Day one in Ulaanbaatar

Our honcho Bujuu greeted us at the hostel this morning and briefed us on what we’ll be doing for the next few days in Mongolia. Bujuu works as a guide for Sundowers (who also own Vodkatrain) and runs Discovery Tours. These are different to the Vodkatrain ones as they are tours designed for travellers aged 45 and over (Vodkatrain is for up to age 35). Bujuu is so knowledgeable about Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and the country’s history, he really is fascinating to talk to.

The plan for Mongolia is one night (tonight) here, two nights at the Ger camp in Terelj National Park, where we will meet a Nomadic family, play traditional Mongolian bone knuckle games, keep our own fire going in our ger and go horse riding on the famous Mongolian horses! I hear they are sturdy, short, furry and a bit chubby. I asked Bujuu if they were cuddly but he thought it was weird to cuddle a horse. On our way to the national park we also going to visit the famous statue of Chinggis Khan, its stands forty metres high! I can’t wait for the photographs. We then have one more night in Ulaanbaatar before getting the train to Beijing.

This morning we went to visit the local museum of Georgy Zukhov, a famous Russian general from he Soviet Union. It was interesting to hear about his life and his role in coordinating the Russian and Mongolian armies during the war. It was only a small museum we didn’t stay long and went off to get some lunch. Bujuu took us to an all you can eat Mongolian grill, I must admit, I was sceptical at first but it was really good! You choose all the fresh food you want and a sauce, take it up to the counter and they cook it there in front of you on a huge, hot, flat pan (similar to the one people use to make crepes but about 1.5 metres across). The chef used two big machete type instruments to move the food around and cook it through, in between he would juggle with the cooking utensils and bowls, not too theatrically, just enough for it to look cool.

Full of noodles and stir fried veg, Bujuu led us to see a Buddhist temple where a twenty six metre statue of the Goddess of Compassion is housed, surrounded by smaller hand made buddhas and prayer wheels. This really reminded me of my time in Thailand and Bali – I find Buddhism fascinating, the temples are so beautiful and the statue, covered head to toe in gold, was breathtaking. We weren’t allowed to take photographs inside but the outside buildings were beautiful too.

By this time it was getting to about four o’clock and pretty cold. During the day the temperature has been around -25. It is a strange sensation to have any moisture in your nostrils freeze as soon as you go outside! We were also laughing as my Tom and Aussie Tom’s beards were freezing as we were walking around. 

Today I went out wearing five layers on the top; a t-shirt, thermal top, roll neck jumper, fleece and feather and down jacket, with hat, scarf and gloves, as well as thermal leggings and fleece lined leggings. I’m saving my extra bottom layer for when we go to the Ger camp in Terelj National Park. Another bit of exciting news! Tonight we will be having dinner with the two travellers doing our trip the opposite way around, so far we know they’re two girls from Australia – Aussie Tom will love that ha. We might even go for karaoke tonight as there seems to be quite a few bars which have it on offer. No singing for me though, not unless I have had copious amounts of wine.