Special start to the day - went to Gandantegchenling Monastery (which means 'Great Place of Complete Joy') a 5 min walk from hotel. Got to sit with monks as they chanted their morning prayers, complete with drums and cymbals. Felt very privileged to be with them and the local people worshipping. Part of the monastery is the Buddhist University of Mongolia!
Wasn't all peace, enlightenment and tranquility though! On the way there we had to walk past a local taking a leak in a rubbish bin, seems to be acceptable as yesterday a little boy was doing the same into a bush in the main square of the city!
Just after leaving the Monastery we had to stop and turn back as a fight broke out on the lane we were on and then 10 mins later came across a teenager running for his life as he was hotly pursued across a busy 4 lane road by who we think was his girlfriend, her brothers and family elders. Reckon a lot of people are still pissed after 2 days National holiday!
Made it to the Natural History Museum in one piece and loved the exhibits about the Mongol Empire, starting with Temujin (Genghis/Chinggis Khan) all the way through to Kublai Khan. Why do we know more about Alex the Great and the Romans when this lot basically did take over the known civilised world!
Awesome warriors and tacticians - and bloody ruthless!
Then onto the dinosaur which has just been returned to Mongolia after the Yanks nicked it and we're going to sell it in the black market - to be fair the US govt. was very instrumental in returning it. It is known as the Tarbosaurus bataar and is said to represent a second spices of Tyrannosaurus.
Walked the centre of UB, Sükhbaatar Square with loads of people proudly wearing national dress and waving the country's flag - only thing I've seen like it is Aussie Day. Then off to lunch: Mexican in an Irish bar in Mongolia - what risk takers!
Walking back we nearly lost Christine down an enormous hole in the middle of the pavement. Infrastructure in UB is shot - clearly city is absolutely broke.
Other dangers walking around in UB include: random urinators, darts being thrown across the pavement in a fair ground game, enormous puddles after rain and avoiding drunk people.
Having said all of the above I will be sad to leave! Really not sure why as UB is a hole but it engages! I will remember the National Park for a long, long time. I also found Ty Nant water in a supermarket so they must be OK to be selling Welsh mineral water!
Got away on the train OK at 9.10pm. Russia here we come.
Our last day, the rains came (and we were told it never rains in Mongolia!) Through the mud and pools of water we trudged up the hill to the largest Buddhist Monastery (Gandan) in Mongolia. We were able to enter a prayer service listening to the chanting of the monks and observing the locals with their prayer rituals. It was quite moving and had a serene calm feel to it. We wandered through the different dastans admiring the colourful rooms, prayer bells and other Buddhist ornamentation.
Huw decided that we would take a shorter route to the National History Museum, down some lanes...within a 100 metres we became uneasy and turned back, after witnessing a fight at the end of the lane. As we walked to the main square it was obvious that many men were under the influence of the night before, still drunk and staggering around.. we crossed streets whenever we saw a pack of suspect youths or drunks.
Lunch in an Irish Pub was a good finish to the day after the musuem and we headed back to the hotel to prepare for leaving that night, not before we did a session in the well equipped gym and had an excellent dinner in the hotel restaurant.
We boarded the train to Irkutsk, after having to change platforms, squeezing into a second class 4 berth cabin - thankful that we had booked out the whole cabin! No frills but reasonably comfortable, and settled down for the long journey through the night into Russia.