A big factor in creating a successful trip is the connections you make along the way. I’m slowly learning that first impressions aren’t definitely best impresssions, and that it’s good to chat to everyone, irrespective of country, background or indeed initial impression. My travel buddy Sarah is far better at this than me, but I’m trying. Going from a life where I mainly look after myself and spend far more time than is healthy with a cat to one where it’s essential to be sociable and life is lived communally is a difficult but worthwhile transition.
Vicky, whom we met in Siberia, took the adventurous route to UB via Ulan Ude and then a travel story classic of hitching to the border, shared taxi and new Mongolian friends. One of whom was a really nice woman called Sara, who is a tax accountant for one of the big mining companies. She had offered to show Vicky and us the sights, and so it came to pass that we climbed into Sara’s cow-patterned offroader and headed out of the city to the Genghis Khan monument.
Paper versus reality. The monument is no more than 40km out of the centre however the road and traffic are appalling and so it’s a surprisingly long journey. En route we stopped for some sort of filled samosa malarkey at a roadside cafe and my crumbling stomach demanded I answer the call of nature in possibly the bleakest toilet of the trip so far…
The Genghis Khan momument was only erected fairly recently. It is entirely as impressive as it looks on paper, the silver metal forming a striking contrast against the vast background of the Mongolian steppe. There are plans to expand the development, with a whole park around the statue dedicated to Mongolian life, and there is an excellent museum in its base showing artefacts throughout the ages.
It’s possible to climb up to the top of the monument, which provides a slightly vertiginous but spectactular view.
Of course, it’s not a proper Mongolian tourist attraction unless there’s a chance for dressing up. This place did not disappoint- A variety of bonkers costumes for the princely hire sum of £1 was not to be passed up. By way of explanation for the hard of thinking, or detectives from the Professional Standards Department (Or both, possibly), those are Buddhist symbols not swastikas!
Our final stop in UB was Naran Tuul, or the “Black Market” as it’s affectionately known, where one can pick up apparently anything, from hooky t-shirts, through horse equipment to entire Gers (living tents). Very interesting, although I was slightly disappointed I failed to find the fake documents stall!
Next stop: Gobi!