Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

IMG_4948Ulaan – batter(ed) indeed. The outskirts of UB as viewed from the Trans Mongolian railway lure you into thinking this is a picturesque cattle town with cute little alpine village lodges and their green and red topped roofs. Unfortunately once you pull into the station, Mongolia’s capital UB looks like it’s had a bit of a ‘baatering.’ It’s definitely shabby chic.

Landlocked between it’s two juggernaut neighbours, it feels more Russian than Chinese, perhaps because of all the cyrillic alphabet language, soviet squalor buildings, and men so butch you daren’t haggle for a taxi for fear of being wrestled to a pulp. Yet, after a few days here, (48 hours is plenty) you come out of that safe South East Asian bubble & remember that a city with a little edge is not to be overly feared. What look like dive bars & hooker bars from the outside are actually 4* restaurants when you brave the entrance.  A prime example is the purple painted ‘Vegan Karaoke’ bar on Undsen Khuuli Street, how can you not venture into anywhere with this sign. The other strange contradiction, in a city where guesthouses warn tourists to not to walk around after dark, is that everyone hitchhikes instead of a taxi system, even women & kids. Through the art of chance, mime & google translate, we managed a return trip to the Gobi Cashmere outlet this way for $5000T ($3 USD) and lived to tell the tale.

A highlight of UB has to be Naran Tuul – The Black Market (Khar Zakh). It’s so huge it makes Bangkok’s Chatuchak look miniature. Past the outer edges of Raybands, hats, and camel’s wool jumpers are aisles of beautiful equine tack & leather boots, as you’d expect for a country obsessed with horses. The wooden saddles, vintage bridles and colourful rugs were out in full flow for July’s National Naadam Festival, which (bad timing from us) held their opening ceremony on the very day that we left.

Where we stayed; Seoul Hotel ($29 USD) & Voyage Hotel (80 USD)
Where we ate; Broadway Bar & Grill, Cafe Amsterdam, Michele’s French Bakery

 

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An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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