our Hotel in the City was around 6pm. We have decided that the traffic in UB is the worst in the world.

    Now tomorrow (Friday) we leave UB for a few days to travel to the Gobi. Yesterday we were informed that our flight there was timed at 6.20am and that we would be picked up from our hotel at 4am. That can safely be described as a very early start!

    We were also advised that the guide and driver who are looking after us in the Gobi have already set off as they are driving there to be ready and waiting for us. It takes them more than a day to drive the 700 km plus to get there. There is certainly a lot of commitment from the travel company to give us a good holiday.

    So after the lunch we had there is no need for any dinner, just a wander out from the hotel for a couple of drinks then bed by 9am for a 3am alarm call. The weather has been mixed today but the forecast looks very good for the Gobi (fingers crossed please). We are hoping that our Mongolian phones will be able to transmit the blog while we are there but nothing is guaranteed and we potentially have ‘radio silence’ for our four days away from UB.
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