Ulan-Bator, Mongolia

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My first day in Mongolia was quite an adjustment from all of the travel I have experienced – dusty, gray, with endless chaos from its unruly traffic.  I did not know where to start my travel plans.  I walked along the street with no signs forever till I hit a big temple.  It was a quiet temple, with a lot of tourists and attendants alike.   Pigeons were everywhere picking up every last seed that the passerby sent them.

Finding where everything is became the biggest challenge, especially without cars and road-signs.   At first I loved the foods here – for the first time in months of traveling I could taste something Asian.   However, it wasn’t long till I realized that every restaurant was offering essentially the same dishes over and over, and it wasn’t long that I get sick of eating the same food every day.

My first goal is to find a 14-day tour for all around Mongolia.  When I proposed this idea to my hostel owner at UB Guesthouse, He told me that now Mongolia is at the end of its tourist season and no one wants to do a long road trip around Mongolia.  Then he proceeded trying to sell me his 7 day Gobi trip.  “We have a car of tourist already, you would just join them.”

Smelling something suspicious, I decided to ask around other businesses before booking with their tour.  After walking around and asking different tour agencies, I did find quite a few tourists here and there but none is going for a 14 day trip, most either looked too long or too short for my preference.  Then I was referred to several bulletin boards around the city.  Following their directions, I found many people posting on the bulletin boards that were looking for groups going for much longer than 7 days tour.  So I have confirmed what UB Guesthouse told me was purely lie for marketing their own tours.

Next morning, I met a French girl named Amaya at the breakfast table, she proposed her idea of hitchhiking around Mongolia.  At first I was quite startled at her idea since transportation in Monglia is quite thin.   That night a couple of us hangout trying to figure out how to form a group together to tour around Mongolia, but nothing worked out.  After that fruitless day, I went to Amsterdam House on Peace Street to checkout its bulletin board and I found an American’s post of trekking by horse.  I gave him a call immediately, and it turned out that his horse trekking idea fell out, but he was traveling independently by himself in Mongolia.  He introduced himself as Joe, and he told me a lot of hitchhiking strategies and how to look for places to stay.  Only after hearing his stories I built a new confidence to travel around Mongolia independently.   So I decided to take a long-distance bus and meet him up at Kharhorin, where he will pass by before getting back to Ulan-Bator.  There he could help me with some more independent traveling in Mongolia in detail – not to mention, he will pass me the Lonely Planet book that he used to travel around Mongolia.

Since I wasn’t going to book a tour in UB Guesthouse, I was kicked out from the Guesthouse the next day.  Fortunately, I was contacted by Parker – an American currently living in UB – on couchsurfing a couple days ago.   I told Amaya about him and she is already living on his couch, and they soon got a Dutch friend ours – Luke – who lost his hostel bed, there as well.  Now with me kicked out from UB Guesthouse, the three of us crashed in his 1-1 apartment for our final night of stay before setting our ways out of UB.  As soon as I put my luggages down in his apartment and took a breather in the hot summer, we called a tour agency to book our bus tickets.  But they would not book a bus ticket for us, “We only sell tour packages and train tickets.”

“What about buses?”

“I don’t know about buses.  Let me ask, hold on…”  After waiting for quite a while with a long of Mongolian noise in the background,”I don’t know where the bus station is, but my colleague told me they leave from Dragon Center and you could buy the tickets there.”

“Really? Dragon Center?” I thought this was a joke, who would have thought something called “Dragon Center” would be a bus station…

“Yes, Dragon Center.”

Parker looked online and wrote down Dragon Center’s address in Mongolian, and we set out from his apartment to look for our bus tickets.

There really is a Dragon Center…. It’s a huge commercial building with a lot of space in front it – mostly filled up with buses and people hollering for their customers.  Being quite outspoken, Amaya asked locals where the bus ticket counters are located, and every time she askes the Mongolian she asked will look at me for interpretation.  Unfortunately I am not a Mongolian….

After asking around and being kicked to different places around the building, we finally found the ticket counter.  Since both Amaya and Luke looked foreign, everyone decided to help us to buy the ticket.  We got our tickets in no time.  Amaya and Luke are going to travel up north Bulgan before deciding where to go the next, and I will get to Kharhorin to meet up with Joe for tips on independent traveling in Mongolia and his Lonely Planet Mongolia book.

From Ulan-Bator, Mongolia, posted by Jenny Zheng on 10/21/2011 (147 items)

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