Days 46 – 48 Ulaanbaatur

3 September 2010

High point : Mongolian Karaoke, just when we thought the singing in the cab had improved our voices . . . We were wrong, in a big way!

Low point : The traffic, forget all you know about jams and dangerous driving until you visited UB. It was a miracle that I saw only 2 accidents in my time here!

No point : I’m trying my hardest not to put CAPITAL letters everywhere in this blog to save Miss Harpin another editing job back home!

Big Thanks : A massive massive thank you to Karina, Goyo Olly and all the team from Panoramic Journeys for helping making our time in UB and the whole of Mongolia truly amazing.

Authors comments:

Not many capital cities can claim to be quite as dominant in their country as Ulaanbaatur (UB). Over half the population of Mongolia live within the city and its surrounds and it is a staggering 15 times bigger than Mongolia’s second biggest city.

The city itself is positioned in a beautiful valley and stands out from the other towns we have come across here by its sheer presence in dominating a landscape that is surely used to being number one.

We awoke from Dave and Ben’s leaving drinks feeling slightly fragile after some late night “boardroom” meetings kept us up until Dave had to leave for the airport at 4am. Steve and Ross were determined to catch up on some much needed sleep and given that Martha was in for a service for 3 days now seemed the perfect time to do it.

Before “sleep club” began however we needed to visit Peter Pretorius at the Mercedes garage where the service was to take place and give him our long list of required repairs for Martha after the roads of Mongolia had done their worst to her.

After a fantastic lunch at the Mercedes staff canteen we made our way with the help of “kamikaze taxis” to the UB offices of our Mongolian fixers Panoramic Journeys. We were greated by Olly and Goyo who for the past year have been so patient at answering ALL my questions about Mongolia. If it wasn’t for these guys and Karina in the UK Headquarters then our expeiernce of Mongolia would have been totally different and undoubtedly much less fulfilling! THANK YOU PANORAMIC JOURNEYS!

With Dave gone and Ben soon to leave it was down to Ailsa to join us on what she referred to as stage 2.5 (UB to Bejing!) and in true FTFE welcoming style we went out for pizza and a few beers. . . . Well I say a few beers but it seems on the first day of each month the “powers that be” in Mongolia impose a ban on the sale of alcohol in the country. And so despite Ross’ best efforts ( which was asking the same question 10 times ) we were unable to get a drink anywhere in UB apart from our hotel rooms mini bar which unsurprisingly we wiped clean.

The next day Ailsa and I headed out for a walking tour of the city while the the boys slept in. We managed to see the magnificent Gandan Khiid with it’s impressive 26 metre high golden Buddhist Statue and also Sukhbaatar Square and its imposing Monument to Genghis Khan (He’s actually pronounced Chinggis you know!). There was even a square with a small monument to the Beatles where musicians seem to gather and strum away on their own guitars. . . Still not sure of that connection to UB.

The final destination on our tour was the state department store which is essentially Mongolia’s answer to Harrods! Even though I’ve only been away for 6 weeks our destinations of late have been so remote that wondering around the store was amazingly fun in itself. Personally I was feeling a little like Tom Hanks in the movie “Big” running all around the toy store playing with everything!

Even sleepy Steve got excited and bought the store’s entire collection of Calvin Klein boxer shorts at a bargain £2 each! He was slightly alarmed however when he released he had to buy size XXL after just 7 weeks on the road! Either Mongolian sizes are small or it seems “Run Club” is calling for us!

That night the crew met up with Olly, Goyo and Sam at a fantastic Korean restaurant to thank them for all of their hard work in helping FTFE. The food was some of the best of stage 2 so far and after a few drinks there was the whisper of going to a local karaoke bar.

Soon enough, after another taxi ride that gave me a new appreciation of seat belts we were sitting in a private karaoke room with Olly jumping around like a kid who had drunk far to many cans of Coke ready to blare out the first tune!

We were soon all up singing various numbers ranging from Ross’ murdering of U2 Ballad “with or without you” and Steve & Bens New Rave twist on the classic “You’re so vain”. Both of these songs are on video and I suggest if you are ever feeling in need of a big laugh you should watch them.

UB was a great place to recharge our batteries but after 3 days of not moving I Can’t wait to hit the road again!

China is in our sights now as we head south and the team is looking strong.

See you all soon!

J 🙂

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