Ulaanbaatar – Mongolia + last part of the Trans Mongolia Express. 10-04-2016 // 15-04-2016
After our arrival in Ulaanbaatar on Sunday morning we wanted to do 2 things: take a shower and a good coffee. The shower was lovely and we felt so clean! Next step was finding a coffee place. Our hotel – the dream hotel – was in the middle of the center. Suprisingly the center was not as crowded as we expected, so it was easy to explore. On Monday we realized it wasn’t common to see an empty street – weekend was over.
The coffee place we found is named Caffè Bene and you have a few of them in Ulaanbaatar. It reminded me a bit of Starbucks but with a different brand name ;-). For dinner we went to a restaurant (named Sparta) around the corner of our hotel. The food was good and cheap, only 4 euro’s for a meal!
For Monday we booked a tour with Ulaanbaatar tours. We started the day with a one hour drive to a fascinating statue of Chinggis Khan. This statue is 40 meters high and is a memorial of the man who was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiuous empire in history after his demise. Besides watching this amazing statue from the outside, there is also a possibily to take a look inside. You can go inside to enjoy the view upstairs but there’s also a shop and a small ‘museum’ part. Our guide arranged something special for us – something Kas and I really enjoyed;). They gave us real Mongolian clothes and we had to take place in a ger so they could take pictures of us. The people working here but also the other visitors had more fun about this then we did. Can you imagine; two long blond dutchies with a white skin dressing like Mongolian people?
Anyways, the statue was beautiful and so was the view as soon as we reached the top. All this nature, so many unused square meters. You can not even imagine how streched out the nature is. Mongolia has 3 million inhabitants, the half of this population lives in Ulaanbaatar. So it’s not strange Mongolia has so much nature and space.
From the statue we drove to the National Park. The first stop here was at the turtle rock; nothing more then a big rock, that looks like a turtle. Funny to see how they make something out of a rock and sell this as a ‘special thing you need to see’. As long as you use your fantasies there’s an animal in every rock.
In the afternoon there was a real adventure waiting for us; horseriding. Yes – this will surprise the people who know me. It was great! Allthough I had the naughty one – of course – who refused to walk or to listen a few times. The nature around us was spectacular, it felt like we were in the middle of a painting.
The horseriding came to an end. I said goodbye to the naughty horse – I was thankful he brought me here safe – and I started the hike to the monastery. The view on the top was – again – wonderful. The monastery can be used by everybody who wants to meditate but is not used by monks anymore. In the past the monks went here to meditate for 3 months up to 6 years. Can you even imagine you sit on the ground for years and years, everyday in a row?
Tuesday morning a driver picked us up and it was time to prepare ourselves for two days at a Nomad Family. After 2 hours we saw three gers and many animals. We met the family; Choka the dad, Oanna the mom, Patoka the 4 year old kid and 3 big dogs. They gave us a happy welcome. We were the third guests they ever had: the first one was the Dutch king Willem-Alexander and his wife Máxima, the second was Ban Ki-moon and now we are the lucky ones!
Oanna welcomed us with a cup of hot milk with salt – something they all drink in Mongolia to stay strong. Their ger looked like a small museum. They had 2 beds, a heater which is warmed on coals and a small sink. The toilet was outside and contained a hole in the ground and 4 wooden planks covering it.
Oanna made us a real Mongolian lunch: soup with flower and meat – not my favorite – and noodles with vegetables. This first day we did a few hikes (the three dogs came with us as guards), played with the kid and enjoyed being around the animals. Being here during spring is amazing; they had lots of small goats and Tuesday morning a calf was born. How cute!
In the evening all the animals – except the horses – came back home. This family has over a thousand (!) animals. After this fascinating proces I helped Oanna making dumplings for dinner.
The next morning we woke up early and saw the sunrise. Everything was covered in white because it snowed during the night- the weather is unpredictable. After lunch we said goodbye to this great family and returned to the crowded city.
We didn’t finish the Trans Mongolia Express, the end of our trip was Beijing. Thursday morning we took the train again and this time we did share the cabin with two others; a Dutch couple from Groningen. Small world ;). The train was different then the previous; the beds were softer, the coupes were cleaner, they had two toilets ánd toiletpaper- so luxury!
After a couple of hours In the train I felt something on my head, I asked Kas to take a look but he wasn’t sure; was it a birthmark or something else? We asked Robin and Els – the Dutch couple – to take a look. Unfortunately it wasn’t a birthmark, but it was a tick. Robin – the tic expert – pulled it out of my head. Nasty, nasty animals! We organized afternoon drinks – with our train friends – to forget about the tick.
Anyways, I’m warned and will check every spot on my body from now on. Luckily it’s now time to go to the big city (hopefully without ticks);Beijing! We can almost touch it, only 5 more hours to go..