Friday, February 28, 2014


We made it to Mongolia!

Arriving at Ulaanbaatar, we welcome each other into the land for foreign words.
Read on a blog that we could walk to the city, so clutching the map I got, we crossed the road from the station unto really dusty roads (Okay I was actually quite shock by the state of this place, its like Myanmar- developed yet undeveloped)

And I took out my notebook which I wrote the alphabets of Mongolian since the map I had was in English and the signs were in Mongolian.  And the city map you will see along the way is in Mongolian and had to be translated into English.

oppsite the railway


After walking for about 30 minutes (including going to the bank to change money), here's what greets you at the city center.

And walking further up ahead, we found the state department store.
Which was great so we can stock up our food supplies and indulge in some snacks.
(I feel like eating my fav white chocolate bar now)

And just beside this, in the neighborhood, was our hostel. Its quite cool that they use number codes for the lock and also in the rooms for the lockers. feels really secure.

And there's a map of what you can explore in the city itself.
But really, coming from a city myself, the below were like tourist attractions that I wanted no part of.
Wanted to rent a bicycle to explore the areas, But didn't find any rental shop.
So off we went on foot.

First to the  Sculpture Square.

Where we witness a wedding. That was the best moment ever for this trip. As we got to witness their traditional costumes.


Walking on, we made our way on foot to Naran Tuul (AKA Black Market) here's the translation for you in case like me, you might be the one squatting on the floor trying to change alphabet for alphabet making sure you were going the right way.

Its simple just keep walking straight till you get a major intersection, turn right then keep walking straight. Or you can follow the bus 23, which comes in the direction from the state department store area.

Been to many black markets eg in Philippines, Mexico, Cuba, I had really high hopes to see exotic unique things. But sadly, its all only daily groceries, stationary, tools etc
We stayed there for 10 minutes and decided its time to move on.

Нарантуул зах

Feeling famish, we decide to splurge and go to the Mongolian BD Barbeque - anticipating Mongolian food. So meat is a primary food product in their meals.

Not saying that this was not good - it was delicious - but too tourist and too westernized I feel.

We got the buffet. So how it goes: 1. Grab a bowl 2. Put all the ingredients you want in it 3. Choose your sauce 4. Pass it the chef who will stir fry it together (somewhat like teppanyaki)


We will filled. And headed back before it was too late, for sleep as the next morning, we had planned to make our way to  Gorkhi-Terelj National Park.

So early in the morning, we made our way to the bus stop as we were uncertain what time the bus would come. The hostel owner had mentioned timing had changed and we were afraid we might miss the bus. 

Reaching the bus stop, we saw this. But of course, we didn't know since it was all in foreign words. So I went to the nearby shop to ask. Pointing to the word "Горхи-Тэрэлж" and she pointed me to the notice stick on the pole - so the timings are listed here. (accurate as of November 2013)

Thankfully, we came early, Missing the bus would be disastrous. 
Finally the bus appeared among the numbered buses.
Took some snap shots of the area and the locals while on the bus.

Don't you think alot of them look like koreans?
(Recently I read a book that said alot of north koreans also manage to seek asylum here? )

We passed by many gers along the way and really, in future, I will stop there rather than go all the way to the national park. The areas here look even nicer than the one at pit stop and probably cheaper?

But anyway, we decided to sit all the way to the town rather than stop at the national park because we saw it was touristy and it had horses all around (not something that we really like) - we were looking out for nature. 

So here's where we stopped. The town. We had a hard time finding a place to stay as they were all quoting us exorbitant prices - once they heard us speaking English. Imagine, even these houses below that were in a mess and not very clean. Thankfully, after searching for close to 1 hour, because it was low season, one of the housekeeper, let us rent one of the room without the knowing of his boss at a rate that was reasonable to us.

The funny story was it was very cold. And at night, I was freezing and thought I was going to die in this cold. But I saw my friend sleeping like a log. So I pressed in and took out all the clothes from my bag to cover myself. Morning finally came. And my friend woke and I asked her how she could sleep in such cold weather. Guess what. I chose the wrong bed. Some bed had an electric heating mat below the blankets. Gosh. Silly me. 

