Friday, 30 August 2013

Ulaan Baatar

So far I really like this place. No fluff. It feels frontier, rough and tumble. Baggage handlers at airport didn't follow union rules on lifting, those guys just powered through stuff like you wouldn't believe. Driving away from the airport is on gravel roads where rules seem to work on mass of vehicle more than anything else.  Cars are both right and left hand drive for confusion.  But it's orderly in its own way and rather quiet. 

Off road 4x4's are common. There's not much pavement. Big jacked up Mercedes G wagons, Mitsubishi and Toyota trucks all over.  I think the average 16 year old girl here has driven more offload than guys going out to McLean Creek every weekend at home.  Busses, Toyotas, etc. are pulled over randomly with workers, families, whomever working on changing tires or rebuilding half a front end it seems anywhere they stop. Resourceful. 

I've experienced 5 Mongolian hand shakes so far. They're consistent - meaty hands and iron like grips.  God these guys are just solid. We saw some kids wrestling on the sidewalk. Between the wrestling display and these grips of steel, I don't think I should wrestle anyone over 6 years old.  These people seem tough in a way that make me feel feeble.  I can see entirely why people feared Mongol raids. 

The city feels rugged, tough, unrefined. Gravel, Rick, steel, concrete square buildings, rust. Square and not what you'd call architecturally inspired. District heating pipes all over. 

But it's a relaxed atmosphere. Thomas and I went to a patio. Food was good, although vegetables don't seem like they've made it here. We feel safe - it's quiet, people are polite.  Strolling around is lovely, warm, not windy. 

I heard a bunch of jokes about Mongolian women before I came. I don't think they hold true. Most are wearing very nice dresses and high heels even if walking uneven streets with gravel sections. They're trim. They really aim for a cosmopolitan look (as do guys). Not what I expected at all.  The people make it feel softer and more refined than what you get from just seeing the city. 

Can't say a bad thing yet - really like the feel of it all. 

Thomas and I both have Therm-a-rest brand sleeping pads. He didn't buy the little one! (That's mine in his left hand).

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