A busy two days (almost) in UB

Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog

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Fossil dinosaur (Tarbosaurus) skeleton in the Natural History Museum in Ulaanbaatar

5/30 (Cont)

Around 10 AM we left Terelj behind us for the drive back to UB.  Back to the San Hotel for another day/night/day in UB.

First stop of the day was the Mongolian Museum of Natural History.  This museum was worth a short visit with many exhibits on flora, fauna, geology, and all other kinds of -ologies with special mention of relations to Mongolia.  Special mention goes to the fossil dinosaur skeletons from the Gobi Desert and other areas of Mongolia (more info in the review).

Second stop was to an education center in the Ger District.  For an hour in the late afternoon we would have the opportunity to work on conversational English skills with a group of locals taking a class in the Center.

Practicing conversational English skills with two local Mongolians
  As the Trans-Mongolian trips come through every week on Saturday, this group gets to practice skills with a new set of English speakers on a weekly basis while taking classes during the week.  It was a fun an interesting time.  I had the opportunity to work with a woman around my age and a younger girl (not related).  I was given a worksheet with some of the areas to focus conversation around (areas that they had been working on).  Sometimes it was a struggle, but they both did excellent in my opinion.

Third stop of the afternoon found us still in the Ger District helping out a family from the education center.  For about 2 hours we assisted in post-hole digging for the construction of a fence and also in digging out a latrine pit.

Attracting a crowd in the Ger District
  It was slow work and hard to feel like we accomplished anything in our short time, but maybe it saved the family a little bit of the effort that they would need to expend.

One interesting thing about the ger district and the land program enacted by the Mongolian government in Ulaanbaatar that I mentioned earlier is the construction of fences.  Roaming the steppe in the traditional nomad culture, fences are pretty much unheard of.  But as the former nomads come in, settle in the city, and claim the land the government has allotted them fences are a part of daily life.  In fact until they fence in the land, they have not officially made a claim on the property and not until they do so can they go to the goverment offices and finish the paperwork to claim a specific parcel.

Sukhbaatar Square
  Now its not like the wild, wild, west, there wasn't any high stake fight to claim the best parcel of land, but the fences have made the usually very welcoming Mongolian people a tad bit more insular as they are forced to wall themselves inside.

After working up a brief sweat it was back to the hotel to clean up a bit and off to dinner at Modern Nomads.  It was a good thing to be hungry, because this was a place to get a man's meal.  Meat, meat, and more meat were the main stays on offer.  I shared a heaping plate of lamb, mutton, pork, beef ribs, and maybe a few other varieties of meat thrown on for good measure with Jon and Carlie.  It was more than enough food for three.

Finally it was time to hit the streets to find another drinking establishment.

Entry Courtyard - Gandan Monastery
  We stumbled upon the Chinggis Beer Club where we sampled a few more pints of the local brew before we made our way back to the hotel ending what amounted to a very busy day.

5/31

Last day in UB and in Mongolia.  Train doesn't leave until evening so still had a day to fill in the city.  First task was breakfast (provided by the Hotel) and then back up to the room to repack the bags and lock them in a storage room at the hotel for the day.

Nemo drove us over to the Gandan Monastery where we spent a few hours visiting the temples and other areas of the monastery complex.  My first thought as we entered the complex was how much it reminded me of some of the places I had seen in Nepal (stupas and prayer wheels  and the like).

Statue of the Elephant, monkey, rabbit, and bird working together to share the fruit of the tree (Four Harmonious Brothers)
 What I learned was that Buddhism came to Mongolia via Tibet and so the practice holds closely to that craft and ties between these two regions are still quite close today.   The monastery is a practicing monsatery with several hundred monks in residence as we would find out entering the first temple.

The Gandan Monastery in UB is named after this Temple, Gandentegchinlen Khiid (Island of Perfect Rejoice), and inside we found a large groups of monks praying as we walked along the perimeter of the inside of this temple.  Many relics, sacred Buddhist texts, and Buddha statues lined the walls as we passed through with large groups of Westerners and Mongolians alike.  No pictures were allowed in any of the temples in the complex so I couldn't get any details of the inner workings at the monastery.

Magjid Janraisig Süm (Temple) at Gandan Monastery
  Many of the

The Gandentegchinlen Temple on the complex was one of the few temples in Mongolia that survived the purge of all things Buddhism under the Communist government of the 1930's (which was under the sway of Soviet Russia).  In fact in the next temple we walked through a large copper statue of the Bogd Khan (the religious and later political leader of Mongolia in the early 20th century) was destroyed in the 1930's by this regime.  After the sway of the Communist era ended in 1990, the statue of the Migjiid Janraisig was constructed to replace the older statue.

There are several other temples and buildings on the monastery site and the area is considered the center of Mongolian Buddhism.

From the Monastery we stopped for a quick lunch in a small restaurant that Nemo recommended.