Nature was lovely. Air was fresh.

We just spent time walking around and taking pictures.And saw many of the tourists who dropped at the national park. They were on the horse riding ger-to-ger camp tour. Very good for families I would think. And the people there were friendly, because I only had one shoe and didn't want to get it wet as it was cold, a horseman saw me came by hoisted me onto the horse and helped me cross the stream.
A knight without the Armour haha

The next morning, we made our way back to where the bus dropped us to make our way back to town.

Reached back town, we were lost as to what to do with our remaining 3 days. Could not fly out as it was too expensive to do or somehow not worthwhile as we didn't have that many days. Could not sit the bus to travel as it took too long time.

So we made our way to explore the rest of Ulaanbaatar.
We followed the direction for the Bodgkhan Uul Strictly Protected Area taking bus #33 from
Bayangol Hotel. However it seemed the whole place was under construction and there was not resort parking lot and the office that says 24 hour. But walking around, we found the Zaisan Memorial it seems. So we just rested there and explored the area. There - we saw another wedding. And many nice art pieces.

Here was the direction given online:
Take the #7 or #33 bus from the Bayangol Hotel). The Mountain ridge south of UB, Take the #7, #33 or #43 bus from in front of the Bayangol Hotel going south. Go to the end of the line. The road continues south about 100 meters to the West of the bus stop. After about 1 km, you will come to the Bogdkhan Resort, which is a combination night club and ger camp. Enter the resort and hike downhill (not up to the night club) until you reach a parking lot. There is an office with a sign that says "24 Hour Reception". Check in and pay the fee. Cross the footbridge, and follow the path along the small stream flowing North, the path starts on the left (east) side of the stream. At the top, branch to the west and you will come to a high point maybe 500 meters through the woods. This will take about 2 to 3 hours of easy walking. From where you branch west, you can go straight and slightly east and follow the path to Bogd Uul Mountain, The path here is marked with orange paint marks on the trees. This trip is quite long with another down and up section, about 10km each way. USD3.  

Under the crazy heat, we decide to make our way back to town for a rest.
Starting searching the streets for the supposedly famous french bakery, but alas, it was close.
And by chance, we came across as store that sold items that was made by the minorities. It was such a wonderful place. Reminding me of the mass that still needs our help in many different parts of the world. And this work allowed them to make a living. (Just like how Singapore has now opened up mobile book shops to let people with down syndrome to sell books etc) * Touched*

We decided to see if we could do something for the community here in Ulaanbaatar.  We came across Lotus Children’s Centre where one can help in the capacity they can.
Phone: (+976) 9913 2100
Phone (Mongolian): (+976) 9978 9750

We decide to organize a day arts and craft camp. So we went back to the black market and got stationary and gifts for the children and lug it all there.

Okay, but getting there was a problem. They have 2 centers and we had wanted to help out with one that was nearer to the city center so we could stay later but we were misunderstood, and was guided to one that was 2 hours away. We were lost for quite some time as it was up in a village.

But this experience was worth it!

For these children, once they reach a certain age, just like foster homes, they need to find survival. By themselves unless us where we have the support of our parents and some grandparents. Who are we to complain and lament ? And what right do we have to give up on ourselves?

Oh yes before I forget, on our final day at Ulaanbaatar before our flight back to Beijing, I went in search of where the locals eat. I mean how can I come to a country without knowing what the local food is?

So I just pointed to whatever was on their table.

Safe. Hot Dog Roll.

Not safe. Oily but nice. Cow Intestines soup. And fish ball.

Ok. I was still very hungry. And it seems the local food was not my taste.
So off we made our way to the German coffee pastry place that was recommended.

Great place to chill!

Reading the newspaper and manage to catch the pictures of what we had happened a few weeks before we came. It was a huge festival. Thankful it didn't happen while we were there otherwise accommodation etc would have been a problem. But yet sad we missed all these happenings.

Ending off our day at the Art Gallery. Love it! Truly captures the scenes of Mongolia.

The following morning, we got directions to take the public bus to the airport.
However realized the bus was not coming, we tried to get directions.
Thankfully, someone understood English and pointed us to the right bus stop.

Bye Mongolia. Till the next time.

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