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The City of Banks and Car Alarms

MONGOLIA | Thursday, 22 March 2007 | Views [1154] | Comments [2]

Statue of Sukhbaatar in a square named after him in front of Parliament House. This was taken on my last day in town, in the snow!

Statue of Sukhbaatar in a square named after him in front of Parliament House. This was taken on my last day in town, in the snow!

Last day in Ulaan Baatar and we wake up to snow. I looked out the window this morning about 2 or 3 and thought it was bugs flying around a light. Stop laughing! I AM from Queensland, remember. Well it wasn't falling straight down it was just blowing all over the place. The city looks a lot cleaner under a thin blanket of snow though. I went out in it, got a photo of the Sukhbaatar statue and went straight back to the hostel via a little supermarket to stock up on food for tonights trip to Irkutsk.

If there is a couple of things I'll remember about this place it's the number of banks here and the damn car alarms. There must be a bank for every few hundred people, which will make sense when you change your Chinese Yuan to Mongolian Togrog and need a wheelbarrow to get it all back to the hostel.....well nearly. They'd need a heap of banks to store it all. And the car alarms!!! I don't know if it the cars' sytems thawing out after freezing overnight or the motion sensors are just set to super sensitive but you can walk past a car in the street and next thing you know an alarm is going off again. And nobody takes any notice either.

I've spent the last few days walking around Ulaan Baatar having a look at the National History Museum, the Natural History Museum, the main Monastery, Ghandan Khiid, and another smaller old one right in the centre of the city next to the Silk Road Bar and Grill. It is a museum of the Choijin Lama Temple. Heaps of elaborate carvings, Bhuddas and clothes in buildings made entirely of timber, and freezing too.

The Mongolians are a very proud people and it was interesting to have some young kids (14 - 15 yo) telling me about some of the exhibits in the National History Museum. A lot of the things you can see in the museum itself are still out on the street being worn or carried today. The Natural History Museum was good too. There must be a huge dinosaur graveyard out here because they have fossils from all sorts of pre historic creatures as well as nests fill of fossilised eggs. It makes Hughenden and Larks Quarry look a little pale. I even saw a swamp wallaby and a western red kangaroo in there too. No wonder the guide on our horse riding trip knew what a roo was. 

There is plenty to see and do in town but it still a bit depressing to see man hole covers shifted to the side on the sidewalk and at least a half a dozen people in the relative warmth below. Only a few yards away there will be parked a brand new shiny black Hummer lookalike with a guy in a long black coat standing guard over it.

The language is still a barrier here but, just like China, the people are only too glad to help if they can. I walked down to the train ticketing office and got a ticket through to Irkutsk leaving Friday night and had to go through the whole "find someone who understands enough English to point me towards someone else who can write in the local language what it is I need". Three slips of paper and 32900 togric (AUS$41) later, I have a ticket to ride. I was going to catch the Express train at 1:50 PM but I would get to the border before midnight on the 23 rd and my Russian invitation doesn't start until the 24 th. Apparently I would run the risk of being turned back at the border for the sake of a few hours, so I'm on the slower (and cheaper) train to Siberia this weekend. After 36 hours on the train and I will be in Siberia on the Angara River, which is fed by Lake Baikal. It is still frozen except at the mouth of the river, so there are all sorts of activities going on up there. Will keep you posted. Don't know about too many photos though, my camera is a sook. It only lasts for about 5 minutes in -15 deg. It must get too cold and the batteries wont drive it. I must have bought a dozen packets by now. 

Tags: culture




Great trip commentary. Is the main religion Buddhism? Who is Sukhbaatar? Sorry to hear of your 'sookie' camera. Have you tried keeping it close to your body for warmth when not in use? I wonder if 1 togric could buy anything. Much love, Mum.

  Mum Mar 24, 2007 2:41 AM


Hi Bro - So sorry to have missed your call - what a bummer!!
Sam and I would have loved to have been with you at the Dinosaur Museum. Did you get any photos inside the Museum?
Are you able to catch up with your friend in Russia, or did you lose the number in your phone?
Cheers and Beers!! Cath

  cath Mar 26, 2007 10:40 AM

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