Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ulaanbaatar- Mongolia's Dusty Capital

typical buildings in Ulaanbaatar. Soviet style vomit architecture

There are places where friendly people, cheap prices, and scenic beauty abound, vastly underrated travel destinations well worth dropping off the grid to visit; Mongolia is not such a place.

First off, traveling around the country is excruciatingly difficult, as traversing any distance outside a certain radius around the capital takes a lonnnggggg time, a combination of the lack of paved roads and rugged terrain. Horses here are still symbols of prosperity and good luck, and they'll maintain that status until they become the slower option of exploring the outback.
horses are images of importance all over the country

Mongolians, at least in the capital, are plumper than you'd expect. Maybe they're imitating their pop-stars, as every single one of them I see in music videos are obese. 
Note to pop-stars: This isn't 1850 France. Being fat in today's world no longer indicates you're a person of means.

An interesting fact is that the center of Ulaanbaatar is filled with English signs, a welcome change from Russia, but still, few people speak the language. Case in point the taxi driver who accosts me, demanding my fare upon arrival, and takes me to a bank, where there are 150 people in line ahead of me, literally. "Serving #740," and I draw #892.
I asked him to stop at various banks along the way, but he drove me all the way past the center of town to what has to be the most inefficient money center of the world, then demands well above his quote when he takes me back to where I originally asked to be dropped, all without speaking a word of English.
I don't find the people here to be cheerful as they are in SE Asia. Maybe it's because the region is pretty much a dusty wasteland, a former Communist country with limited opportunity and infrastructure. Despite very low wages, the prices in the capital are fairly expensive. The buildings are without any charm (ie. ugly) and the average winter temperature is minus 20. 
I'll end my rant now and let you check out the photos of Ulaanbaatar below.  
this is still near the very center of the capital.


city center - very modern, and one of the few nice buildings
beautiful monument in the capital square. Hard to go wrong with flowers




the capital building


the Mongolian stock exchange

I did however make it out of the capital the next day: here is the story of that

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