Published: July 9th 2008July 9th 2008
UB in the distance
From the train you can see the city and the countryside surrounding all sides.
Its been an amazing few days. After leaving Lake Baikal we had another 2 nights on the train to get to Ulaan Baatar (UB). The border crossing into Mongolia took almost 10 hours, which was frustrating to say the least. We spent the first 4 hours just sat in the baking heat on the Russian side waiting for the officials to arrive, and when they did they were unsmiling, abrupt and very rude. The strange part was, as soon as we crossed into Mongolia people smiled, the officials were polite and asked nicely to look at our luggage and the whole process was much smoother.
At 7.30 am, Sunday morning we drove to our hotel, being so quiet, you would never have known there had been rioting only days before and the country had been in a state of emergency until Saturday evening. However as the day wore on and we ventured out in the afternoon (following a much needed couple of hours sleep when we reached our hotel at 8am) it became apparent the city was still on edge. Our Honcho had assured us that before last week UB had been a very safe city, however at the moment
The remains of the gallery
This building was burned out during the riots last week.
keep an eye on bags, look after each other and don't walk around alone. This was then amplified by the fact that one member of our group, Pete, was - unsuccessfully - mugged, almost directly outside the burned out shell of the art gallery.
The city itself is very run down, it has seemed to me that the further east we have travelled from St Petersburg the poorer the areas have become. What really brought it home for me was seeing the street children, trying to sell small items to anyone near, and if you refuse they growl at you before running off. All the manhole covers are off the sewers so they can go in and out as they need to, as that is where they live. According to our guide these children live in the sewers as their parents can't afford to keep them. It is so sad to see.
After a day in UB we set off to the Ger camp, this is the Mongolia I came to see. It was so stunning I can't describe, and no amount of photos can show the vastness. The traditional Ger tents/Yurts are surprisingly comfortable, with 4 beds
in each of ours and the stove in the centre, it was warm and dry, and with many bodies warmed with much vodka, the party was great!
We all kept having moments of realisation "I'm in Mongolia staying in a Yurt and on horse back, galloping over the Steppe!"
The sun set was beautiful, and from the top of the hill behind our camp was the perfect place to watch, although cloudy last night I set off up the hill to watch, as the clouds were illuminated by the final glow of the sun as it went down behind the mountain, with a storm heading towards us from the other direction - sunset in the west, thunder and lightning in the east and me on my hill watching it all in the distance. The rain hit the camp about 22.30, and sheltered in the tent, drink in hand it was the cosiest I've felt since I've been away. As the rain passed the sky was so clear I have never seen so many stars, and about 6 of our group stood outside for ages just gazing up in the quiet.
On our first ride through the national park
Traditional folk show
We watched a tradition folk show whist in UB.
we visited a traditional Nomad family. It was humbling exerience, these people work all their lives on the land, with their animals, through the baking heat of the summer and the harsh winter. We were asked if we had any questions, which of course we did, but we also asked if they had any questions for us. The interesting thing about this was the discussion about global warming that began, they hd ad a few very dry summers and they are becoming warmer, this means the quality of the grass isn't good and the herds are unable to feed enough and die during the harsh winter. We were asked if the weather was changing where we lived and how it was affecting us.
I was so sad this morning as we left. Although I am excited about the next stage of my trip, I just wnted to stay in the peace and tranquility of the mongolian countryside. But off to Beijing we head, another overnight train awaits and into the city to see the Forbidden Palace.
There are more photos below