25.10.2011 - 26.10.2011
25.10.11 – After several hours on the train, and several more hours at the border crossing, we eventually arrived in Ulaanbaatar. Our hostel had sent a driver to pick us up, which at 6:30am was thoroughly appreciated! We made our way to the hostel (Zaya Hostel), and were given our room straight away, another plus!
After a few hours sleep to try and catch up on the sleep debt, we head out and explored the town, taking in the main square, Genghis Khan monument and Peace Avenue. The Asian influence on Mongolia is very evident, and things are already very different from Russia. The people are friendlier, the shops and restaurants have a lot more English, and customer service has re-appeared. After a dinner of steak and we were done for the day, ready to enjoy our bed and start again tomorrow.
26.10.11 – This morning we visited the Gandantegcheniling Monastery, a set of Buddhist temples canvassing gold, tapestries, spinning cylinders for good luck, and chanting monks. It was our first real taste of Asia since we started the trip and we can only begin to imagine that this is what China is going to be like.
Afterwards, we caught up with our Belgian friends from Irkutsk. We had swapped details and were keen to book a tour together to bring the costs down. When we caught up, they had also met 2 girls from England and Ireland, so with the buying power of 6 we approached the tour companies and settled on Golden Gobi offering a trip to the South Gobi, to see the Flaming Cliffs and sand dunes. All happy, we did some last minute grocery shopping for the trip before parting ways for the evening, but not before running into the 3 Swiss girls again, and the Swiss couple from Olkhon Island. Sometimes this trip feels like a small world!
Lyn and Lisa, the British mother and daughter we met on the train had told us about a Mongolian Singing and Dancing ensemble that performs nightly at 6pm. They gave it rave reviews, so we decided to head down and find it. We had also told some of the others, so a small group of us went and watched the amazing show, consisting of Mongolian throat singing, contortionists, and a singing/instrumental/dance ensemble. Afterwards we headed to Luna Blanca, a well rated vegetarian restaurant which the girls were keen to try for some good food and great service. A quick drink after dinner and we said farewell to the girls, hopefully our paths will cross again in Australia or Switzerland!