Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, Part 1 of 3 - July 30

So, here we go. This is the first part of my Mongolia trip. Mainly, getting there, the capital city Ulaanbaatar, and preparing for my trip to the south.

My ticket was pretty cheap, but that was only because I had a lay over in China. Not a very nice lay over, but a 16 hour lay over. I arrived in Beijing in the early evening, so, unfortunately, I didn't really have any time to go out into the city and see anything. I mainly hung out in the airport, ate, read my book, charged my electronic gadgets, and waited.

This photo was taken in the Incheon airport in Korea. They had many plants everywhere, mainly orchids.

This was in Beijing already. I had a lot of time to spend there and I was pretty hungry. There was a Chinese, Thai and American restaurant there. I ate at the Chinese and Thai restaurant, and on the way back I ate at the American restaurant.

This was pretty small, more like an appetizer. Do you know what meat it is?? It's donkey. SO WEIRD! But very tasty. Leave it to the Chinese to offer donkey meat on their menu.

Then I went over to the Thai restaurant and had some saute vegetables. Mmmmm!

With a delicious chicken curry, and for desert I had the "Mango, Sticky Rice & Coconut Milk". It was delicious!!

This is the book that I had with me, and planned to read, complete and leave in Mongolia. I never read a book like this. Not adventure, nor Sci-fi. It was just the recollections of an old man, his losses, his memories... It was a very interesting book to read. I'm glad I read it, and I did finish it and I did leave it in Mongolia at the hostel I was at.

After many hours of waiting, I finally arrived in Mongola, Ulaanbaatar (UB). It was a rainy day. The lady who I stayed with for the first night picked me up from the airport, which was really nice of her. We drove towards her house in a minivan/taxi. I took some photos of the streets and people as I was contemplating this feeling of familiarity with everything that I was seeing. It felt like Romania, it looked like Romania. Not the now modern Romania, but the Romania of my childhood. Broken sidewalks, bad streets, small shops, rough looking people, no flashiness, no blatant consumerism...

And the buildings... and the entrance to each building...

First night I stayed with a CouchSurfer ( It was alright. With CS it's always hit and miss. Some people just consider it free accommodation, while others actually spend time with you and show you around their area and life. Well, this was an accommodation type of arrangement. It was great for that, but after one night I went to a hostel because I wasn't meeting any people, and I was too far away from the city center to easily walk there. 

The next morning, on my walk down to where my hostel was. I'm very glad I had my iPod with me and had a picture of the map of the area. Later on in the trip, I started using my Galaxy S2 and it was so much better. It actually has GPS integrated, so if I have any map saved, or a map application, I'm able to keep track of where I am, where I need to go and how to get there. 

This is a Mongolian suburb. It's not very far from the city center actually, but none of these houses actually have running water or pluming. So they all have an outhouse. It can get very stinky.

This was a cinema close to my hostel.Can you see the guys in the front who have little cars and bicycles for rent? I remember that from my childhood.

First proper meal. Soooo good. I think the meat is lamb. 

I stayed at the hostel for a few days to get myself oriented, and decide on a trip and do some shopping. The first night I met some really cool people there. An Irish guy name Seth, a French guy named Rubin, and a Slovakian guy named Vladimir. Super cool dudes. We went out for a day of visiting the city. Here we came to a Beatles monument. Naturally I had to take a picture.

Then we went to that fountain and put our feet in it. It felt incredibly good. The people around there were looking at us strangely. I guess not many people do that. Too bad for them. 

These are the guys. Seth in front, Rubin in the middle, Vladimir in the back. We went to the State Department Store and bought some groceries to make dinner. I don't usually do this. I usually go to the restaurant and eat there, but this was a great way to see what regular things people eat in the city, and to enjoy some fantastic products.

Especially this!!!

This was and still is my favourite ice-cream. It's exactly the same as the one I used to eat when I was little. I had a lot of these here. When I was in the city, I'd eat at least one a day.

This is the State Department Store. It's a big mall. It was quite expensive for Mongolia. 

The next morning, before I had to leave, Vlad and me went to the nearby temple. Mongolia is mainly Buddhist. There are also a lot of Shamans and nature worshiping groups.

There were a lot of pigeons there.

You could buy a bag of grains and feed the pigeons. I think this might be a way of giving money to the temple.

This is the main building. Inside there's a giant Buddha statue.

This is the top...

And this is the bottom. Just to give you an idea of how large it is. You can see the peoples head.

This is it for the first part, the city part. The next day, in the morning, I met up with Angie, one of the people going on the same trip as me, and she was nice enough to let me share her tent with her. We flagged a car down and went to the bus terminal to get on the bus going south to Mandalgovi.

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