Dugan Khad

Way back in June 2005 I posted a entry to Thomo’s Hole called Dancing Trees and Pretty Girls. This was a post as a result of having been out to Dugan Khad, and at the time, I got the directions all screwed up. This post is to correct some of the errors from that original post.

Dugan Khad is actually in Bornuur soum (a soum is like a country town and the area around it). Bornuur is in Tuv aimag (province). Ulaanbaatar is a special area inside Tuv as well. Dugan Khad is about 108 kilometres north of Ulaanbaatar and is one of the “special areas” in Mongolia. I guess that is the equivalent of our national parks.

Dugan Khad is actually named after a rock called Dugan. The rock is an interesting structure and is on a branch of the Khentei Mountain range. The rock is like a temple.

The area is covered in pine trees, birch, cedar, cherry and so on – which is why my post about this area referred to Dancing Trees. It was the first time I went somewhere in Mongolia where there were many trees.

There is a hotel complex there and so the traveller can stay a couple of days, enjoying nature – or just get a hot tea and some buuz and just relax on a day trip.

It is well worth visiting if you are in Mongolia. Unfortunately, when I was there I did not have my camera with me so only had some pretty average telephone pictures of the area. I shall certainly go back there one day.

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Ulaanbaatar’s New Subway

Corporate Hotel’s Front Page ClaimsIn perhaps the best kept secret in the world the Mongolians have, according to their newest hotel, opened a Conference and Exhibition Centre and a Subway in Ulaanbaatar. The image to the right here (click on it to read the full size text) appeared on the front page of the website of the Corporate Hotel, Ulaanbaatar, on 14 July 2007. The interesting part is that it notes that:

The Ulaanbaatar’s Convention and Exhibition Centre and MTR subway stations are within easy walking distance of the hotel. The majority of tourist attractions and business areas are easily accessible within 5 minutes drive. The 55 well-appointed guestrooms and suites are tastefully decorated in pastelcolours , with opulent wood and brass accents carrying through the hotel’s neo-classical feel.

Well what can I say? Expensive rooms, classy joint (there is apparently a revolving lounge on the 11th floor overlooking UB), an altogether impressive new hotel in Ulaanbaatar which bears absolutely no resemblance at all to the Charterhouse Hotel in Hong Kong that can only claim:

The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and MTR subway stations are within easy walking distance of the hotel. The majority of tourist attractions and business areas are easily accessible within 10 minutes drive .

The 294 well-appointed guestrooms and suites are tastefully decorated in pastel colours, with opulent wood and brass accents carrying through the hotel’s neo-classical feel.

Now the UB Corporate Hotel is obviously smaller – but a full 5 minutes closer to the tourist attractions and business area of Ulaanbaatar than the Charterhouse is to the equivalent in Hong Kong.

Oh, and there is definitely no MTR in UB … honest … I would have seen it if there was! 😆

UB Post Back on the Air

The UB Post, Mongolia’s best (well I think it is) English Language newspaper have restored their website to the world again. It has been off the air for a few weeks. Today they noted:

Dear readers,

We apology for mistakenly erased all the contents together with user information created since last December. We found this happened when our company’s IT department tried to move our site to an another dedicated server. Those, who are members registered since last December, please create your user account again. We will work hard to retrieve all the contents as soon as possible, and not to repeat this again in the future. Thank you.

Admin

Well, OK, mostly English language 🙂 I, for one, have missed my weekly dose of Mongolian news and I am happy to see the paper back in action. You can see it at UB Post.

Seoul Food in Ulaanbaatar

“James Brown Park” in the UB Post in an article titled Seoul Food talks about Korean Food in Ulaanbaatar. He notes

I like Korean food. Yes, it is more limited than Chinese as shown to me not long ago when I was shepherding some Korean businessmen around town who had brought kimchee, canned sesame leaves, and hot sauce with them from Korea to accompany buuz and khuushur.

He then goes on to discuss a Korean restaurant on the northern side of town that he quite likes, I guess because of the proximity to his apartment.

Being an Australian and having lived in Korea for many years as well as in Ulaanbaatar for two years, I must admit to having somewhat of a strong opinion of Asian cuisine. The first thing that should be noted about restaurants in Ulaanbaatar is that mercifully there seems to be more Korean Restaurants than there are Chinese Restaurants. Certainly this is the case in the central part of town.

This is merciful as the Chinese food in Mongolia really is pretty ordinary – indeed, in many cases, awful. The best Chinese Restaurant I have found is 30 kilometres out of town at the Hotel Mongolia. A nice location, especially in the summer with the beach and near the river, but a long trip in winter.

As for the Korean restaurants, the one Park speaks of near Los Bandidos is really pretty ordinary. The food there is not so good and even though Park is using a family name that is typically Korean, he cannot be as no Korean I know would hesitate to ask ajuma for more lettuce at a barbecue.

