Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Stuck in Ulaan Bataar

Улаан баатар
Distance traveled: 9128 km

I seem to be stuck in Ulaan Bataar (UB) for the moment, which is somewhat of a pity, since UB isn't exactly the most exciting of cities, rather drab concrete buildings and horrible traffic conditions makes this capital city a place you really only want to spend a day or two. However it does seem very exotic compared to Russia, and I'm staying in an excellent guest house in Ger's (traditional Mongolian tents) on an airy porch, at the top of a building, overlooking downtown UB. They have the cutest old Saint Bernard hanging around the driveway, and the owners daughter, the most adorable little thing ever, is in charge of the roadside store.

I've apparently arrived very early in the season, I've had a bit of a struggle finding a tour out in the countryside, which really is the reason to come to Mongolia in the first place. Prices have gone so much up that hiring a guide on your own in UB, really isn't much of an option anymore (unless you're lucky and find some English speaking person from the country side lingering here) .

So I've had to wait for a group to assemble somewhere at one of the many guesthouses, which finaly seem to be working out, so i should be leaving on Thursday, on a 10 day tour around the central and Gobi areas on Thursday. Which puts me in Mongolia way longer than planned, but from the pictures I've seen, and what I’ve heard from people coming back into UB - it's pretty damn amazing out there.

And except for their capital city, I really like Mongolia so far, while Mongolians didn't exactly have the most lucky draw at the gene pool - with their very round faces and long narrow eyes, the often reminds me of little Buddhas. However, to compensate, their maker instead made them into one of the most likable peoples on earth, they’re very very friendly and agreeable, even in hectic UB. Well - That is - until they get behind the wheel, and suddenly all the little Buddhas, turn into insane devils – hunking their horn every other minute, and make crossing the street seem somehow like a leap of faith. Being nice Mongolians, as they are, they will do their best to steer around you and avoid you any way they can - the drivers will even make skillful maneuvers into lanes with opposing traffic, but forced into a choice between pressing the brakes ever so lightly or running you down, they will not hesitate for a second, before mowing down any pedestrians in their way – It’s complete and absolute insanity! Oh, and in a last cruel sense of bad humor, who ever molded this bunch back in prehistory, made the language sound like a Greenlander who is speaking Chinese with a very thick accent.

Maybe the bad driving has something to do, with how long people have had cars. When communism fell here in 1992, Mongolia was a world away from western consumerism, as opposed to eastern Europe, who had it right at their doorstep – it seem to have cached on much slower here, but these days the winds of capitalism seem to be hitting with full force, and the old State Department Store, is now burgeoning with western goods from Gucci sunglasses to the first 100 different brands of shampoo. (and nothing resembling sunscreen grrr!!!)

Anyway, I’ll give you an update of my impressions of this far flung nation, when i return here in 11 days.

Ulaan Bataar


1 comment:

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