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Asia » Mongolia » Ulaanbaatar
January 21st 2018
Published: April 19th 2018
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Yes indeed, Mongolians are best known as the original nomads, and in a vast, sparsely-populated expanse of land such as Mongolia, the reasons for all of these migratory movements are fairly self-explanatory. It is fair to comment that the final word in Mongolian culture, economic activity and tourist influx begins and ends in the nation's capital city, Ulaanbaatar, and a few brief glances around the city reveal evidence of far-Eastern investment, namely South Korean developers whose investment in Mongolia seems like a strategy-in-the-making. Ulaanbaatar's centrepiece is Sukhbaatar Square, which is flanked on the one side by the government building, and on another side by the colourful Opera and Ballet theatre, a State institution in a nation where a knock-on influence from the Soviet Union has clearly shaped the way in which the city's fabric is composed today. On a sightseeing tour, it is simple enough to plot a route, but advisable to hire a car plus driver to get around that route in the context of just one day. The Zaisan Memorial statue, in very close proximity to the gold-tinged imposing statue of Buddha, is a good enough starting point, since this is located south of centre, and is as far out as you need to be in order to see the sights within the city's confines. Next up was the Winter Palace of Bogd Khaan, a must-see on an UB city tour, but be wary of the fact that, due to the sacred nature of these spots, photography will greatly increase your admission charge. The palace museum consists of seven Summer Prayer temples and the winter palace. The collections of the museum include unique and valuable objects related to Mongolia's political, religious, and artistic history from the 17 to early 20-th centuries. Ulaanbaatar's museum canon Gandantegchenling Monastery complex appears to contain the greatest collection of traditional Mongolian buildings in one specific area, and the enormous gold statue of Buddha, known as Migjid Janraisig Sum is a glorious sight to behold, in all of its decorative and ornate environs. A recent addition to Ulaanbaatar's museum canon is the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs, which adequately documents the history and traces of dinosaur life, from fossils and bones, to full-scale models of our favourite 'saurs. If it is shopping which you crave, I am not going to claim that Ulaanbaatar has got all bases covered, but the cost of living is highly reasonable, and the real bargain-basement goods are on sale at the city's outlying (black) market known as Naraan Tuul, situated across the road from an indoor market where souvenirs and local goods abound, complete with a slightly misleadingly-titled 'international' food court. In the city centre, the State Department store is worth a look in, and a couple of retail options nearby hint at the existence of upscale shopping in a city where income levels barely afford luxury purchases. Escaping the city, and in the midst of winter, where temperatures appear to hit an all-time low, the country's one and only ski resort, the Sky Resort, is a small-scale ski area where snow sports enthusiasts would live out their dreams in a place which you would expect to expand with an increase in clientele. Somewhat further afield lies the National Park area known as Gorkhi Terelj, and although mid-winter was hardly the most active and fruitful time to experience the full-blooded nature of the great Mongolian outdoors, the contours in the surrounding area suggest why landscapes in this low-profile nation would act as a mecca for those whose idea of bliss is nature and vast open expanses to a backdrop which has rarely ever attracted a crowd. For those of you who are not familiar, the 'Mongolian Barbecue' style of restaurant actually originates from Taiwan, but nonetheless, the American food outlet chain BD has established a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant in Ulaanbaatar, and the variety of buffet food options, coupled with the chef's knack of juggling with cooking utensils make this a spectacle not to be missed when the circus is not in town! Braving arctic-style temperatures may not be everyone's idea of a fulfilling experience, but those issues aside, the warmth of Mongolian society, coupled with the discovery processes to be had along the way, could easily amount to a wholly worthwhile addition to any seasoned traveller's roster.

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