Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is not a pretty city. It does hold the record for being the World’s Coldest Capital, though, so at least it has that going for it? My first impression upon arriving and making my way to my AirBnB flat was that the traffic is surprisingly bad. Most everywhere reeks of car exhaust fumes. The air pollution, while nowhere near at the levels of Beijing or Delhi, is consistently high enough so as to be considered dangerous (I think). The pavement of the sidewalks is invariably broken in places, pieces lying haphazardly amidst the dirt.
Speaking of which, it’s very common for the sidewalk to be separated from the road by a line of hedges, with shops along the other side. Like so:
Here’s looking down Peace Avenue, the main street through the city:
I found it very interesting that there are no official taxi companies in Mongolia. If you need a lift, just stick your hand out into the road, palm down, and someone will pull over. You give your destination, negotiate and agree upon the price, and off you go. It’s like a combination of hitchhiking plus Uber.
I was also surprised that Mongolian people, when speaking English, have an accent that sounds very Russian. It makes sense, though, given their geographic proximity coupled with the influence Russia had on the development of modern Mongolia. While it was never a part of the USSR, Russia did back Mongolia when the latter was seeking its independence and recognition in the UN decades ago. Anyway, despite this perceived accent, spoken Mongolian itself simply sounds like angry German.
There are a few sites to see in the city. These include the main State Department Store (landmark AND convenient all-in-one shopping destination); Sukhbaatar Square, with Genghis Khan towering from his throne; and the incomparable Zaisan Monument.
State Department Store:
Park across the street from the Store (if only all children were as quiet and well-behaved as these are!):
Zaisan Monument was by far the most impressive and interesting monument I’ve ever seen. It was built to commemorate the lives of Mongolian and Soviet soldiers lost during World War 2, and it gives some STUNNING views of the city.
There are also a couple of Chinese temples in the city, but frankly I’ve seen enough of those for now. The highlight of my time in Mongolia (that simultaneously contained my most unpleasant experience there) was my three nights spent with the nomads in the countryside, which I write about here!
Bonus picture! The sunset view from my second AirBnB:
Second bonus picture: WHAT is going on with this candy?? I had to do a triple-take when I saw it: not only is Reese’s rare in Asia, but this isn’t even Reese’s!