The Bogd Khan and the dinosaur

Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog

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The entrance gate of the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)

The day starts with an ice cold shower, I don’t remember ever showering this fast! We then go to the restaurant, where we see that a zealous waitress has made a small buffet for the two of us. There are boiled eggs, sausages, marmalade, butter, bread and a tiny bowl with the same miniscule tufts of broccoli, but now in an even worse state.

Anar said we would hit the town at nine and at that time we step outside the hotel. Agi is already there, polishing his shabby bus, but there is no Anar. After we’ve said good morning to Agi (which is just about the only word of English he knows)  we watch the street scene for a while. Just as Rens is about to get into a fist fight with a local alcoholic who tries to grab the bottle of water from his hands, Agi hands his cell phone to us.

The entrance gate of the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
It’s Anar, who tells us he’ll be half an hour later. We go back to our room to do some more reading and return at nine thirty, but there’s still no Anar. He eventually arrives at ten, it’s obvious punctuality is not his strongest point.

Now that we are all here, we leave for the winter palace of Bogd Khan. Bogd Khan was Mongolia’s eighth living Buddha and last king, Jebtzun Damba Hutagt VIII, also known as Bogd Khan. He lived in this palace, which was built between 1893 and 1903, for twenty years.

The complex has a spectacular entrance gate, six lovely small temples and a hideous white box of concrete that is the actual palace. We start with the temples, where there are old statues and colourful tapestries on display.

The entrance gate of the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
The temples and the details in the architecture itself are most beautiful though. We take lots of pictures, for which we need a special ticket that costs more than the entrance fee.

The palace itself is quite nice on the inside, it is completely filled up with the gorgeous possessions of Bogd Khan and his wife, like furniture, clothing, beds and an enormous collection of stuffed animals.

Our next stop is the Zaisan memorial. This modern memorial has been built by the Russians on the highest point of the city to remember unknown fallen soldiers and heroes from several wars.

In order to get there we have to climb a 150 steps, then we arrive at a colourful mosaic that has been built in a large circle, which is part of the monument.

The entrance gate of the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
It appears there are mostly Russians depicted in the mosaic, with an apparent  Mongolian woman who makes some sort of a peace gesture to the Russians. I don’t get the point, but I do get the feeling that this monument is more dedicated to the Russians than the Mongolians.

It is nonetheless a place where lots of families like spend their Sunday, we heard from Anar that in the evening a lot of youngsters like to hang out here. Standing at the monument we can see large parts of the city from a birds-eye perspective, and I must say Ulaanbaatar is the weirdest city I’ve ever seen like this. There are typical grey Soviet apartment buildings, worn out houses and gers that are all thrown together randomly. Next to that the entire city is one large building site, where countless modern and luxurious apartment buildings are in several phases of construction.

The entrance gate of the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
The combination of all this is quite bizarre to look at, this is a city that seems to be trying to catch up with modern times way too fast.

Right next to the Zaisan memorial (at the bottom of the hill the memorial is on), there’s the Buddha Park. This is a small, modern park with a playground for children, a restaurant and an enormous Buddha/ Sakyamuni statue of 16 meters tall. The park isn’t that special, were it not that lots of newlyweds have their wedding pictures taken here. There’s not a bride or groom in sight, but there is a huge white stretch Hummer at the entrance and the few visitors from the park are all admiring it, while taking pictures with their mobile phones.

It’s time for lunch and Anar takes us to Zing restaurant, which looks fancy and trendy.

The entrance gate of the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
It’s very near Sukhbaatar Square and the food is pretty good. Again, it starts with a salad without much vegetables and a main course of beef with rice and potatoes. During lunch Anar tells us that he is 24 years old and that he has a Russian father and a Mongolian mother (I knew it!).

Once we have finished our meal we go to the Museum of Natural History. This old fashioned Soviet building harbours a large collection of stuffed animals, stones and meteorites. This at itself isn’t that interesting for us, although we watch it all. The main reason why we are here is the Palaeontology section which has some large dinosaur skeletons. The south of the Gobi desert has been a huge treasury since 1920, more than a hundred dinosaur skeletons have been found here.

The entrance gate of the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
Since we’ve never seen a real dinosaur skeleton (only the odd replica) we take our time in this area of the museum.

The rest of the afternoon we would like to shop, since it is highly unlikely we’ll see any shops during the remainder of our trip and we would like to have a souvenir from our trip. Anar suggests to take us to a large kashmir centre because you can get good quality for low prices there, but we’re not interested in kashmir. I’ve seen the State Department Store being mentioned in the Lonely Planet as the likeliest place to find a suitable souvenir, so at our own request Agi takes us here. They offer to wait for us here to take us back to the hotel when we’re done, but we like to walk around by ourselves for a while.

The entrance gate of the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
We have a card with the name and address of our hotel, so it’s no problem to take a taxi.