As far as Korean food goes, the Seoul Restaurant probably offers the best barbecues in Ulaanbaatar, including the fusion dish of Barbecue Mutton. Their Chinese food is also excellent. Then just down from ikh delguur (State Department Store) are three Korean restaurants, one of which you would swear you were in a restaurant in the residential areas of Seoul. These restaurants all offer the traditional soup and noodle dishes as well as the Korean “Chinese” dishes.

There are another 4 or 5 Korean Restaurants along Seoul street all serving fine food.

And the restaurants all have English Language menus as well. The most frustrating thing about the menus is that they are in Mongolian, Korean and English. In Mongolian and Korean a dish will be described as Daenjung-chiggae [not sure of English spelling]. In English it will be called “soy bean paste soup”.

Fortunately I read enough Korean to be able to recognise what I want off the Korean menu. My Mongolia friends are always impressed as well when I order dinner in Korean – even the Mongolian girls working in the restaurants speak restaurant Korean.

As for a favourite meal for Mongolian guests, barbecue is good so I usually order them samgapsal or taegi-kalbi or taegi-bulgogi, usually one portion more than the number of us eating (4 people order 5 portions). I also order daenjung-chiggae and bab (and beer or tea). Usually we end up asking for more soup and the soup is an introduction to them to other Korean soups and dishes. All have enjoyed these mixes of food.

All my friends now insist on my ordering dinner at a Korean restaurant. We don’t eat Chinese there any more.

First Snow

It snowed this morning for the first time this coming season. Technically it is still autumn as the Central Heating in Ulaanbaatar is not turned on until 15 September but this morning was as cold as a mother-in-law’s kiss and it snowed. Bucket loads of it dropped, then melted. I remember waking up and thinking it was too quiet for Ulaanbaatar, then I saw the white stuff falling.

OK – so winter is just around the corner again.

But the good news is the hot water is back on today. And it is hot, hot, hot! So hot you could poach eggs in it.

Today I also added some more pictures to Thomo’s Toys – these are ships I have been painting. For those that know these things, they are 1/3000th scale. For those who do not know these things, they are about 3cm long (well, except for the destroyers which are about 15mm long).

And now gentle reader, after 13 days of washing from the hand basin, Thomo is going to have a long hot shower.

Neun und neunzig luftballoon … well, three actually

Balloons Over Children’s Park - Click for a Larger View
The Balloons over the Children’s Park, Ulaanbaatar

Yes gentle reader, I looked out of my back room window (the study window), the one facing east and that looks towards the Children’s Park in Ulaanbaatar and there, a few days ago in the morning, were three hot air balloons. They were being inflated. I got some breakfast. They were inflated. I had a shower. Two disappeared and one with a lot of Japanese characters on it was left.

I watched this balloon for a while and it seemed to rise a little on its tether. It then hovered for a bit after which it was lowered back to the ground.

If I ever find out what they were about, I’ll let you know.

Saturday Night and the Storms Roll Through

Thunderstorm Over Ulaanbaatar - Click for a larger view
A single raincloud approaches Ulaanbaatar

It was a hot day today in Ulaanbaatar. Hot and dry. Late in the afternoon, early evening (right about now in fact), there is some rain in the area. This is accompanied by lightning and thunder and some local cool winds.

I will admit to feeling a wee bit homesick with the thunderstorms – sort of reminded me of late summer evenings in Sydney when the thunderstorms would roll in from the west, dropping the temperature (and a lot of rain) and giving the world that fresh “just washed” smell.

The thunderstorms rolling in from here are great as well, as they roll in over the mountains. Nature is great.

Ulaanbaatar To Be Renamed “Chinggis Khaan”

Apparently some academic, or academics, have come up with the idea of renaming Ulaanbaatar “Chinggis Khaan”. The city government is considering this idea at the moment. It must be true, it was on the evening news last night 😀 . The reasons given for the potential name change were:

  1. It will attract more tourists
  2. Chinggis Khaan, as a name, attracts more respect
  3. It fits with the Mongolian character

I won’t even try and look at the point about it fitting with the Mongolian character – I can’t. However I was dismayed when the Buyant Ukhaa Airport outside Ulaanbaatar was renamed the Chinggis Khaan Airport. There is so much “Chinggis Khaan” in Mongolia now, and Ulaanbaatar in particular, that it looks more and more like Mongolia has nothing to offer the foreign tourist other than Chinggis Khaan.

At the moment, that I can see, there is Chinggis Khaan vodka, beer, bank, hotel, restaurant, street, airport, khuushuur (хуушуу), buuz (бууэ) and even toilet paper (yes folks, use the same paper Chinggis did when riding across the steppe).

Rather than attracting foreign tourists to Mongolia, it is likely to turn them away as it appears that Mongolia has only one thing to offer, Chinggis Khaan.

To attract foreign tourists you really need to promote the whole package. Chinggis, certainly. Dinosaur bones, definitely. The unspoiled steppe, a must. The beautiful countryside, clean air outside of Ulaanbaatar, clear river water and so on. The temples that are still standing, the culture, the morin khuur. All these things need to be promoted. Even the Naadam and the particular style of Mongolian wrestling (сумо) has its place.

