The Last Day in Ulan Bator - Sheep Head Dinner

Trip Start Sep 10, 2011
Trip End Sep 14, 2011

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What I did
National Theater Museum
The Pyongyang Restaurant
International Intellectual Museum
Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts

Flag of Mongolia  ,
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Since it was my last day in the Ulan Bator, I was determined to see as much as I possibly could.  Today, I had a new travel companion.  She is a girl from Taiwan who was traveling after university and planning on riding the Trans-Siberian railroad.  We had made plans yesterday to see a couple museums together. 

    The first museum we visited was the Zanabazar Museum.  The first floor is made up of many ancient artifacts.  The second floor has a lot of various Buddhist statues featuring not only the Buddha but also other gods and demons.  It is hard to describe them since I lack the knowledge about it but the whole trip definitely got me interested in learning more about the subject.

    We originally planned on going to the Asian Art Museum next but were unable to find it.  Instead, we stopped in a multistory high-end antique shop.  The first floor is the lobby and the higher floors are made up of various rooms that are locked but filled with various antiques such as snuff bottles and other assorted items.  Many of the holdings were quite beautiful but very expensive.  There was no way I was going to buy something like the things they were selling.

    The next stop was the Choijin Lama Temple which is a little south of Sukhbaatar Square.  My companion decided to head back to the hostel for a nap so I explored the place on my own.  The temple was wonderfully fascinating.  The various temples on the grounds were filled with all kinds of Buddhist sculptures and figures from Buddhist mythology.

    Unfortunately, no photos were allowed and despite my best efforts to sweet talk the workers to letting me snap a few, the answer was still "no."  However, I was able to snap a few quick ones.  Even though I couldn't take pictures openly, one particular temple in the complex caught my eye.  It showed various statues in sexual embraces with females.  I really wish I knew more about this stuff.  I felt quite ignorant on what I was looking at.  Maybe this was an illustration of Tantric sexuality?  I'm not sure but I certainly am interested in learning.

    After the Choijin Lama Temple, I went to the National Theater Museum just off the Main Square.  The museum is quite small and everything is written in Cyrillic.  Essentially though, the museum chronicles the history of Mongolian theater.  You can definitely see Soviet influence in some of the shows they've put on.

    For lunch, I stopped in the one North Korean restaurant in the city.  The restaurant is simply called "The Pyongyang Restaurant."  This is one of the few North Korean restaurants outside the DPRK.  The restaurant was relatively busy with westerners and Mongolians.  I ordered fried beef and found it to be quite good.  In my opinion, the kimchi actually tasted better than what I typically get here in South Korea.

    After resting at the hostel for a bit, my companion from my second day exploring the city joined me again.  Our destination was the International Intellectual Museum which was famous for a variety of puzzles.  We decided to take a bus to get there.  Frankly, the bus was rather dirty and the traffic was so congested that we could have gotten to the destination faster by walking.  When we got off the bus, we decided to cut through a group of Soviet era tenements.  The whole area was decrepit, rundown, and definitely impoverished.  Thankfully, I was with someone else.  I wouldn't have gone through this area on my own.

    Unfortunately for me, the museum was open but due to the dearth of school groups, they wouldn't let us in due to lack of room.  We begged and pleaded that it was my last day here and that we won't take much space but the answer was still "no."  Despite the rejection, the greatest adventure was yet to begin.

    For my last day in Ulan Bator, I decided to try some very exotic Mongolian food.  I found a restaurant and first ordered a plate of ox tongue as an appetizer.  It actually tasted really good albeit somewhat dry.  The main course though was a literal sheep head with meat still stuck on it.  It smelled a bit unusual but I was determined to eat it.

    The skin by the cheek bones was very tender and delicious.  I could just pick that off with a fork.  However, the meat on the snout was a bit more difficult.  I had to use a knife and fork to cut parts of it off.  The meat on the snout had a somewhat sour taste and left an aftertaste in your mouth that was like eating carrion.

    There were also eyes included in the course.  I couldn't just pull them out.  I actually had to use my fork to dig past the socket and eventually use a knife in the socket to cut the eye loose from the connecting muscle.  The eye itself was chewy and dry but not juicy.  It was like chewing a clump of fat.  The next part of the animal was the tongue.  In all honesty, it had a very strange texture and I felt like I was eating my own tongue.  This experience was by far my favorite part of Mongolia.

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