Bogd Khan Palace Museum
  From there it was back in his bus to the southern edge of the city and the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan.  The Bogd Khan was the spiritual leaded (lama) of Buddhism in Mongolia in the early 20th century.  In 1911 when the last Imperial Chinese dynasty (Qing) was overthrown, Mongolia declared its independence and made the Bogd Khan the defacto political leader of the country as well.  The Winter Palace contains many of the artifacts from this era of Mongolia's history such as his Throne and other personal artifacts.  A number of small temples are also present on the site.

While showing a bit of wear and tear (especially some of the smaller temples), the site is quite interesting and learning a bit about the history of Mongolia was fun, especially how it struggled (and continues to have to find balance) between the influence of its two large neighbors, Russia and China.

City views of UB from Zaisan Hill

From the museum, the next stop was close by at the Zaisan memorial, which sits on a hill to the south of UB.  The memorial includes a tribute to Russian soldiers killed in World War II (weird to see this in Mongolia), but more enticing was the panoramic view of the entire city of Ulaanbaatar stretched out along the banks of the Tuul River.  The Tuul River ultimately flows in the Selenge River which we would get to see tomorrow as we followed it towards Lake Baikal.

Back into the city we broke up into some smaller groups to do some shopping for souvenirs and snacks for the train, a quick stop at the Internet Cafe to find out what was going on back home, and ultimately find a spot for dinner.  Back at the hotel we regrouped around 7:00 PM to gather our belongings and make our way back to the train station for the next leg of our journey.

Ulaanbaatar Rail Station
  We made a stop back at the money changer to exchange any left over Tugriks into Russian Rubles and then it was on to the station.  We made our final goodbyes to Nemo as we boarded the train and soon it was off to the Russian frontier.

There was some card playing in the early going of the evening on the train.  But it had been a busy three days in UB and even though we had the next 40 hours or so on the train, the pace slowed down quickly this evening as we set up the beds to find some sleep.

And for those of you wondering after the snow we had a few days ago on our arrival in UB the temperature today was in the low 80s Fahrenheit (upper 20's Celsius).  Bring all your cold and warm weather gear in the summer to Mongolia, you never know what you're going to get weather-wise.

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Fossil dinosaur (Tarbosaurus) skel…
Fossil dinosaur (Tarbosaurus) ske…
Practicing conversational English …
Practicing conversational English…
Attracting a crowd in the Ger Dist…
Attracting a crowd in the Ger Dis…
Sukhbaatar Square
Sukhbaatar Square
Entry Courtyard - Gandan Monastery
Entry Courtyard - Gandan Monastery
Statue of the Elephant, monkey, ra…
Statue of the Elephant, monkey, r…
Magjid Janraisig Süm (Temple) at …
Magjid Janraisig Süm (Temple) at…
Bogd Khan Palace Museum
Bogd Khan Palace Museum
City views of UB from Zaisan Hill
City views of UB from Zaisan Hill
Ulaanbaatar Rail Station
Ulaanbaatar Rail Station
Horse soldiers flank Chinggis Khan
Horse soldiers flank Chinggis Khan
Statue of Chinggis Khan or as hes…
Statue of Chinggis Khan or as he'…
Chinggis Khan or as hes better kn…
Chinggis Khan or as he's better k…
Sukhbaatar Statue on Sukhbaatar Sq…
Sukhbaatar Statue on Sukhbaatar S…
Ger District
Ger District
Ulaanbattar from the Ger District
Ulaanbattar from the Ger District
Some kids in the Ger District
Some kids in the Ger District
Ger District
Ger District
A family enters a small building h…
A family enters a small building …
Gandantegchenling Temple -was able…
Gandantegchenling Temple -was abl…
Details on the roof of a temple
Details on the roof of a temple
A young Mongolian Girl watches the…
A young Mongolian Girl watches th…
Courtyard filled with families and…
Courtyard filled with families an…
Stupa at Gandan Monastery
Stupa at Gandan Monastery
Prayer Wheels and Stupas return fo…
Prayer Wheels and Stupas return f…
Some of the temples/buildings bein…
Some of the temples/buildings bei…
Palace of the Bogd Khan in Ulaanba…
Palace of the Bogd Khan in Ulaanb…
City views of UB from Zaisan Hill
City views of UB from Zaisan Hill
Chinggis Khan sits on the hillside…
Chinggis Khan sits on the hillsid…
Chinggis Khan sits on the hillside…
Chinggis Khan sits on the hillsid…
Comrade Lenin makes his first appe…
Comrade Lenin makes his first app…
Burned out shell of the Communist …
Burned out shell of the Communist…
A small street fair in central UB.
A small street fair in central UB.
A small street fair in central UB.
A small street fair in central UB.
Watch Your Step - open sewers  wer…
Watch Your Step - open sewers we…
Ulaanbaatar Rail Station as we pre…
Ulaanbaatar Rail Station as we pr…
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You want Mongolian, you want meat... then Modern Nomads is the place to go. Large plates of meaty dishes are the main fare here, with many of the mea… read entire review
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Comfortable quarters in UB
Spent two of my three nights in Mongolia at this hotel (with one night out in the ger camps in Terelj). The San Hotel had comfortable rooms, with p… read entire review
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Ulaanbaatar
photo by: Biedjee