Gobi, Ghenghis, and Gers

Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog

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Waking up to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia
Mongolia - I didn't spend nearly as much time here as I would have liked, but in the short time I was here I fell in love with this country. The scenery is fantastic, the people are incredibly welcoming and friendly despite the sometimes harsh conditions in which they live, and the culture offers incredible treats for those who want to appreciate it.

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.
First sign of Mongolian herders on the steppe.
Yep, this was desert country. Oh and by the way, it was absolutely freezing out as I discovered when I opened a window to snap a few pictures. By the end of the day we would be dodging snow squalls and the temperature would be struggling to stay above freezing.

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.
Approaching UB (Ulaan Baatar)
At least it was something.

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.
Traditional Throat-singer during a show in UlaanBaatar, Mongolia
And along with the high unemployment, is a great deal of petty theft and begging. But overall as I said in the opening the people here are as friendly as any I came into contact with during my travels.

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.
Statue of Sukhbaatar on Sukhbaatar Square
At the hotel we took some time to actually get a shower and clean up before we headed to a traditional Mongolian culture show. This was an interesting (if somewhat watered down look) into some of the traditional music and dance of the Mongolian people. By far the most unique aspect that I had not seen or heard before was the Mongolian throat-singers. This unique style of singing allows the user to produce multiple pitches at the same time. I took a few short sample videos during the performance that you can see in the photos.

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.
Chinggis Beer
But I will bet that the BD's and others in the States don't serve mutton as one of the main meat options. It was an enjoyable meal and it was surprising to see the number of locals in the restaurant as well.

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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Waking up to the Gobi Desert in M…
First sign of Mongolian herders on…
First sign of Mongolian herders o…
Approaching UB (Ulaan Baatar)
Approaching UB (Ulaan Baatar)
Traditional Throat-singer during …
Statue of Sukhbaatar on Sukhbaatar…
Statue of Sukhbaatar on Sukhbaata…
Chinggis Beer
Chinggis Beer
Waking up in the Gobi Desert
Waking up in the Gobi Desert
Traveling through the Gobi
Traveling through the Gobi
Small signs of civilization in the…
Small signs of civilization in th…
Fuel Depot??
Fuel Depot??
More signs of civilization in the …
More signs of civilization in the…
Signs of green mark the beginning …
Signs of green mark the beginning…
Power lines run along the tracks. …
Power lines run along the tracks.…
My train journeys onward...
My train journeys onward...
A home site with some buildings an…
A home site with some buildings a…
Approaching UB (Ulaan Baatar)
Approaching UB (Ulaan Baatar)
Snowing on our arrival in UB
Snowing on our arrival in UB
Another quick snow squall on our …
Traditional Culture show in UB
Traditional Culture show in UB
Culture show in Ulaan Baatar Mong…
Traditional culture show in UB
Traditional culture show in UB
The Grand Khaan Irish Pub
The Grand Khaan Irish Pub
Ulaanbaatar Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
A wee bit of Irish in Mongolia
Made an evening stop at the Grand Khaan Irish Pub while in Ulaanbaatar. The Pub serves a variety of import beers and pub food fare. May be one of … read entire review
Ulaanbaatar
photo by: Biedjee