Trip Start Apr 03, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Mongolia  ,
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

So here we are still in the train with the dodgy food in our cabin.  Today is judgment day as we have to cross both the Russian and Mongolian borders.  So Russian border here we come, 6 hours later we finally say da svidanya, no idea what they were doing for that long as they disappear and then all come back again.  Glad that one is over and the dodgy food passed the first test.   Mongolian border up next. 

We saw this rickety old shack that said welcome to Mongolia, told Steve he had to get a photo of that one, which he did in true Steve fashion and taking forever, so they busted him and he got in trouble, whoops.  Then off to the real border control.  They were done and dusted within 40 mins (dodgy food passed again) but we had to wait for our engine to arrive before we could go anywhere so 2 hours later we were off.  I decided to also get some cash out at the station but who has an idea on the exchange rate??  Hopefully, 1,000 will cover it.  This was the third engine we were connected to during out trip to Ulaanbaatar (or as the locals call it UB).  We then discovered what happens to the dodgy fruit, the locals come and buy it from the train ladies bags full of the stuff!!!  Guess no one wanted red apples and whatever the other thing was as they were still in our cabin.

So sain bainauu Mongolia!!!!

So there is our new guide awaiting our arrival, we are now on our own so hopefully all goes to plan.  Any who, Bagsy is waiting for Miss Irwin + 1, that's us and off we go.  It is 6am and we are both really tired but Bagsy seems to have too much energy and wants to practice his English we think at every chance he gets.  So we stop at the bank to get some money out as he doesn’t think 1,000 will cover it, apparently this is because that is only 50p so that would make sense really.  Then we have a nearly 2 hour drive ahead of us.  Finally we arrive in our Ger camp!!!  We are shipped into our Ger and have a few hours to ourselves.  As there is no breakfast we decide to have a real shower and rest for a couple of hours.  On return from the shower I find our Ger has sprung a leak.  So off I trot to the main house where everyone starts to panic and yell at the man clearing the snow and then there is a lady on our roof and then we are back in action.  We discover we are not the best at getting the fire started or kept going so we will need to work on this one.  They are quite roomy inside so you can see how a family will fit in one easily as they still do with all the mod cons, fridges, microwaves, TVs, internet etc. Not for us though, back to basics.

So off we trot at 11am.  First we stop off at Turtle Rock.  This symbolises eternal life so a lot of statues in UB are a turtle on the bottom and then an obelisk or something on top.  We then popped into a little handmade souvenir shop, a lot of tat really but found these really cute slippers, so had to buy some!!

We then made our way up to a Buddhist temple.  So we arrive and the gates are locked, but not to worry we all fit through the fence so off we go.  Not sure if this is classified as break and enter and probably not a real good thing to do.  Anyway so off we hike to the top.  On our way we are passing a lot of prayers on boards with numbers.  When we get to the top there is a turnstile type thing which is a prayer wheel.  You spin it clockwise (apparently everything goes clockwise in Buddhism) and then look at the number it stops on up the top.  I was 135 and Steve 10, so off we trot to find out what they mean.  Steve said mine suits me to a t as you can link it to wine, he just has to look after all animals forever, we might have a vegetarian in the making here!!  On route to finding out what our prayers are we hike up 108 steps to the main temple, it was hard work and I give it to the monks who do this twice a day.  108 and 9 are the lucky numbers in Buddhism.  The temple is highly decorated inside and again you must go around the temple clockwise.  There are loads of books written in Tibetan and wrapped in silk.  On the outside, the pictures on the eves show you both good things to do to get to heaven and bad things that will send you to hell, some of the pictures were quit gory.