By all means create a Chinggis tour – visit Dadal in Khentii for his birthplace, then up to between Altan Bulag and Sukhbaatar in Selenge for the spring that he watered at with his army when he was looking for his stolen wife. Further down in Khentii Aimag, visit the river near where his armies camped. Visit the valley he fortified at one time. But everything in Mongolia is not Chinggis Khaan. Don’t forget Sukhbaatar, Zorig, Zanazabar and the other Mongolians who have contributed to the way the country is today.

As for naming Ulaanbaatar after Chinggis, well, I have trouble seeing what the relationship is between Ulaanbaatar and Chinggis (other than, of course, they were/are both Mongolian). Ulaanbaatar was founded around 1639 – a good 400 years after Chinggis rode the steppe. The name Ulaanbaatar came about in 1924 after Sukhbaatar, with the help of the Russian Red Army, had finally finished defeating the Chinese to form the modern, independent, Mongolian state.

Whilst the name “Ulaanbaatar” literally means “Red hero” and is a celebration of the communist victory at the time, I can understand some folks wanting to change the name, especially today in the days of a modern democracy. Ulaanbaatar was previously known as Orgoo (Palace) and Niislel Khuree (National Capital). However, to rename Ulaanbaatar as Chinggis Khaan is perhaps not the best thing for Mongolia, certainly, I do not believe it will do what it is supposed to do, increase foreign tourism.

I am sure, however, that this idea will create plenty of talking around Ulaanbaatar. As for me, I think I’ll head out to the countryside this weekend and enjoy some of the non-Chinggis things Mongolia has on offer.

Talking about A Shower, My Kingdom For A Shower

It’s that time of year again – the time of year when they check all the hot water pipes from the central boiler in Ulaanbaatar. Remember that all the hot water for the city, for heating, washing and cleaning, comes from this boiler. This has been compounded for me this year as I am in a new apartment and the building is still having some issues with water supply, resulting in the water being on and off over the day (the south side taps in the apartment have all been without water for 48 hours now whilst the north side taps have been supplying for 24 hours – well, cold water at least).

So, at the time all this is going on, the hot water is stopped for the annual check-up. Actually, I think it has been off for two days now but I did not notice it without the cold water on.

So again, I say, “a shower, my kingdom for a shower” … well, for a hot shower at least.

Quote

A Shower, My Kingdom For A Shower
One of the things in short supply on the Steppe is water.

We pulled into Baruun-urt, the Aimag Centre of Sukhbaatar Aimag at about 10 pm on Tuesday night, having been travelling for two days. The local manager of the bank had telephoned the public bathhouse and persuaded them to leave the heat on the water for a little longer. What a treat that shower was and how pleasant it was to wash the dust from face, arms, legs and hair.

I must admit, when I returned to Ulaanbaatar after a week traipsing around the Aimags, I spent a good hour soaking in a bath 🙂

You’ve Never Really Travelled Until You’ve Travelled With An Ironing Board

’tis true. How boring international travel can be. Lots of waiting around. The same old boring things – taxis, check in counters, Duty Free Shops that are all the same no matter which country you are in and just waiting, waiting, waiting.

Liven up that next trip. Travel with an ironing board. I did!

It started in Beijing. Whilst shopping for some things, an ironing board found it’s way into our shopping trolley. Not being one to refuse the unexplained when it happens, we paid for the ironing board and took it back to the hotel.

Well, that was the plan. Getting into the taxi was fun though as the ironing board was about 4 cms longer than the taxi was wide so some angled pushing and shoving managed to get it into the taxi and the door closed with no breakages.

Then arriving at the hotel “would sir care for assistance in getting that to sir’s room?”

“Nope. I’ll manage” says sir 🙂

Walk through lobby of five star hotel with ironing board under the arm all the time smiling at the Japanese guests the Chinese staff are fussing over. The Japanese guests laugh.

Up to the room, park the ironing board.

A couple of days pass and it is time to travel so I call the Bell Hop to come collect the bags from the room … and the ironing board. He smiles and scratches his head wondering how he’ll get it on the trolley as it is 10 cm longer than the trolley. He balances it.

Down to the lobby, check out and catch a taxi. Again, the ironing board is 3 cms too wide for the taxi. Squeeze it all in to two taxis and drive to the airport. Walk through the security checks with the ironing board and check in.

“That’ll need to be checked into the oversize items check in counter sir”.

“Oh, you mean this, my ‘board’? OK, I am planning on surfing the Steppe with it”.

“Very good sir”.

Check the ironing board into the oversize items counter and go through to the aircraft.

Arrive at Ulaanbaatar (at the newly renamed Chinggis Khaan Airport) and get to the baggage collection area. Baggage handler carries out the ironing board by hand.

Collect the board and push it along with the other bags out to the car. Board fits the back of this car … it is a bigger car. Board is home now and and happy.