“We’re Mongolian. We adapt anywhere.” Our friend in Ulaanbaatar explained how she and her family had no problems moving to Washington, DC and then back to Mongolia. After four years wandering the road, there are no roots to find but it was fun to imagine riding with the Mongol horde a thousand years ago.
We hung out in the capital city for four weeks, exploring four different areas (Central, East Side Soviet Style, South New City, West – a step away from the gers (yurts). Some things to know:
- Genghis Khan (or Chinggis Khaan) is the big name here: avenues, parks, airports, beer.
- Almost all museums charge extra if you want to take photos. Good for them: less distractions and fewer selfie sticks.
- We found only one traditional Mongolian restaurant that was vegetarian.
- In contrast to wide open spaces, new housing developments are all walled, gated and no shortcuts. The older parts still maintain the openness with footpaths, bridges and interconnected parks.
- Ulaanbaator is the coldest national capital of the world with average annual temperature of -1.3 C. Even colder than International Falls, Minnesota at 2 C. That’s why we visited in summer.
Overlooking the steppes at the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex
Boled not barbecued at a traditional Ger (yurt)
Aryapala Temple and Meditation Center
Gorkhi Terelj National Park
Palace/Museum of Bogd Khaan
Silk Road Sculptures
Exposition Gers for National Day on central square popular for weddings
We’ve hit rainy season from Thailand through Myanmar
A road to nowhere with many pedestrians
We flew from Yangon in Myanmar to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia with a 36 hour stopover in Beijing as both flights were in the middle of the night. Three times in the past three years, we have flown over this part of Asia at night.
Some say long night journeys can save on hotel. Not in my case, see our itinerary below. I booked two nights in Beijing at the Aulympic Airport Hotel so we could check in at 8 am instead of 2 pm. I’m getting too old to spend 14 hours trying to rest in an airport. Things we learned (each one was an adventure):
- Chinese is useful to talk to front desk. Google translate is the next best thing. Download simplified Chinese to allow offline use.
- Hotel email is usually not divulged from hotel or booking websites. We used fax to alert hotel on our unusual schedule.
- Google translate worked pretty good at converting English to Chinese characters for the fax. Tip: Use simple Subject-Verb-Object sentences with common words. Limit adjectives and prepositional phrases.
- After a little discussion and explanation the staff was very kind and allowed a three hour late checkout for our flight on to Ulaanbaatar.
- The Chinese Visa free stay for up to 144 hours in Beijing takes about two hours in line, two sets of fingerprints taken, and a good helping of confusion.
Below you can see the map of our journey and the horizon as we neared Beijing. I did not even find a single cat to photograph in China.
Depart: Wed, 13 June 23:50
RGN Rangoon, Yangon International Airport
Flight: CA906 Operated By: Air China Flight Time: 4h30m
Arrive: Thu, 14 July 05:50
PEK Beijing, Capital International Airport
Depart: Fri, 15 June 21:10
PEK Beijing Capital International
Flight: OM 224 Miat Mongolian Airlines Flight Time: 1h30m
Arrive: Fri, 14 July 23:40
ULN Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International