Published on September 5th, 20128
It’s a Mongolian Big Mac Kinda Day
It’s tough to know where to even begin here, and it’ll surely take me WEEKS to share the many adventures I’ve had here in Mongolia (not to mention my dash into Thailand.) But for now, I just know that A. I’m (happily) holed up here in Ulaanbaatar, and B. After three solid weeks of grizzled mutton and milk tea, it was clearly a Big Mac kinda day.
I’d originally toyed with the idea of maybe heading north to see the reindeer country with the 10 remaining days I’d tacked on to my Mongolian stay, but… Whilst in Olgii, I met a lass who’d just come from there, and she said it wasn’t worth the trouble. Apparently a minimum of 12 days rt. via jeep and horseback (yeah, like I’m about to hop on another stallion anytime soon.) Plus sadly, she said that the reindeer were roped together on leashes “as pets, not wild reindeer.” ;( Thus… instead (after weeks of no running water, sleeping on frigid ground in all manner of gers – toes perpetually covered with my single pair of filthy woolen socks, and drinking a veritable BATHTUBFUL of salted “milk tea”), I was errr… ready for a bit of cozy warmth and relaxation amid the creature comforts of Mongolia’s capital city.
Still, at first (after the ooohhhhing and ahhhhhhing under the blessed spray of a hot shower, and the ecstasy of poking my toes into deliciously C.L.E.A.N. socks wore off) I thought maybe 10 days of chillin’ in Ulaanbaatar might prove boring. But after over a week here now, I can testify – not so. Indeed, I’m thrilled to have nothing pressing to do.
No dung to collect for fuel, no yaks to milk. Just sleep-in each morning tucked under a soft comfortor on a real live B.E.D. with a F.L.U.S.H. porcelain toilet en suite (as opposed to my choice of rocky outposts a quarter kilometer’s tiptoe through the dung to take a leak). Seriously, when I first checked into my hotel, I couldn’t help but simply stand in the bathroom repeatedly flush, flush, flushing the miracle handle!
I’ve traipsed to and fro this city now, and each day reveals something new and novel. Indeed, I’m beginning to feel a bit like an expat here – with my favorite “Cafe Amsterdam” nook for afternoon tea, and all manner of exotic restaurants to choose from for dinner.
I’ve grabbed a couple of geocaches of course (sans GPSr as I accidentally left it behind in the Eagle Hunter’s ger and have little hope of ever seeing it again, but oh well. I’m sure the Eagle Hunter – if he can figure out how to use it – will find it very handy for tracking eagle nests and/or winter fox hunting grounds.)
And last Sunday held one of the best treats – the Tumen Ekh Cultural Show at the National Recreation Center. Oh my, the costumes, the music, the throat singing, and OMG the CONTORTIONIST – all utterly amazing. Indeed, spectacular enough to rival any NYC Broadway production.
And yesterday I spent the entire (sunshiny) morning at Ganden Monestary witnessing fascinating Bhuddist ceremonies and chantings by the monks. The full Tibetan name “Gandantegchinlen” translates to “The Great Place of Complete Joy” and I must say, the monastery surely does have an air of joyfulness about it.
Speaking of “joyful”, did I mention how much I LOVE my little “Hotel Angel” here in Ulaanbaatar? I stumbled upon it only after 3 dreadful days of bouncing from ughy hostel (the “Lotus” where I stayed upon arrival before the Gobi trip, kindly lost my reservation for the night I returned from Olgii, and every blessed other hostel was full) to tattered, wildly over-priced hotel.
But my (oh so aptly named) “Angel”, just 35,000 tugrik (~$25) for a lovely (by Cold War Russian standards), with a most cheerful staff, gushing hot water, and reliably swift wifi.
Better still, the location. Just a block off bustling Peace Avenue (and a 15 min. walk to Sükhbaata Square/most any of the tourist sights/restaurants), the neighborhood is like a little microcosm of local everyday Mongolian life. There’s an elementary school just down the street, several bitty markets, a Russian restaurant (where last night I slurped authentic borch whilst enjoying the sappy Soviet tunes of an accordianist/singer), and a great little vegetarian restaurant that serves the FRESHEST veggie pasta on the globe!
So I’m once again reunited with my netbook and able to catch up on my digitals – no less than 500+ blog posts to read in my beloved Google Reader(!) plus stray emails, snail mail (via my equally beloved online Virtual Post Mail service), banking, and of course kicking at least a small dent in sharing my many Mongolian experiences here at TravelnLass.
Still a few days to explore this most interesting city (the “coldest capital in the World”). Then back to Ho Chi Minh just long enough to… begin the next chapter in my nomadic wanderings ’round Asia.
So stay tuned for more details (and a smattering of my 1,200+ new pics) of my Mongolian adventures. And meanwhile…