Ulan Bataar Railway Station.
We had a bit of confusion in the morning. There was some
misunderstanding on our part about the arrival time in Ulan Bataar. We
thought it would be around ten in the morning, but it turned out to be at six!
Once the train leaves Russia, it no longer runs on Moscow time. But, we
packed up and disembarked just fine. Fortunately, there was no confusion
on the part of our local guide, and she was at the station with the mini-van
driver to meet us on time. We went to the Hotel Kharaa to freshen up before
the city tour. To our surprise, they shifted us downstairs to a nicer room
after breakfast. The first one was just fine, if a bit small. The second one
had a very nice bathroom. The internet connection was good and we were
able to catch up on our e-mail and send everyone our first progress report
since leaving Moscow.
Coming into Ulan Bataar (called Urga in pre-Communist days) on the
train from the north, one sees row after row of Stalinist style apartment
blocks. Lots of them around the city in general, and they leave no doubt as
to the identity of their urban planning consultant.
Our tour began with the Gandantegchinlen Datsan, a large lamaist
monastery. It is not the biggest one in Mongolia, as there is a much bigger
one in the western part of the country. It is much bigger than the Ivolginsk
Datsan in Ulan Ude. A large part of it was rebuilt after the fall of
communism, including the large standing Buddha inside one of the temples.
Our tour continued on to the Mongolian history museum, which
shows the country’s history in chronological fashion. Needless to say,
Chinggis, Ogadei, and Kubilai Khan get a great deal of coverage. There was
a great diorama of Karakorum, the Mongol capital. The basis for the city
layout as shown, was not clear, but it was believable at first glance and it
certainly conveyed the grandeur and nature of Karakorum. There were
examples of Mongol armor and weapons, as well as a collection of
mannequins dressed in the costumes of the various local ethnic groups of
Mongolia. The years as part of Qing dynasty China are also covered in the
displays, as is the period of domination by Russian Communists. That’s
why the Cyrillic letters are now used to write the Mongolian language.
Our guide, Aggie, is a university languages student. Her English is excellent
and she has been studying for only four years. Her pronunciation is just
In the evening, we went to a folkloric music and dance show.
Mongolian throat singing was a new experience to our ears! We bought the
DVD of the performing troupe. Afterwards, the five of us all went to B.D.’s
Mongolian Barbecue for a great meal. Free refills on fountain sodas!
Haven’t seen that for a couple of months!
Another great day on the grand tour! Tomorrow, we go out to the ger