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Published: June 17th 2010
Mongolia is one of the least densely populated places in the world, and at least half the population live in or around Ulaan Baatar, its capital. The differences between this and Chinese cities is striking. The main thing is, while I always felt safe in China, this is a very rough place. It's not unusual to see fights break out or people puking they're guts out at ten in the morning. Definitely not a city to wander around in after dark. There isn't much proper infrastructure to be found, walkways are rarely paved, many buildings have ex-soviet styles to them, and a lot of poverty is still evident. Much of the population lives in Ger districts, which is typical Mongolian. Nevertheless it's a really interesting place to be in.
The first day after the train ride was spent doing pretty much nothing except recharging my batteries, but after that I spent a few days leisurely checking out UB, by myself and with others. On several occasions while walking along, some random Mongolian walking past me would stop and give me a shove for no reason I could perceive. Alex was standing right outside the hostel when a local came right
up and stared him down until one of the hostel girls came out to yell him away. After all this we began making loads of jokes about angry Mongolians.
UB doesn't have much to offer visitors, people generally use it as a base to get out and see the rest of the country. There's really only one main street going from east to west and it's a very easy centre to walk through. The nice thing is that it's way cheaper to be here than in most of China and I'm enjoying the meat and potatoes diet. This city does have loads of pubs though, which makes a lot of sense since the locals and visitors all love getting hammered. Idre's feels like a home and is a great place to meet others and get information. Someone is always going to the market and buying stuff to cook dinner, I try to chip in and help prepare it when I'm around.
The world cup in South Africa was beginning and for the opening game I went with Gaby and two others, Yotam and Laura, to some outdoor tent near the centre that was showing it on a huge
screen. We waited in line for a bit, everyone was shoving hard, and after getting through and securing a table, Gaby mutters to us "Shit my wallet is gone..." UB has a major pickpocketing problem and the ironic thing was that we were talking about pickpockets just hours beforehand. We knew that there was nothing to be done, Gaby ended up losing a few hundred bucks. I try to avoid carrying any large amounts of cash on me when I can avoid it, and I seem to have trained myself to keep my hands constantly on my pockets. I'll be impressed if I get nothing stolen while in this city.
I've been watching a lot of world cup games here (most of which have sucked) and other than that will use my time to load up on supplies for the countryside. I guess I'll be returning back to UB from time to time to regroup and should collect many more stories along the way. I'm just hoping I don't get killed by some angry drunken Mongolian before that.
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