Monday, October 6, 2008

Day I, Ulaanbaator or better known as UB

As Mark mentioned yesterday, we will update you on our vacation to Mongolia.

We left last Friday, Sept. 26th for Beijing as our flight to Mongolia was first thing Saturday and the only way to make that flight was to overnight in Beijing.

The following day we departed at 7:45am for Ulaanbaatar and takes approximately 1 1/2 hours. The new Beijing airport is very open and quite spacious with lots and lots of windows. We saw a beautiful sunrise walking to our gate. The only downfall we found first thing in the morning was that most of the restaurants including coffee shops appear to be outside of security.Upon arrival, I had to get a visa which costs 53USD, and then Mark and I were off to Ulaanbaatar.
Our first impression reminded us of a large Indian reservation, mixed in with some old Russian architecture, sprinkled in with some new construction.

The roads required some much needed attention, as most had major cracks and potholes. The cars are in relatively good condition and pretty much the cars have right of way here. The infrastructure of the the roads were designed back in the 70's and haven't been updated since.
The population of Mongolia is about 3 million, with 1 million living in UB. Unemployment rate is about 40% . You do get a sense of the poverty in Ulaanbaator, but you can tell that money is starting to pour in, mostly from Korea we were told.
We had lunch at a traditional Mongolian restaurant which consisted of milk soup, dumplings filled with pork, and pickled vegetables. The Mongolian beer is quite good, similar to a German pilsner but not as bitter. The restaurant appears to be one of the favorite places to take tourists.

After lunch we went to the Natural Museum of Mongolian History which was quite massive. It took approximately 2 hours and then we strolled over to the Sukhbaatar Square which was built in 1921. This square was built when Mongolia became independent. It has quite a statue of Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan), who happens to be the man in Mongolia. People use this square to hang out, as the parks seem to be neglected with overgrown grass.
Afterward we climbed up to Zaisan Memorial Hill to get a view of UB and to see the memorial that the Russians built to commemorate the soldiers of the past wars.Mark and I said goodbye to our guide and we continued wandering through UB until we found a cool looking wine bar.
We met some Chinese visiting UB and got to practice my Chinese on them. Haven't lost my touch! That being said, it was a short conversation.

After dinner, Mark and I relaxed at the hotel before our whirlwind tour of Central Mongolia was to begin.

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