"Surviving a violent attack"
Our hopes were to only spend one full day in Ulaanbaatar. It was cold, and we wanted to move on to Beijing. Mongolia is a country better seen in the summer. The plan was to meet the Swedes and the Australians at the train station in the morning to buy tickets to China. I could not find any of them when I got there, after walking the 40 minutes it took to get down there. I figured I should try to find my ticket, and started asking. It turned out that international tickets were only sold in another building, 4 minutes from the train station. I found my way there, and after being into almost 10 offices in the building I entered the so-called "VIP ROOM & BAR". The setting was nice in there, and the ladies working behind a huge desk spoke some English. However, they did not accept any credit-cards, and told me to go to the back. It turned out that the bank was down the hall, and I did withdraw the money I needed for the ticket, and for the rest of the stay in Mongolia. As I was back in the vip room, and about to buy my tickets, I heard a familiar language, from confused voices. It was the Swedish! I ran out to them, and after they went through the same procedure as me in the bank, we all bought tickets together.
We spent the day walking around, trying to see the Buddhist monasteries. The most central to the Mahayana Buddhist community, not only in Mongolia, but the world, is the "Gandantegchenling". We went inside the Migjed Janraisig temple (The Gandan monastery). There was a 26,5 meters tall statue. It is made in copper, and gilded with gold. It was finished in 1996. The communists destroyed the original in 1938. Over 900 temples in Mongolia were destroyed, and monks were killed, forced to join the army, or jailed.
It was nice to walk around there, even if the birds were a bit annoying. (Almost as annoying as the women that sold bird seeds, and would not let Victor go after he "bought" some seeds. Bought meaning that they threw it at him and wanted money.)
We had lunch in a Korean restaurant, just because it was the first we could find, and we were hungry. It turned out to be a really nice one, but the price was ridiculous. I think I pain about 15 NOK for a dinner meal. We kept walking, checking out some more of the city, including a big square with an enormous statue of Genghis Khan. He is the man on almost every money note here, and probably the only great person the country has ever produced. But wow was he a man. Leading an empire four times the size of the Roman Empire, twice the size of Peter the Great's empire, and having the largest armies the world have ever seen at his disposal. But since he died in 1227, you would think that the Mongols could have produced someone else worth mentioning? Apparently not.
We went to "The black market", a huge market area where you could buy anything from kitchen appliances to cheap toys from China, to all kinds of food. I bought a fox fur hat. It is very warm, and a great souvenir. It only cost me about 150 NOK, and I could have pushed the price even more if I had bothered!
After the market we went to dinner have dinner at a place recommended by the Swedes' hostel. It turned out to be closed, so we found another one. It was great food, and we were all happy to have it, considering the quest we had for money. It is very hard to get around with a visa card in Mongolia. Not even the banks take it, so it was very hard to get some cash, especially if we wanted US $. We did not want a lot of Mongolian money, due to the impossibility of trading this currency in any other country. In the end we had to withdraw the Mongolian money, and then exchange with an exchange desk, to obtain US-hard currency.
