Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Life in UB

In a nutshell: Hang out in UB, waiting for the parts that should come tomorrow, nice temperature, a little rain during the night. Very enjoyable, although we're looking forward to the countryside (and leave the pollution behind).

It's been 5 days that we're in UB and we're getting the hang of it. Not much excitation, so I'll fill up with impression about UB (Google Earth .kmz here).

Gana's guest house is very enjoyable, on a small hill overlooking the city. We meet several groups of travelers, at the start or the end of their trip, sometimes in the middle. Most are looking for a guide and a vehicle for 1-2 weeks in the country side. Some come back with horror stories, this summer being so wet most roads are very bad.

And some are just staying here. There is this Dutch guy building yurts in Holland and here to study the history of ger design ("ger" is the Mongolian name for yurt; "yurt" is a Russian word encompassing all Mongolians, kazakh and kyrgyz designs), and exchanging tricks with the locals. Anders went with him in a workshop, but they wouldn't let him take pictures! He's been in Mongolia quite a few times so he knows a lot and like to share it with us.

There's also this English medicine student coming in UB for a few weeks to work on infectious diseases in the hospital. And this obnoxious German running a business of selling Chinese motorcycles, and always criticizing the work of the Mongolians.

Fortunately the life in Mongolia is much cheaper than in Russia:

  • 1 night in a ger at the guest house: 5$
  • Lunch for 2 (2 meals + 2 cokes): 2.50$
  • 1 mirror for my motorbike: 1.25$ (although I had to bargain to get the right rice ;-)
  • 1 pair of sunglasses: 1.25$
  • 1 horse: 150$
We even found a cafe with espresso AND free wifi! Now that's Mongolia in the 21th century. Of course, imported goods are not any cheaper, like gasoline for example: 0.80$.

Looking at all these new Japanese of Korean 4x4, I keep wondering where all this money comes from, probably foreign aid because Mongolia is not exporting anything, except copper, gold and some Cashmere, but that doesn't go far. Of course tourism brings in some cash, but that's only during the 2 months of summer..

We were looking for a shop to photocopy our passports, etc.. and we figured that in Mongolia, if you want to xerox something (as known in the US) you need to look for a Canon..

Oh yeah: the good news is that both packages are making their way to here. The first one finally arrived in Ulan-Ude, after 2 weeks, so Zena is going to give it to a bus driver coming here tomorrow. The second one is (according to DHL) in Korea, so it should also arrive tomorrow here.. half joking we always said we would probably get the 2 packages at the same time, but we didn't have another option really.

We also did a little servicing on the bikes (valve clearance, carb), can't hurt after 6K.

I'm a little tired of sitting here waiting for the part, to say the least, I'm really looking forward to get the hello outta here. We planned to leave for a short trip around, but then I have to catch the bus driver when he arrives, and got to the DHL office to let them know that we're waiting for the package and make sure they're not delaying it any further. There's not a lot to do here once you've seen the monasteries and Shukbataar square (and we missed the Scorpions playing live there on July 31st..).


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