Day 18: Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog› entry 20 of 34 › view all entries
The original plan today was for Robbel, Maciek and myself to take a day trip to the Terelj National Park, near Ulaanbaatar. However, after a week of bumpy roads, and even more bumps to come in the following week, none of us could really be bothered. Besides, the weather was a bit disappointing, with a thick layer of clouds in the sky, and what good is a national park with cliffs and mountains and lakes and forests if there is no blue sky to go with it?
Instead we went to the Gadantegchinlen Khiid; the largest Buddhist monastery in Mongolia, and by far the most interesting attraction in Ulaanbaatar. It was unknowingly saved from Stalinist purges by US vice-president Henry Wallace who wanted to visit a monastery during his visit to the country in 1937, and demolition of this monastery was abandoned and the remaining buildings served as a 'show monastery' for visiting foreign officials - a nice way of covering up the fact that pretty much all the religious heritage in the country had been destroyed and Buddhist monks had been massacred or deported to Siberia in the in the thirties and forties.
We walked around the temple compound for a few hours, before heading back into town for lunch, which we did at an Ulaanbaatar institute: Khaan Buuz. Mongolian fast food, can you believe it? In a country where the national cuisine is bland at best, the fast food joints turn out to be a very cheap and tasty (if greasy) surprise. Despite our week long diet of mutton, we were still willing to try the mutton dumplings the restaurant has to offer, and this was possibly the tastiest dish we'd eaten in the whole of Mongolia (not counting the Korean food we'd had)
The rest of the afternoon was spent searching for an additional compact flash card for my camera (surprisingly difficult to find) and checking up on e-mails and working on this travel blog.
In the evening we had a little farewell party for Maciek and the Germans. Maciek would travel to Beijing the next day, while the German couple was going on a different trip than Robbel and I.
We'd heard about this steak restaurant and all five of us were quite welcoming the thought of some proper meat. But alas, it turned out they were fresh out of beef, so the only alternative they could offer was that ubiquitous Mongolian staple: Mutton. We thanked - we'd be having plenty of that on our next trip.
In the end we ended up in a Czech restaurant, with reasonable food, and excellent Czech beer.