Town and country
Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog› entry 5 of 13 › view all entries
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Entry into Mongolia was a breeze except that it was about 1am. I had been worried about not having a visa ... officiallyvisa free for me but as always, one is at the mercy of the official who can sometimes be ignorant or corrupt.
We spent our first night in Mongolia in a ger (or traditional nomadic tent) at the Terelj National Park 80km outside Ulaan Baatar. In the outdoors, it was hot when the sun was shining but cold otherwise. The nights were freezing but we had the family's daughter creep into our tent every few hours to stoke the fire .
Mongolia is an odd blend of China and Russia. People, traditional buildings (eg. temples) and traditional dress, musical instruments appear Chinese. Most other buildings, being newer look Russian ... you'd be excused for thinking you're in Russia when standing in the main square.
The history is equally odd ... a case of out of the pot into the fire. They escaped Manchu-Chinese rule to become under Russian influence. An influence so strong that they abandoned their traditional writing script for Cyrillic. To compare Mongolia and Tibet .
Mongolia is cheap, like China ... I saw chewing gum being sold by the pellet out of a normal package. Our guide (for a few hours), called Alma, earns USD80 per month and cannot afford to buy her own apartment which may cost USD16,000 for a one-bedroom with kitchen. I thought she was Mongolian as she looked pretty Chinese, but was in fact Kazakh (Cossack), part of a small Muslim minority.
Like many undeveloped or developing countries, Mongolia imports used cars from Japan (and Korea). But they drive on the US/Europe side rather than the UK side. Which means they have RHD and LHD vehicles on the same road. Ignoring the safety aspects, I think this shouldn't be allowed ... they are competing with New Zealand for used cars from Japan, making it more expensive for us!
Ulaan Baatar is home to a few interesting museums including one with rebuilt skeletons of dinosaurs and pre-historic mammals.
Ulaan Baatar is modernising ... the first American eating chain opened the day we arrived ... not Starbucks, Subway or McDonalds ... but a brand called "Mongolian BBQ". Like selling ice to eskimos. It has some catching up to do in many ways though ... the greatest hazard to us is the lost manhole covers on the side walks and in the middle of the roads. I've seen on TV before that streetkids live under the streets ... maybe they're technically sub-streetkids?