There are two main things one does in UB when arriving after a five-month self-imposed exile in the West. The first is “eat all the food that isn’t boiled meat,” and the second is “take advantage of your friends’ internet and write a blog post.”
Khovd to UB
I kickstarted my Mongol road trip by hopping a bus to Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, that I spent 12 hours in on my way out to Khovd and thus had never gotten a chance to see. The bus ride was…urgh. The first 20 hours were over unpaved roads, and I spent 16 of them throwing up into a bag. Once we hit Bayankhonghor, the pavement kicked in and I could finally stop vomiting and start attempting to sleep (I give myself an A for effort).
At one point I was dead asleep for the first time since I had left Khovd when a Mongolian deel (traditional jacket) dropped out of heaven and landed on my head. The dude behind me was apparently concerned that I was cold, and decided the answer to this conundrum was to drop a deel on my face. Maybe not the greatest execution, but I appreciated the generosity (and yes, it was very warm).
I arrived in UB at 6 in the morning–it was too cold to wait outside for my friends to wake up, but luckily the Blue Sky hotel let me crash in their lobby even though I looked like a hobo.
As soon as I got to my friends’ house and put down my stuff, they were like “We’re going hiking in an hour, want to come?” I hadn’t gotten more than an hour of sleep in two days, but hell yeah, I want to go hiking!
And I’m very glad I did, because it was a lovely introduction to UB, albeit from very high up.
The two days since have been spent wandering into markets and shops and emerging looking like a shell-shocked private crawling out of a trench in Ypres. After five months in Khovd, UB is decidedly overwhelming (people! buses! no cows!), especially the shopping situation. Like a total backwoods hick, I actually gasped out loud in the State Department Store (and Mercury market, and like, ten other supermarkets) and spent a solid hour wandering around just touching all the things I had forgotten existed (pillows! electronics! sweet potatoes! spinach! cake mix! icing! brown sugar! powdered sugar! real cheese! wine glasses! fluffy towels! CINNABON!). I went to a real cafe and had a real peppermint hot chocolate and a real slice of cheesecake and nearly died of real happiness. And I bought a metric shitton of baking supplies, which I will be putting on a bus and shipping back to myself.
I did touristy things, too. Like Choijin Lama museum, a temple set right in the middle of UB:
I also hit up the Buddha park and hiked up the giant hill next to it to check out the Zaisan memorial.
UB has been a fabulous time. I’m off to Darkhan tomorrow, so I’ll check in eventually.