Friday, 13 July 2012

Arriving in Mongolia

I arrived in Mongolia on Sunday 8th July, almost delirious with sleep deprivation, having gone about forty hours without catching forty winks. I intended to rest up for a few days before the Naadam Festival started on the Wednesday, and so I didn't plan anything hectic but just gently easing myself into the city. I think I experienced a minor culture shock when I arrived in Ulaanbaatar. I have been to places very different from what I am used to before, but I don't mind admitting I felt slightly rattled on the first day, and the lack of sleep probably didn't help. Myself and the two Swedes from the train, Lukas and Christian, walked into the city centre from the train station as it was too early for either of us to arrive at the different places we were staying. Immediately leaving the station, Lukas stepped on a drain cover which wasn't fixed and the city swallowed him up to the knee, taking a big bite out of his shin in the process. The traffic was chaotic, and crossing the road was like playing chicken on a busy motorway with drunk drivers, though it has since become a more enjoyable adrenal experience. As I was waiting to cross a road, I could smell burning and suddenly the bin I was stood next to burst into flames like a brazier. These are just a few of the experiences which burst my Trans-Mongolian train bubble of leisure.

The Parliament building, Sukhbaatar Square, Ulaanbaatar.
I'm staying in the city centre with three great girls from Australia who are living here for a year to work in the NGO sector, one of whom, Jess, is a friend of my friend from London, and they've kindly let me colonise their sofa for my time in the city. They've been fantastic in helping me to settle in to life in UB, and things would have been so much harder without them. Jess managed to source tickets for the opening ceremony of Naadam, and the process seemed to be like trying to get a highly sought after Christmas present on Christmas Eve, but brilliantly she managed to get hold of a few.

I spent the three days before Naadam relaxing, writing the previous blog post, gently exploring the city (though I haven't walked far), and catching up with friends I made on the train. I spent two evenings with just Georg; we went to a swanky hotel bar on the 23rd floor of the biggest skyscraper in the city centre, which gave us excellent sunset views over the city. We also had dinner, I stuck to steak rather than risk the Mongolian cuisine, having not been persuaded by the unfavourable reports of the food. We were also joined by the Belfast guys one evening for some beers and tumblers of vodka, just for old time's sake.

The view across Ulaanbaatar from the bar on the 23rd floor at sunset. 
I feel much more at ease in UB now, having spent a few days here, though I feel like a computer having to have a security programme running at all times in the background of my brain for any potential dangers. I've seen a few fights since arriving, the first was between Australian miners, the other between Mongolians. Two people I know have been victims of theft from their bags since I've arrived too, so vigilance is a must. That said I've walked home alone late every night having been socialising in bars, and not encountered even a shiver down my spine, luckily it's been fine for me so far.


  1. Dodgy roadworks, fighting labourers, late night drinking and theft... doesn't sound too different to Peterborough! Keep up the writing mate, it's great - I find myself checking in every few hours hoping you've re-posted. Also, any chance you can put more photos up? Keen to see what you're seeing. Jem

  2. I second Jeremy - more pics please, convince me there is life outside Peterborough

  3. Thanks both very much. Photos and report from the Naadam festival will be up very soon! I appreciate the support. Just got back from dinner with some new international friends, all there was on the dessert menu was chewing gum or nuts, so we got a bottle of vodka. Between the 5 of us was less than £2 each. That's more like it!