Arrived Ulaanbaatar on Monday 3 October 2006 and settled into our room in the Khongor Guest House - tiniest room so far, but good location. Found our bearings, located the internet cafes (always one of the first things to do) and even managed to buy tickets for some shows (more later). Next day, as there is a Laotian Embassy on the outskirts of UB, decided to see if we could get our visas. So armed with the passports, plenty of Mongolian Togrogs with which to pay and a note of the address in Mongolian to show the taxi driver, I (Margaret) headed off. (Quite pleased with myself that I haggled the driver down to a reasonable price!), while Eric headed off to Neyra Café, the only place with wi-fi we could find. For anyone interested, it’s at 35 Tourist Street above the bakery shop. Found the embassy, but was closed for lunch so headed back to town and the Mongolian Costume Museum. Thought it well worth the 2,000 Togrogs (less than £1!) for a personal tour – and the costumes were beautiful. Met up with Eric in Sukhbaatar Square and went for a coffee. Had to nip through the adjacent shopping centre to find a loo and who do you think I met? Yes, it was Phil – again! Eventually both of us headed back to the embassy where we got our visas in double quick time. Had to pay in US$, which fortunately Eric had with him. So my morning trip would have been no good anyway as didn’t have the US$ with me (a lesson to remember for the future). Embassy staff were very helpful – gave us a magazine with lots of useful info on Laos and a couple of useful websites. Wondered a bit though, when he pocketed the US$s, if our visas are the real McCoy!! I guess time will tell. Back to town again for a quick Japanese meal (our 3rd so far) then off to the State Opera and Ballet Theatre for an evening with the Pop Memory Orchestra. Pleased to see Phil sitting just behind us. We’d (well Eric really, in his usual inimitable style) persuaded him earlier that it would be a good evening and a change from the pub. In fact it did turn out to be great fun and tremendously enjoyable. A 50 piece orchestra, with conductor, thumping out popular pop and classical classics. They also wheeled out what appeared to be all their big singing stars. Two in particular went down a storm. One a female opera singer who arrived out of the blue at the back of the theatre, clad in a long flowing white dress, and the other the latest Mongolian heart-throb (see Terelj postcard and photo album) who also, incidentally, had a whistle that would put Percy Edwards to shame! We’ve since heard one of his songs a number of times on the radio – must be his latest hit. Phil had been really skeptical and ready to ‘blame the Jocks’ for a dire night out, but turned out he really enjoyed it – possibly also because he was sitting next to an attractive Mongolian young woman who was overcome by swooning - at the heart-throb, not Phil! The evening of culture was rounded off by a visit to the Khan Brau pub (what else!) for a couple of late night beers (brews its own to Eric’s delight) where we bumped into Ben, Richard, Becky, Jeff and Bev from the Moscow to Irkutsk train! Live band came on, which we expected from the warm up to give us some rock classics, like Smoke on the Water, but instead turned out some pretty slick Mongolian pop rock. For the next two days, see Terelj postcard and photo album. Last day in UB. Went round the Natural History Museum. Lots of minerals, meteorites, artifacts etc, but highlight was excellent display of dinosaur remains found in the Gobi Desert (which is not surprising as it’s just down the road). Then back to the State Opera and Ballet Theatre for a performance of Chinggis Khan – The Opera. A very enjoyable, lavish, dramatic performance featuring a vast array of colourful costumes (wondered if they were borrowed from the Costume Museum?). A snip at just over £3 each for the 4th row of the front stalls. Eric and I were both very pleased to see a guest appearance by Spike Milligan as one of the Mongol warriors – made us quite homesick for a few seconds, eh Neddie? At the break Eric was chuffed to be interviewed by members of the production team who were interested to hear a foreigner’s view of the opera. Unfortunately no photography was allowed so no photos for the album, but we were there, honest. Rounded the night off with a meal at the Silk Road Bar & Grill, which was recommended as a must in Lonely Planet. Nice setting and quite good food, but nothing to rave about. All in all we’ve really enjoyed Mongolia and wish we could have seen and done more. The two main things for us are that the people are so lovely and it’s a completely different sort of country from anywhere else we’ve been so far.