Mongolia – the land of blue sky and vast land! After visiting the Terelj National Park, it was time to explore more of Ulaanbaatar before hopping onto the train and making our way to Siberia. It was my fourth day in this country and I believed I’ve not seen everything entirely. It was free and easy for the day. I’ve decided to jam packed it up as usual and made the most out of every minute, before I returned to hibernating in the train.
I love being on my own! All because you’ve got all the flexibility to decide where to go and what to do. With a map in hand, I took an easy breezy stroll to the city centre. There was the Ulaanbaatar International Marathon going on and the roads were closed. Everyone was out in the sun – cycling, playing with their dogs, dancing and it was like a fiesta in the city.
10 Highlights : What to do and see in Ulaanbaatar?
- Lunch at Zochin Mongol Restaurant ! This place is soooo good, I went back two days in a row. I had a go at their Mutton Pasta, Grilled Beef served with rice on a sizzling plate and drown myself with 2 of their local draft beers : Chinggis and GEM. There were ample of grilled meat in Mongolia and it certainly catered to my carnivorous taste buds. Yums!
- A visit to the Post Office! I spent my lunch time writing postcards for loved ones and got them delivered right after. The post office is very close to the main square and a stamp for international costed 1100 MNT. If you’re an avid stamp collector, you will find an amazing collection on display and they were for sale too!
- Souvenirs – I am pretty selective of what I get from each country and wanted something significant and representative. In the end, I salvaged some Mongolian yurts, leather coasters and a hand-drawn painting on leather. There are famous mainly for wool and leather goods. Visited ‘Mary and Martha‘, which was recommended by Lonely Planet. There are 2 shops in the city centre, both within walking distances from one another and the particular one at the hidden alley has more items.
- Money Changer – I ran out of cash halfway through shopping. Scouted and found a decent money changes inside the Ulaanbaatar State Department Store, right across the Beatles Square. Best to travel with USDs if you are intending to do the Trans Siberian Railway trip. I got myself a pair of wool gloves too as the weather can be pretty unpredictable moving onto Siberia.
- Chinggis Square, famously known as ‘Sükhbaatar Square’ is a must see! A trip to Mongolia isn’t complete without a pitstop to see the Genghis Khan statue sitting in the heart of the city. Behind the enormous monument is the Parliament house. I spent some time watching the locals and tourists in what seemed like a public playground!
- Beatles Square – Honestly, it was nothing to shout about. I expected to see bronze figurines of each Beatles’ band members standing tall but instead, stumbled upon them on a apple backdrop. Peculiar! Oh well, it was still gopro and instagram worthy so to hell with it. Bucketlist checked!
- Dinner and drinks at the Blue Sky Lounge! You definitely won’t miss this tower as it sits right in front of Chinggis Square. Shining from its blue coloured glass, this steel structure stood out from the crowd. Have a pint of Altan Gobi beer while soaking in the spectacular night view of Ulaanbaatar.
- The ‘Temple of Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara’ at Gandantegchinlen Monastery was a one of a kind monastery. It was enlightening to witness the essence of Buddhism and there were more than 200 monks residing there at present. I was fortunate to be able to sit in for their daily morning prayers with the monks at the Golden temple. Be sure to check out the insides of the monastery, where Avalokiteśvara is placed. This is the tallest indoor statue in the world at 26.5-meter-high.
- The Winter Palace of Bogd Khan was the home to Mongolia’s eighth Living Buddha, and their last king, Jebtzun Damba Hutagt VIII, also known as ‘Bogd Khan’. We were told that the palace was destroyed by the Russians and now, it was restored to a museum. We spent about an hour walking on the 2-storey building, which showcased a collections of both the King and Queen’s clothing, jewellery, stationary, furniture, pottery collections etc. The king had an unusual taste for wildlife and that explained the exotic array of stuffed wildlife in the museum. Not the very best feelings while I was making my way through the collection. My brain was unable to process and retain the amount of information I got by the time I arrived at the winter palace from all the sightseeings. But, I loved seeing the art students giving their best drawings of the palace at the outdoor lawn.
- Zaisan Hill is a memorial ground to honour the Soviet soldiers killed in the World War II. This was the last stop for the day. Three hundred steps uphill and you will come to a circular memorial painting that depicts scenes of friendship between the people of the Mongolia and USSR. Brownie points for climbing the stairs, you get a wide 360 degrees panoramic view of Ulaanbaatar. Sweet!
So long, Mongolia and thank you for the memories! Now, off on the long haul 26 hours train ride towards Ulan Ude and Lake Baikal !