My stay in Ulaanbaatar was ok but uneventful really. The beauty of Mongolia lies in the vast rolling openness of the country and not, in my humble opinion, the capital or any of its towns / cities. It has pretty much the same shops as most western cities and outside the centre you can find all manner of Branded and non-branded goods. One major downer that I suffered was finding I had lost my Tiley Hat!!! The green Tiley hat I have been wearing is a beautiful thing…it has a lifetime guarantee if damaged etc but this unfortunately does not cover it being left somewhere by a biff like myself. I THINK it may be somewhere in drug dealer blokes car but I’m not 100% sure. A new Tiley hat has gone to the number 1 spot on things to buy on my short return to home (also with that go boots and trousers as both are falling to pieces!).
I caught the night train from the capital out towards the border with china. It travels across the Gobie Desert which is a beauty to behold. It’s rolling plains stretch to the horizon with just some very low grass / vegetation as a slight covering. I watched the desert roll past for an hour until it got dark and then had a reasonable sleep. I did have to laugh at the Chinese guy on the top bunk opposite who was not afraid to let a good rip roaring fart go, even if he was in a packed carriage and I even had an urge to join in but the ‘iffy guts’ situation is still not 100% resolved and I didn’t want to risk it!.
The next morning we crossed the border after another 2 hours check on the Mongolian side before leaving the country; in comparison the checks on the Chinese side went …”passport please…thank you….enjoy your stay In China” an apart from electronic fingerprints, that was it!!
The border town on the Chinese side is Erlian or also known as Ernehot . I presume (but we know what presumption did), that it has grown purely because of the border crossing point and also the fact that it is a major point for palaeontology, with a major fossils location just outside the town. It’s not a big city at all and has been built on a grid system. You could walk one end of the city to the other in less than an hour and less than half our width wise. It is a bit ‘Stepford Wives’ in that its immaculate, the cars do not go above 20-25mph (which is a good job as EVERYONE just pulls out or turns without looking), and it seems everyone owns a shop! (Don’t forget this is in the middle of the Gobie desert).
The fossil area has been turned into ‘Dinosaurs Land’ and I am again presuming that when it opened they had very grand ideas of a themed park type affair that would attract thousands of visitors…unfortunately they may have forgotten that they are in the middle of the Gobie Desert and the only people there the locals and a train passing through every 2-3 days. I visited the park and enjoyed myself wandering the site; it has areas where they have uncovered many fossils and have left the pits open and built structures over them to preserve the finds. I enjoyed the place and would recommend that if you ever find yourself in the middle of the Gobie Desert and have a spare couple of hours on your hands that you need to fill before dying of thirst, then the Dinosaurs wonderland on the Chinese / Mongolian Border could help take your mind of impending doom!
I looked for accomodation online before I left Mongolia and found a very cheap hotel right on the edge of the city. I wondered what it would be like as it was Uber cheap compared to those in the centre …17 minute walk away!...wen I got there it was fantastic, the hotel was excellent, the staff brilliant and I basically had the place to myself….it was top draw.
I caught the night sleeper bus the Beijing and it took just less than 12 hours; I arrived in the capital this morning whilst still dark and had no idea where I was. I also had no internet as the “great firewall of China’ is basically stopping 99% of every app I have on iPhone – iPad working. Now for those clever sods who are saying ‘well….You need a VPN which will allow you access to everything’……well I bloody well bought one and its still not bloody working.
I took 2 tuc tuc rides which both took me to the same places (which were closed), and had one minor disagreement with one of the drivers who wanted to charge me enough to retire with; luckily enough being fat and ugly sometimes works in your favour and when I told him to go forth and multiply etc, he seemed happy to do so!
I have done some exploring today and will hit the centre tomorrow before pushing onto the airport for an early flight back to Blighty on Saturday.
THIS IS NOT THE END of this trek by any means…family comes first and I have to go back to see my dad and help where I can …BUT it will return to Beijing in the near future and continue….and I ill have a new Tiley Hat!