Gobi, Ghenghis, and Gers
Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog› entry 113 of 136 › view all entries
May 28th, 2009 – by: Kramerdude
After the 1:00 AM or so departure from the border, I got a decent nights rest before waking around 8:00 in the morning to find us truly in the middle of the Gobi Desert. A few others were up and moving about but overall it was still pretty sedate in the train car. Outside in the carriageway I got my first good view of the scenery outside the train. Besides the sand, the utility poles, and the road paralleling the tracks there wasn't much out there.
There was still several hours before we reached Ulaan Baatar (henceforth UB). Slowly life came back to the carriage as everyone woke and tried to clean up as best one can in the confines of the train. In between watching the terrain slowly change from the dry desert of the Gobi to the greenery of the Mongolian Steppe, I read a book, worked on writing in this journal, and just dozed - still tired after only about 6 hours of sleep. Made another trip to the dining car for lunch - it was the exact same dish as we had yesterday, so much for variety.
Around 2:30 PM we could start to see the outskirts of UB. UB has grown by colossal leaps and bounds over the last few years and that has not necessarily been a good thing. The rough population of Mongolia is somewhere around 3 million people. It is estimated that over half of that population now resides in UB. Its not necessarily a matter of space, as the city has grown throughout the valley where it is located. In fact every Mongolian is allowed to claim a parcel of land and set up their homestead with the government (as we would see in a few days when we visited the Ger District). But as the mostly nomadic population has come in from the traditional work of herding there are not nearly enough jobs for the all the people in the city at this point.
We pulled into the station a bit after 3:00, met by "Nemo" (if I can find the business card he gave me before leaving I will give his full name at some point) who would be our guide for our time in Mongolia. So it ended up being about 31 hours from the time we departed Beijing yesterday to our arrival in UB. Nemo had a van for us to transfer over to the hotel a few klicks away from the train station. On the way we stopped to get some Mongolian tugriks, the local currency. At about 1400 Tugriks to a dollar, it didn't take much to have a pretty large stash of tugriks on hand.
After the show we went back to the hotel and then out to dinner. And where else should one eat when in Mongolia then at a Mongolian Grill. Yes, there is actually a Mongolian Grill style restaurant in UB although in this case I would hazard that this was probably imported from the West as opposed to originating in Mongolia.
Finally for our last stop of the day we walked back through Sukhbaatar Square for the first time (the main square in UB) and made our way to the Grand Khaan Irish Pub. I've heard that there is an Irish Pub in pretty much every major city in the world, but it may just have taken finding one in UB to make me believe it. I didn't go for an Irish beer though, too expensive when I had the option for the local Chinggis Beer. Chinggis was a pretty popular name throughout UB and Mongolia in general. In the West he's known by a slightly different variation of the name - Genghis Khan
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