Ulaanbaatar is weird. It’s full of opposites. It’s one of the worst polluters in the world in winter yet every third car is a Prius. The written language is either so close to English you can pretty much understand or looks like a drunk dyslexic has grouped together a whole heap of wxys all together with other letters facing the other way. You are literally in the middle of nowhere yet can sit down to a nice coffee is a shop that wouldn’t be out of place in Australia. You have the choice of Italian, French, Chinese, Korean restaurants and little food vans sell sushi rolls. You have men in nomadic dress walking down the street beside Buddhist monks and men in suits driving Lexuses and Mercs. You can usually walk faster than drive as the traffic is atrocious. It’s one of the dustiest places and most of the buildings are communist bleak. Yet the place somehow has character. Like I said. It’s a very strange place.
We walked to the biggest Buddhist temple in the city called Gandan Khid. It was pretty weird compared to the others we have visited in China. The buildings were pretty basic and run down but they are still actively used as there were monks all around and in one temple there was a ceremony with chanting and musical instruments. Buddhism was outlawed when the communists came to power and a lot of the temples were destroyed or abandoned. This one was hastily reopened in 1944 because a US president came to visit and asked to see one of their temples. From that date on it was the show temple for foreign dignitaries until it fully reopened in 1990 after Mongolia became a democracy. In one of the bigger buildings there is a giant standing Buddha and for a few dollars extra to the monks we could take a photo.
There were beat up prayer wheels encircling the whole complex with some of them so big you had to push them while walking around them. We followed a lady all the way around turning every wheel. Interestingly all the Buddhist temples in Mongolia are Tibetan not Chinese.
Our next stop was the Mongolian history museum which took us roughly through Mongolias history. Including Chiggis Khan’s Mongolian Empire. It was so big! How he managed to conquer such a vast amount of land and hold it for so long is amazing. He was obviously a very savy leader doing it with only 100,000 men on horseback.
We then headed out to the black market. It was a proper locals market with not a souvenir in sight. Instead knock off winter clothes, leather boots, wooly hats and out the back were furniture, beds and hardware. The traditional Mongolian boots were the highlight. We also were looking at fur hats and I soon found myself with a wolf skin on my head that was put on by the store owner and was horrified when it’s little paw hit me in the face. Poor thing.
For dinner we took advantage of the worldy cuisine and ate pizza. I am ashamed to say that it was delicious. We justified our purchase by saying we were going to be out in the Mongolian wilderness eating what the locals ate for the next three days. We are so excited! S
Such a strange written language. Almost gives you a headache looking at it.
All around the temple there was prayer wheels. We have since found out that in each wheel there are Buddhist books inside. So spinning them is like reading the books and makes you more enlightened.
The Migjid Janraisig Sum statue which was originally built by a Khan (king) to try and restore his eyesight but was destroyed by the Russians after the communist revolution. It was re-commissioned in 1996.
A really big prayer wheel. Feeling smarter and more enlightened already.
This amused us no end. A few years ago in Australia there was a Coke ad about having a coke with your friend and all the bottles having names on them. Well it also hit Mongolia and apparently these are pretty popular names over here. I have no idea how they are actually pronounced.
Some of the beautiful material the nomads use in their outfits.
Traditional Mongolian shoes.