Next stop lunch.  We went to visit a family living in their Ger for the winter for some traditional Mongol food.  First we were served what was called tea, as Steve and I are not tea drinkers it was quite hard to swallow but as we were in someone else’s house we did.  The thing is it wasn’t normal tea either, it was green tea with salt and milk.  I thought it tasted quite peculiar and then to find out that they don’t buy milk they pasteurise their own milk themselves, god only knows what we drank.  We then tried some dried curd which had sugar added to it.  Apparently this is not normal to add sugar but it was horrible anyways, Steve seems to think that the first taste of the soft stuff was like white chocolate, I think the horrible milk tea stuff had gotten to him as there was not a hint of white chocolate in sight!!  Next taster was a stale doughnut thing, just as you would expect from a stale doughnut.  Then we had homemade rice noddle roll thing with meat and other bits and pieces inside.  It was delicious.  Then to work all that off before the main course (and to give the ice time to melt and boil) we head out for a horse ride.  Steve just had to sit there as he wasn’t given any reigns so was just pulled around, the camera guy he called it.  Then when we got back we found out we were lunching in the wrong spot and should be back at camp, I mean I quite liked it here so didn’t worry me that we were in the wrong spot, but waiting for Steve to get back from the outhouse we left the family and headed back to the camp to sit down to a four course lunch!!!  Little piggy’s I tell you, I couldn’t get through it but Steve gave it a very good crack!!  After all this eating I required a nap, Steve decided to go for a hike on the mountains around us for the next 2 hours.  For dinner they then served us another 3 course meal.  I am really not sure where they think we can put all this food, but Steve did.

We then arranged for a 12am call at the Ger for some coal to keep the fire warm through the night, we were still awake for the call and the lady came in, saw the fire still burning and then left.   Hmmm, where is our coal??  Maybe we had been too good as isn’t it just the bad kids that get coal for presents??

So for Steve’s b’day he gets to build a fire at 2:30am so we don’t freeze to death.  We had another call at 5am where she banged and banged on the door as we locked it as the door kept on blowing open and letting cold air in.  She built the most useless fire and left.

As we were packing up we spotted accident number 2.  This time the casualty was my jumper.  I had washed it as it was getting to be in quite a state on the train and to dry it we put it by the fire, well apparently it was too close and it got burnt L Now I need a new jumper as it is quite obvious.

We headed back into UB today to explore.  First stop was the Gandantegchenling (no idea how you say it?) Monastery.  They have the largest Buddha in there that is over 2 stories high, huge one!! They also ha these massive feet which are the feet they are going to use for the next Buddha in the new city like area they are building outside UB.  We got to see the resident monks finish their prayers, which was quite cool as this also followed with some music, than off to lunch they went.  We also nearly got attacked by the ridiculous amount of pigeons thy have in the main square, which they also sell seed to feed the stupid things so they come back and fly at your head!!!  Be careful people!!

Next stop was The National History Museum.  We learnt a lot about past and present history, even the fact that Mongols didn’t have passports to go abroad until 1992!!  And in the 13th century Mongolia ruled most of Europe and Asia, who would figure hey??  Then off to the central square where we looked at the central point of UB and learnt that the capital has moved 6 times.  Each time it moved the name was to do with circles, then the Russians came in and created UB which has nothing to do with circles just another Russian name.

Next stop lunch, food is very important and I think over these past two days we have eaten more than we have on the whole trip so far!!  This time we went to a Mongol BBQ.  It is like buffet, you pick what you want to have cooked, hand it to the man who is cooking on the wok/BBQ thing and then you wait and it is ready.  They also have prepared dishes and salads as well.  The best part about lunch was when they dimmed the lights and started to sing happy birthday and bought out a cake for Steve!!  His face was priceless, but so was the girl on the table next to us whose birthday it also was and her face fell when she realised it wasn’t for her.  Made me giggle, Steve was really embarrassed, but our guide had done this for him after he found out the night before it was Steve’s birthday. The waiters had instruments and hats on and everything it was great!!

With full bellies and Steve’s cake we headed to the Emperors Winter Palace, however, it was locked for refurbishment so instead we went to pay a visit to the monument tribute to the Russian and Mongolian cooperation with each other during the wars in the armed forces.  Again there were loads of stairs to climb so I do think our guide is slowly trying to kill us, but probably a good ploy to try and work off some of lunch.  The view from the top over the city was amazing, looking over the city to the snowy mountains behind.  Inside the monument there was a mosaic mural which told a story of the Russians and Mongols working together in their army’s and helping each other out with the final picture of them working together in peace time.

We then are dropped off at the hotel before dinner.  Finally got some Wi-Fi (although only in the lobby but this is supposed to be a 4 star hotel??) to catch up with the rest of the world.  Dinner was again 4 courses and way too much.  But back to the hotel after dinner for bed and get ready for our 5am wake up call for China.

Mongolia was great, the countryside was a great escape from city life and I can see why people say it is so picturesque.  One thing both Steve and I have picked up in Mongolia is some extra baggage!!  Let’s hope that can be worked out quickly hey!!
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Frances on

Am loving your stories Renee and Steve

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