Back to the capital of Ulaanbaatar today, for an item we call ‘Things That Stick Out of the Ground’ (well, it sticks out of the ground doesn’t it?).
I thought I wouldn’t think much of this city, what with it being the most polluted place in the world – although they claim that Beijing is worse (Mongolians seem to have serious beef with the Chinese, just about the only nation they don’t seem to speak highly of). But apparently that’s only in the winter, when all the people living in tents burn car tyres and anything else they can get their hands on to keep warm. The summer is much more pleasant, and I loved walking up to the old Communist Zaisan Memorial and gazing out across the city, flanked by beautiful green hillsides. After a premium coffee stop (or “primo” as Team AOTP have come to call them) we made our way to a small complex of Buddhist temples built as a palace for the last Khan to rule Mongolia a hundred years ago or so. Burger and chips for lunch (seriously, Mongolia is way more “advanced” than I thought), then to the main “Sukhbaatar” Square, on which sits their impressive parliament building.
Our final stop was the Ger District. When Mongolian herders give up (as they increasingly do) the government gives them a small parcel of land on the outskirts of town on which to make a home, and the majority of these are the tents that they used to live in when they roamed the country – gers. People clearly take pride in their homes, with well constructed fences bordering their land and the tracks between them kept very clean. One of our drivers, Jug Jug, had a friend willing to let us film in his ger, so we let ourselves in (it’s considered rude to knock on the door of a ger) and finished off the piece inside this traditional Mongolian home, complete with a fridge and flat screen TV. It all looked very cosy, but it must get freezing in the winter as there was a gap between the wall and the ground!