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Trip Start Jan 16, 2009
Trip End May 26, 2009

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Where I stayed
Delgar Hotel

Flag of Mongolia  ,
Thursday, February 5, 2009

Irkutsk turned out to be cold and pretty boring. We looked at a river, there were some tanks... I can't really get excited about it I'm afraid. Catherine couldn't get a ticket on our train so we parted with promises to meet up in UB. The train ride to Ulaanbaatar took 2 nights ending at stupid o'clock in the morning. Our hotel was pretty good. The Emma's room had 3 double beds and there was even a kettle... between 4 rooms. After a sleep and a shower we headed out to down town UB and visited Suukhbaatar square. Good old Chinggis Khan was there of course as well as Suukhbaatar (or axe hero to his friends). After a tour of the natural history museum which had an extensive collection of stuffed animals including a deer with fangs and a baby penguin with a hyper-extended neck, we went out of the city a bit and climbed to a war memorial to get a wonderful view of the city. Then Declan slid down the hill and nearly killed himself. This turns out to be the theme of our stay in Mongolia, but more of that later...  

We had dinner in an amazing all-you-can-eat Mongolian BBQ. As Russian food wasn't really up to much and we'd been living off noodles for 2 days we stuffed our faces. Then we went out and partied Mongol style (insert drunken antics here)   The next morning we headed off to the Ger camp in the national park north east of the city. The roads became rougher and rougher as we got further and further into the wilderness. After a lunch of dumplings we decided to take a stroll with Declan up a rocky hill behind our camp. However we misjudged the angle a bit and ended scrambling and dragging ourselves to the top and sliding back down on our arses! But the view and the peace at the top were well worth it. We visited a local family in the afternoon and nibbled at curds and traditional salty milk tea. It turned out we were supposed to provide entertainment so we ended up singing London's burning and the boys did some authentic irish dancing! The gers were remarkably warm at night, sometimes a little too warm, especially when we went crazy stoking the fire and make flames shoot up into the air.  
Next day we hiked from Turtle Rock (which only looks like a turtle from one direction if you squint) to a beautiful modern monestary and retreat. Then after lunch we went horse riding. Emma White's horse refused to go anywhere whereas mine broke into a canter at one point, which I quickly decided was not a good idea! We were all having a great time and were on our way back when Tom tried to get off his horse to pick up a glove, got stuck and was dragged for 500m. Luckily he was OK with no bones broken, just a messed up hand, but the group were pretty shaken up. We came back to UB early the next day but he ended up not going to hospital and all the guide books have nothing good to say about Mongolian healthcare and he was probably better off in the capable hands of Emma R. We watched an amazing show of traditional Mongolian music, dance and throat singing. Throat singing involves making 2 different sounds simultaneously using your chest, throatm mouth and nose and has to be seen to be believed. The two contortionists were breathtaking as well. Dinner was at the Mongolian BBQ again although we were dissaointed we could only manage about 5 plates each this time.  

We caught an early train out of UB and found it packed with westeners as it's the only train of the week to Beijing. We had bumped into Cathering at dinner the night before and she was in our carriage and then we saw a couple of Americans we had met at Lake Bakail. They came down to our carriage later and ended up trapped there when we changed bogies at the Chinese border. We sat around chatting and drinking vodka (cooled in the snow at one of the stops).  We had to say godbye to Alisha at Beijing station but luckily she was staying in the same hostel as a couple of british girls we met on the train. Our hotel is pretty swish and we had dinner tonight in a local restaurant for a grand total of 5 pounds 50! Going to some bars later then going to see the sights tomorrow
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