Yesterday, I’ve packed for yet another trip to strike off my bucket list. I’ve always wondered about this once-upon-a-time biggest ever empire. Think Genghis Khan. Or do I say Chinggis Khan? The capital is Ulaan Bataar….. or do I say Ulan Bator? Hopefully, I’ d know which is which in the coming days.

 

 

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Direct flight via Korean Air Lines from Incheon Airport to Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia

 

Caught the connecting flight in Incheon Airport but flight was delayed. It was midnight and cold at 9 Celsius by the time we landed in the coldest capital of the world. The handle of my luggage broken as I lifted it off the carousel, my bag and I survived the trip. Flying in is my only option. Trashed earlier ideas of riding the Trans-Siberian Train from Moscow, stopping by Ulaan Bataar, on its way to Beijing, China. After all, I can’t imagine what I’d do on 5 days of train travel other than reading books on the longest railway in the world.

 

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Chinggis Khaan Airport in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia.
All those repetitive letter AA’s!

 

Our hotel in the financial and transport hub of Mongolia smacks of Soviet “efficiency”. Super duper big-sized beds in an equally big-sized room which provides the smallest complimentary bottles of water. The big beds complete with duvet and lamps at every corner do not match the old, unstylish tables, chairs and sofa. And the rooms don’t come cheap at US$220 for this very new hotel with a sofa looking like it had seen better days. Days old, and we must be among the first (complaining) guests. 😦

 

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Just a couple of days old, Corporate Hotel is huge. Lotsa space for a standard twin room. $220. Big beds, big toilet, poorly styled tables and chairs and closets.

 

Fact is, it ain’t cheap in Mongolia. We’ve checked the transport system and decided to forego all DIY plans. Hotels are expensive and taxis and buses are hard to come by. Once we went to check out the Museum and asked the taxi to wait to ensure we get back to our hotel before the chill hits us. The temp goes from warm 32C down to a chilly 9C in a few hours. Walking is an option. But mind the temps.

 

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The UB skyscape is fast changing……….ongoing construction everywhere. High rise buildings for a country where 70% of population still live in gers.

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Sukhbataar Square. Literally means “Red Hero” for the guy who proclaimed independence for the country back in the 1920s.

 

Thing is there isn’t much to see within the capital. There seems to be a construction boom within the city as many high-rise buildings threaten to mark the skyline. I wish they build more roads especially the SINGLE 2-way lane to and from the airport! I remember arriving nearly midnight in Ulaan Bataar and getting a tad impatient with the midnight traffic on way to our hotel. The way back is another story. It was another near-midnight flight out of UB , same midnight traffic and a driver from hell! The man from Fiji riding in the same van with us said he’d never said the “S” word so many times in a single hour. He went further and said they’re under a million in their island country and felt he’s an endangered specie. At one point, he screamed and begged “Ladies, please start praying…..” Thank God for this man’s sense of humor, the hellish drive to catch our flight slipped by easily on the nerves.

 

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Visit a couple of temples, if you like.

 

Outside of the Museums, a couple of temples and Sukhbaatar Square, your best bet is to hire a private car or van or join an organized tour to visit the must-see destinations outside the city. We’ve checked out those tours on offer, but learned the interesting sites are coupled with way too many stopovers at gem, cashmere and souvenir shops. So we decided to compose our own itinerary with the hired van, and do the city tour, museum visits and shopping activities on our own.

 

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National Museum. But we enjoyed the old Natural History Museum with those dinosaur eggs and skeletons more.

 

Watch this page for blogs on the following. Or better still, just click on any of these links!

 

Terelj National Park

A Day With Nomad Family & Meditation Temple

Chinggis Khan Giant Statue

Chinggis Kuree Ger Camp & Mini Naadam

Gandantegchinleng Monastery Complex

The City Life

Natural History Museum (Dinosaurs!)

Zaisan Hill & Memorial Shrine

Winter Palace of the Last Monggol King

Mongolia!