Day 21: August 11th
We were finally in Mongolia! As soon as we got off the train, we noticed right away that there were english speaking tour guides, signs etc. Seemed much more tourist friendly in just a few minutes of us being there. We were excited to explore the city today.
Our first stop was the Gandantegchinlen Monastery which is a Tibetan style Monastery in the heart of the city. Large portions of it were destroyed in a fire and during the communist era…but has since been restored and has been functioning since 1991.
We also visited Sukhbatar Square which is the central square in the city. It is named for the revolutionary fighter who helped free Mongolia from China in the early 1900s.
At one end of the square is also a brand new museum that houses the skeleton of the Tyrannosaurs Baatar…a skeleton that was found in Mongolia..stolen by an American poacher and finally returned to Mongolia earlier this year after going through the American justice system. It’s quite a remarkable story really. I had read about it in the news when we were in Singapore but to see the bones here was nice. You can read more about it here:
Mongolia is home to a number of dinosaur fossils and there is obvious pride around this.
Also, arguably the most famous Mongolian, Genghis Khan or Chinggis Khan as he is known here also brings a huge sense of pride. There are huge statues of him all over the city…a whole section of the National Museum dedicated to him. He was the founder of the largest contiguous empire in history… he was the first Mongolian to also unify the numerous tribes here and thus most Mongolians consider him to be the founder of Mongolia.
Ulan Batar is a fun city..contrary to what I read. I had low expectations but may be because today is a Sunday, the city didn’t seem as crowded, The weather was lovely and everywhere you turned, you could see beautiful mountains in the distance.
35% of Mongolia’s population lives in UB and a total of 65% live in urban areas. Mongolia is home to some of the few truly nomadic tribes left in the world today.
Tomorrow Bill and I will be driving around 100km away from the city to spend 3 days with one of these tribes….to see their way of life in the remote Mongolian Steppe. We’re going to be staying a traditional tent called ‘Ger’ (not yurt), go horse riding, hiking and visit a few monasteries as well. We’re really looking forward to that!
So far, we are loving Mongolia…and if all this weren’t enough, we had the most amazing Mongolian barbecue at lunch today! Oh also, this country is one of the largest exporters of cashmere and it is relatively inexpensive here..so of course, I had to get myself something to remember this by!:) a lovely cashmere scarf under 30$. Yay!
Great people, great food, shopping…what more could a girl ask for!:)
PS: Will only post my next update once we’re back from the Gobi in 3 days.