Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ulaanbaatar Walking Tour, Mongolia: The Long And Dusty Road

To climb, or not to climb? Our brows asked for the sake of asking. Hubby and I were eyeing Zaisan Memorial from the foot of a Sakyamuni image in Buddha Park. The cold has not bitten the lowlands, and we chose to keep our arses out of below-ten-degrees-celsius-harm's way. So our answer was quite predictable.

Besides, where were we to leave the stroller when we climb the three hundred steps?

Three. Hundred. Steps.

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At the foot of Zaisan Hill.
 
A quarter of an hour earlier, we were dropped off here by our Couchsurfing host. Her house sits just a few blocks to the north, yet she gave us a lift anyway. It was autumn last year and our second day in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital that's as nomadic as its people (Read that it changed its location more than twenty times!). The balmy weather that we crossed our fingers for blanketed the city that morn. We were off to a promising start.
 
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A Sakyamuni image at the heart of Buddha Park.
 
Buddha Park is more park than Buddha, if you know what I mean. The relatively new, standing Sakyamuni image statue is a pop of bling amidst the greens and blues. And well, it's the only Buddha you'll find in the park. Travelers who stray this way are probably more keen on visiting nearby Zaisan Memorial, a memorial that commemorates soldiers killed in World War II. This attraction atop a hill, although will most likely cause pain in anyone's already freezing arse, rewards its guests with a panoramic view of Ulaanbaatar.

Thank you, one year and eleven-month-old Luna, for giving us a lame excuse to skip it.

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  A city that visibly grows every summer.
 
As our map indicated, we only had to follow Zaisan Road forever to get to our next destination. Little did we know that forever meant four kilometers (Suddenly three hundred steps seemed easy, breezy!). Zaisan Road is a major road in Ulaanbaatar. And like many other major roads in this city, some parts are either peppered with potholes or not paved at all.

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Soviet-looking Sukhbaatar Square.
 
Luna's stroller, which our host lent us, gave off-roading a go for the first time. No thanks to the lack of pedestrian side and cross walks. But even with all the bumps and sharp turns and dust that made breathing a chore (The city has a high level of air pollution.), our still-jetlagged  tiny traveler was rocked to sleep. This made it easier for us to dodge vehicles here and there. They say Mongolians drive cars like they ride horses. We proved this correct during our four-kilometer walk. Road rules, if they even exist in the country, are never followed.

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Damdin Sükhbaatar in the middle of Sukhbataar Square.
 
Ulaanbaatar's skyline was dominated by cranes. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But yeah, construction was literally everywhere. It reminded me of Dubai and its ever-changing landscape. According to our host, laborers work long hours from spring to summer or fall, simply because they can't possibly accomplish a construction project when it's −20 °C outside.

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Seated statue of Genghis (Chinggis) Khan, Mongolian Parliment building's facade.
 
We reached Sukhbaatar Square an hour later, unscathed though a bit shook up. This central square named after a pivotal figure in the 1921 revolution has witnessed various parades and massive demonstrations. On normal days, it's a bustling public place where Mongolian teens donned in the latest Korean fashion mingle and where 'rents take their kids on bikes. If procrastinating people-watching is your thing, this is the place to be.

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State Ballet and Opera House, east of Sukhbataar Square.
 
Northwest from the square is the National Museum of Mongolia, the end point of our walking tour. Well, sort of, since there's another three-kilometer stroll back to our host's house. The museum fed us an introduction to Mongolia's history and culture that gave our sluggish pace the push it badly needed. We left the building hungrier for a Gobi Desert adventure. And hungry for a khuushuur snack.

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National Museum of Mongolia.

Our long and dusty walk home was serenaded by a band of youngsters with the song Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen. True story

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5 comments:

she-wolf said...
April 15, 2013 at 4:40 PM

wow! nice place!

ian l www.brownmantrips.com said...
April 15, 2013 at 4:50 PM

The photos has a very European atmosphere.... well except for the one with the Buddha ... very interesting.... I wonder how it would look like in the future as it fusion the cultures of east and west... nagulat ako about the air pollution... I thought Mongolia has good fresh air everywhere.... well thanks to progress na rin siguro...

Gay Emami said...
April 15, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Beyond Ulaanbaatar, the air is fresh :) The city's location kasi is within a valley. Nearby mountains prevent the air to circulate in a much broader area.

Hearty Dave said...
April 16, 2013 at 1:24 PM

great post Gay! it was funny how you were serenaded by that song! hahaha. adds some good memories for sure when looking back at this trip. :)



Heart
thenomadcouple.com

Gay Emami said...
April 17, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Hahaha! Will upload the video sometime :) The band's pretty good.

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