Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Sunday 6th October - Arrival in Ulaan Baatar

Another rough night's sleep, and several pre-alarm awakenings mean we're as grizzly as our Chinese carriage guard is this morning. He's attempting to wrestle our bed sheets from under us while we're packing our bags and getting dressed for the chilly early morning arrival in Mongolia's capital. He's happy to see the back of us and prep our compartment for whoever maybe taking our place as we descend blinkingly into the Mongol dawn at 6.30am.Trip hazards and taxi-hawkers await. Will and Phie are heading to a hostel close by, whilst Anna and myself must negotiate for a taxi uptown to our hotel:

The taxi driver was more keen on Chinese yuan than the Mongolian tugriks
 that we assiduously swapped our Rubles for with a black marketeer on the train last night. The first guy offered us 35 Mongolian per Ruble, we settled with the nice lady who came third for a good rate of 45. Thank God Anna successfully organised an early check in, because we're shattered.  We drop our bags in our room on the 18th floor, grab a quick bit of breakfast and a panoramic snap of the view before crashing into bed for three desperately needed hours kip.

We restart the day with some admin, planning and hotel hand-washing, before making it back out

into the world around four. The Chojin Lam Buddhist temple complex lies directly behind our hotel, and though closed today, makes a good photo opportunity juxtaposing UB's old with it's new:

We find ourselves on the steps of the Mongolian national theatre at 4.55, five minutes before the start of thus evening's performance. Tonight it's Chinggis Khan the opera, by B. Sharav and for 10000 (£4) each we secure tickets and head on in. 
The audience are as entertaining as the production; some are in beautiful national dress, other older gents are wearing suits emblazoned with service medals, none of them switch off their mobile phones which ring constantly throughout with the old Nokia signature tune. Some calls are answered, and chatting throughout the performance is not seen as disruptive. Just as we'll the soloists are true pros and give some excellent voice to the Mongolian libretto.

We happily initiate a standing ovation and leave smiling knowing that Genghis Khan is the true hero of all Mongolian culture, despite not really having a clue about what we just saw, or being able to tally any of it with the excellent Jack Weatherford biography I'm reading.

Obviously time for a pose in front of Genghis' statue, and a couple of quick pints at the Grand Khaan Irish Pub before bed at the end of day one in Mongolia

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