The State Department Store is in a very modern part of town and it is set up like any other western department store with jewellery and make-up on the first floor, clothing on the second floor, electronics on the third floor and office supplies on the fourth floor. The fifth floor contains a huge offer in every possible souvenir, from Mongolian boots, hats, musical instruments, souvenir T-shirts, music and decorative gers. We get a typical Mongolian hat and hope it will survive the rest of the trip in good order.

We then go on our way to find some stamps, because I’ve promised some people from Travbuddy to send a postcard. Our best guess is to have a look at the floor with office supplies, but after doing some charades with a sales lady, it appears they do not sell any.

Roofs at the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
A map of the city suggest there is a post office further down the street, so we go and have a look there.

While we walk down the street we are again amazed on the contrasts of this city. There’s a large screen in the middle of the square that plays commercials, everybody has a mobile phone, there are countless expensive cars on the streets and luxury apartments are being built everywhere, but at the same time the roads are hardly suitable to drive on and there are entire blocks of huts that do not even have running water.

The small building that may have anything to do with mail appears to be closed (maybe because it is a Sunday?), so we take a taxi back to the hotel. Maybe we’ll run into some stamps later.

In the evening Anar and Agi take us to The Moonstone.

A temple at the Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
This nice small theatre has a stage on which musicians, dancers and acrobats show the Mongolian culture and their beautiful traditional dress. At times the quality of the sound is awful and it is all very commercial, but we both enjoy the throat singing, the music and costumes. It’s unbelievable that a country trapped between Russia and China managed to develop and keep such a unique culture.

Jamal1280 says:
Lol they were determined to make you guys eat all the broccoli! I love how well researched your blog entries are, you make them very educational as well as entertaining :)
Posted on: Apr 24, 2012
Africancrab says:
Nice blog, I enjoyed reading it and going through the photos.
Posted on: Feb 14, 2012
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Roofs at the Bogd Khan winter pala…
Roofs at the Bogd Khan winter pal…
A temple at the Bogd Khan winter p…
A temple at the Bogd Khan winter …
Inside a temple at the Bogd Khan w…
Inside a temple at the Bogd Khan …
Inside a temple at the Bogd Khan w…
Inside a temple at the Bogd Khan …
Inside a temple at the Bogd Khan w…
Inside a temple at the Bogd Khan …
Inside a temple at the Bogd Khan w…
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A tapestry inside one of the templ…
A tapestry inside one of the temp…
A tapestry inside one of the templ…
A tapestry inside one of the temp…
A statue inside one of the temples…
A statue inside one of the temple…
A statue inside one of the temples…
A statue inside one of the temple…
A statue inside one of the temples…
A statue inside one of the temple…
The Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaan…
The Bogd Khan winter palace (Ulaa…
Inside the Bogd Khan winter palace…
Inside the Bogd Khan winter palac…
Inside the Bogd Khan winter palace…
Inside the Bogd Khan winter palac…
Inside the Bogd Khan winter palace…
Inside the Bogd Khan winter palac…
Inside the Bogd Khan winter palace…
Inside the Bogd Khan winter palac…
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar, …
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar,…
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar, …
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar,…
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar, …
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar,…
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar, …
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar,…
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar, …
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar,…
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View from the Zaisan memorial, wit…
View from the Zaisan memorial, wi…
View from the Zaisan memorial (Ula…
View from the Zaisan memorial (Ul…
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The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar,…
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar, …
The Zaisan memorial (Ulaanbaatar,…
The Buddha Park (Ulaanbaatar, Mong…
The Buddha Park (Ulaanbaatar, Mon…
The brial hummer at the Buddha P…
The 'brial hummer' at the Buddha …
The Museum of Natural History - gi…
The Museum of Natural History - g…
The State Department Store (Ulaanb…
The State Department Store (Ulaan…
The square in front of the State D…
The square in front of the State …
Hilarious: if you like your hair a…
Hilarious: if you like your hair …
Traditional music and singing at T…
Traditional music and singing at …
Traditional music and singing at T…
Traditional music and singing at …
Traditional music and singing at T…
Traditional music and singing at …
Traditional music and singing at T…
Traditional music and singing at …
Traditional music and singing at …
Traditional music and singing at …
Traditional music and singing at …
Ulaanbaatar Sights & Attractions review
Only worth it if you are interested in dinosaurs
The Museum of Natural History is in an old fashioned Soviet building and harbours a large collection of stuffed animals, stones and meteorites that al… read entire review
Ulaanbaatar Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Traditional music and throat singing
The Moonstone is nice small theatre with a stage and benches with tables for the viewers. You can order drinks with the waitresses. There’s a regula… read entire review
Ulaanbaatar Sights & Attractions review
Provides a nice view over the city
This modern memorial has been built by the Russians on the highest point of the city to remember unknown fallen soldiers and heroes from several wars.… read entire review
Ulaanbaatar Sights & Attractions review
The highlight of Ulaanbaatar
Bogd Khan was Mongolia’s eighth living Buddha and last king, Jebtzun Damba Hutagt VIII, also known as Bogd Khan. He lived in this palace, which was … read entire review
Ulaanbaatar
photo by: Biedjee