After the dinner the clock was just passed 22:00, and I headed back to my hostel. On the way I needed to go by a little store to buy some foot to carry on the train to Beijing, which was to leave the next morning. I got my stack, and headed for the hostel. When crossing a playground I could hear someone behind me, and I sped up a little. It was only 50 meters left to my hostel. The guy sounded like he was singing, and I figured he would be "just another drunk guy", but I kept looking over my shoulder. When I got up close to the entrance he had stopped. I tried to be quick with entering the pin code to open the door, but before I got the door open one guy was grabbing my right back pocket, very hard, almost lifting my leg off the ground, within half a second another person grabbed my left front pocket and covered my mouth with a large leather glove, making it impossible for me to scream. I was carrying a bag of groceries, and it took me some time to drop it and find a strong position. By the time I did, my fox fur hat had hit the floor, and one was holding my hair tight, too keep my face away. They were trying to push me to the ground, but I was resisting really hard. I did not know what to do, if I should fight it, let them grab what was in my pockets, or just try to protect my face. I felt a hard punch to my back, in the area of my right kidney. I decided to fight them off. They were two guys, one of them very large, and fat, I could feel that. The other, about 180 cm, but strong. As they pushed me down, I got in a punch. I swung my right arm over my left shoulder and hit the smallest guy in the face. This is for sure not a strong position for a punch, but I gave it what I had, and I must have hit in the right spot, because the man stumbled back, and I was able to twist towards the fat man, while he got in a couple bad attempts of hitting me in the face. I had now got my mouth free, and was about to scream. They both ran away, and I ran after them for about 10 meters, screaming from the top of my lungs to make them scared. When I was sure that they were far away, I turned around and went to the hostel door again. Then the girls working in the hostel was already down the stairs (According to an Italian guy in the hostel they were flying down the staircase.) I picked up my bag of groceries and went inside, telling the girls what had happened, and what I could remember of what they looked like. One of them had a blue jacket and short hair. I saw this as they ran. The other one was big and fat with a black leather jacket. A boy and a girl form the hostel went outside to see if they could find these guys. They wanted to know what they looked like so that they could spot them if they hung out around here again. The other girl tried to offer me tea or coffee. I was not even a little stressed, and I find that strange. I am now writing this about 5 hours after it happened, and I have still not felt scared. This I had not foreseen!
As I sat down in the couch to relax I felt that it maybe was something more than just a punch that hit my back. I put my hand back there, and there were blood. The girl in the hostel got a lot more frightened then me. I think she felt some responsibility for me, as her guest. I pulled up my shirt, and the Italian guy helped the staff to investigate the cut. They cleaned it, and put on band-aids. Thank all powers of the universe for my jacket being as big and strong as it is. It is a 3.3 kilos green Abercrombie & Fitch jacket. Very good quality. I was happy I brought it through Siberia, but now, I am really lucky I brought it. A thin jacket, and this could have ended so much worse. I have a whole new level of respect from Abercrombie now.
I was for a second thinking of having it sewn, but it is such a hassle. I will clean it with Vodka on the train tomorrow, and keep it under bandages. It is really not bad, considering I was stabbed in the back! I just praise myself lucky that nothing worse happened, and that none of my stuff was stolen. I did wear my camera, cell phone, wallet, and actually my passport and train ticket also.
So why did this happen just here in Ulaanbaatar? The truth is, it can happen anywhere. But Ulaanbaatar is a really bad city when it comes to crime. People form all over the countryside moves in to the city. During the passed four years, the population of the city has grown with over 50 %. That is 50% in four years! Crazy!
Due to this there is a lot of crime, because people here have no jobs, and they are desperate. People keep moving in here, and now, over one third of the country's population lives here.
For anyone going to Mongolia, I recommend coming during summer, and to never walk alone after dark. I am coming back here in the summer some day, for sure, but not to see the capital.
Let us all hope this was the last time something like this happened on this journey. I will for sure do my best to stay safe.
In the end, I just want to say, that I am good now, and I don't want people worrying about me. So please read this blog like you have done before, and I will appreciate all the support I get, as much as the support I have gotten so far!
Now I am on to Beijing!
Lisa Vanvittig! veldig glad for at det går bra med dæ, Espen! Så får du sjå t å vær forsiktig, sånn at det ikke skjer igjen! kos dæ masse i Beijing, kan nok si det e yndlingsbyen min :D Klem
Cammie Ok, as your non-bio, california mom - this has freaked me out! Thank goodness you are 6'6" (though you are not very scary looking for a Norwegian), this might have helped in the fight. Please be careful and as you said, maybe this will make you more cautious (24/7 please!!)! When it gets warmer (and you get rid of your jacket) do you want me to send you a re-inforced Abercrombie sweat shirt? I didn't like Abercrombie all that much before = but now, I have a change of heart! Be safe. Love, C
Travikus I'm so happy you're ok. Let all powers of the universe you beleive in save you on your way.
vetle ikke bra.. men så stor som du er var det nok ikke no problem, gleder meg alerede til du kommer hjem og kan fortelle litt ;)
Sunniva Bratt Slette I still feel shaky, sitting here safe and sound in my living room. Thank goodness you´re ok! Good thing you know how to defend yourself, Espen. And I send a little thanks to Abercrombie as well. Phew, I´m so glad nothing worse happened!