Idre's guesthouse door
I arrived around 11 pm to my hostel. As the taxi drive around the capital, it was dark and bumpy. There are few lights here and there for hotels and restaurants. But the city was too dark. I thought my hotel is really far away from the center. As I got out, the taxi's assistant told me that Idre's is a good place to stay. Hailen, the Japanese American lady on the plane with me, insisted that she would pay for the taxi. I thanked her for her kindness and we parted our way.
I rung Idre's. From the door, I could see some people were still up and on the internet. At least, I have a way to contact home for free! Oochla and her friend, both worked at the Idre's welcomed me. They took my bag and told me to take off my shoes and wear the house shoes.
Window over look the street of UB at Idre's
Idre come out. He was short, kinda stubby, but have a gentle smile. I explained to him that I have rsvp via bookinghostel website and how do I pay him. He told me okay. Just go to bed, and take care of the money later. He also told me that he could help me organize a trip out to the Gobi desert for 10 days, which was not my original plan. So, he told me tomorrow, 3 people would come to plan the trip to Gobi if I want to join that trip. I wanted to go with OTAM but after speaking to Idre's my gut was with him. I told him yes. Oochla was really kind. She ran to find me some clean sheet and made my bed for me! I have to say, that little kindness made my day in transit a lot better. I have never encountered any hostel to told me to go to sleep, and made my bed for me! (In Montreal, I arrived at Sous Bois at 2 am, I have to pay right there and then, find my own way in the dark to my bed.
a wildflower on the road
) I have a good feeling about this place. I was dead tire but I didn't feel like sleeping. So, I hang around the hostel. The hostel is very small. The kitchen was clean and tidy. The dinning area, next to the entertainment area was small and intimate. Oochla and her friend were practing their English with me, which I didn't mind. They were curious to know where Vietnam was.
Around 1 am or so, Oochla felt asleep. So, I went to my bed and sleep for the night. I woke up around 8 or so. Idre was no where in sight. I asked Oochla what should I do. She told me not to worry about it. I thought it was quite strange. Idre finally showed up. He told me that not to worry about paying until I checked out. I went out to buy some breakfast.
one of the large monastery in Mongolia.
I saw a stall on the street, selling instant noodle kimchi flavor. Thinking about the upcoming days, I bought 2 bags. I went back to the hostel and have my instant noodle. A group of 3 travellers from another hostel come by and try to set up a tour to the Gobi. I met them. They are all friends and from Finland. I decided to go with join them for the Gobi trip since they want more people. After setting up the Gobi trip, Idre told me I could stay in the countryside instead of coming back to UB for a trip to the North Mongolia. And I didn't have to pay until I am done with the trip! I still find this trust strange.
So, around 10, I head out to explore the city. I heard there was a morning ritual at the monastery.
In front of Gandantegchenlin monastery
So, I decided to go there first. On the way there, crossing the streets were quite a challenge. Being used to walkway and pedestrian right of way, it was hard to constantly watch where you are crossing, and jumping over puddle of mud. The city was robust. Tons of cars, buses loaded with people were running in all directions. Pedestrians ignored the light and walked between car. To be safe, I joined the crowd in crossing the street. When there isn't a pedestrian near by, I waited until someone crossed first. I got the monastery and no ritual. I entered the temple. They told me I should pay 5 dollars if I want to take picture inside the temple. Okay. It was to support the restoration. I read that Mongolia's buddhism is Tibertian.
another wild thristle on the street
I assumed that at least there were some common ground. I went in an a huge golden standing was in the middle. The praying area was small. There was no incense. People were putting their heads at the Buddha (that is not the same as I had known) feets and said their prayers. After that, they sniffed scented smokes. They then walked around clockwise and turned the golden inscripted cylinders 3 times. Little did I know that counterclockwise is bad luck. I walked the other way. After halfway, I realized that I have walked the wrong direction when all the traffic was going at me. I turned around and walked the right way. I also started praying for my mom's health by turning the cylinder. At first, it was fine. After the 60 or so cylinder, my hands were done!!! On the back of the Buddha, there were lots of mini-buddha, I believe it was over 300.
Every mini-buddha has his/her own characters and wardrobed that were annointed by the people of different time, and region.
I exited the main temple and explored the surrounding after turned all the cylinder there. I saw this old Mongolian couple who were resting on the side of the temple. Their posture, silence, and their pensive eyes captured me. I didn't want to interrupt them. But I couldn't resist. The stuppors in the background, the blue ski with dotted white cloud, the old lady back turned the old man way in their traditional del were too hard to resist. It would have been perfect if I have a giant lense and capture their posture from far a way. But I don't have one. I didn't want to be so rude just taking their pictures and then run.
I approached them smiling. The only thing I know how! I said "sain ban no" which was completely wrong and I showed them my camera and a whole bunch of signs about me wanting to take their picture. After a while, I think they understood. The old lady was so sweet. She took off her hat and got her hair straighten out and posed for the camera. The old man was like whatever. After that, I showed them their picture. The lady was so thrilled to see her picture. The old man was seemingly interested. After I said, "bai yer la" which was to say thank you. They corrected me and laughed at my 'thank you'. I don't really know what they said to me. But after some more speaking and signing, I think they asked me where did I come from.
I said I was from Vietnam. I didn't want to complicate the conversation by saying I was from the U.S. They didn't know where Vietnam was so I have to open the world map and show it to them. Then, to say goodbye in Mongolian was another task. They laughed again at my Mongolian. I was pretty sure that I messed it up big time!
After the temple, I wondered around the city. I have no idea this time was the election time. There was a lot of people dressed in different colors and walked on the street rallying something. Then I saw wagons with the officials billboard, announcing something loudly in Mongolian. I figured this is where "jump on the wagon" would really be true! I was sure I wasn't dressing as the local people did.
the cute couple who let me take their picture in my sign language.
I thought I stood out. However, all of these workers for different party keep on coming up to me and asking me to vote. I found it to be of comfort to not stand out. Wondered around the streets and trying to find the post office to send Tracy some post card, I saw one little boy was gathering puddle of water from one of the public fountain across from the state department, where all the Western brand name stores reside. I wondered if Mongolia was as peaceful as the guidebook has said. I was lost for quite a while since there isn't a street name sign anywhere. When I arrived at the post office, Hailen was coincidentally there too. I found out the taxi driver tried to over charged her and they got into a huge arguement. The hotel didn't try to help her but luckily her tour director was there and they helped her resolve the issue.
She told me to be extra careful. After sending some post cards, I went to look for food. I have no idea what Mongolian food is like nor how to order one. So, I went to a restaurant. I don't know what I said, but they didn't want to serve me. So, I left. I went to another restaurant near by. They didn't care so much what I said or what I want. They gave me a menu in Mongolian and expected me to order. I looked at the menu and then some of them looked like a lunch combo format. I pointed to the item on the menu and have no idea what to expect. Everyone in the restaurant seems to eat one thing, which was a steam bun of some kind. I thought I ordered that but turn out I ordered mutton dumpling and hot milk! It was hot outside.
I was hoping for some water but there wasn't any cold water! Everything I ordered was steaming hot but not spicy! It was quite bland but the meat was very organic tasty! I was so tempted to take out my Tapatio bag but I decided not to and ate the whole meal.
As I head back to the hostel, it was starting to rain. So, George and I decided to hang out at the hostel and learned some more Mongolian with Oochla! For some reason, Idre's attracted a lot of bikers and backpackers. I was dying of envy hearing these guys stories about their year of traveling and I was only traveling in the summer.