Beer tent

You know the saying that there’s two things certain in life: death and taxes.

I actually prefer to say there’s three things certain in life: death, taxes, and if you go out drinking with Batbold and Craig you know that at some point, something, err, unexpected will happen.

On this particular night, we ended up in a massive beer tent with at least 500 Mongolians cheering on the opening of the EU soccer tournament thingy. I don’t even like soccer! But apparently Mongolians love it.

Just four friends, hanging out, having a beer - not so strange, right?

You could only buy beers that were bigger than my head...

... and they required two hands to drink them.

There was a very important looking journalist there...

... who was interviewing a very important looking man... oh yeah, that's the Mongolian Prime Minister.

Craig suddenly turned into a pro soccer player...

... me and Batbold, not so much.

To be fair, there’s been stranger nights out with these two guys. But walking into a beer tent with over 500 Mongolians, cheerleaders, rock bands, pop idols and the Mongolian Prime Minister and his entourage (including burly security guys)… it’s a little up there.

Around Town #2

I thought a video would help you get a better idea of what UB is like.

This starts just outside our apartment block, and finishes in front of the State Department Store.

What this video doesn’t show is the crazy traffic you often experience here. For whatever reason(s), it was an eerily quiet Sunday.

Oh, and FYI – I make no apologies for any motion sickness this video causes you. Welcome to my world. Bumpy roads combined with the heaters blaring in cars can often make for some very green passengers!


Polluted city

I mentioned in the below post that the pollution in UB is bad.

I wasn’t kidding.

The annual average particulate matter concentrations are 14 times higher than WHO’s recommended level.

Some reports consider it to be the second most polluted city in the world. In other words, it’s worse than Beijing.

It is seasonal pollution though. It is mainly related to the burning of coal, wood, tyres (yep, bad) but wait it gets words… dogs. A local told me this. I was horrified, as I can imagine you are. I guess what they were trying to get across is that when you need to keep warm, you will burn anything. There are also coal-fired power plants that spew smoke over the city, which is a valley surrounded by mountains that trap the pollution.

On a good day

On a bad day

Around town

I’m going to make the effort to put up more pix of what UB looks like.

For two reasons: 1) I get the sense you guys are genuinely interested in seeing these pix. People often ask me what it looks like, and I guess my response of: ‘Kind of like a deserted Soviet outpost, on account of it being a deserted Soviet outpost’ doesnt’ really help.

The second reason I will be posting more pix is because it’s an easy way to keep this blog updated now  I have found myself a job.

I blame this whole job business on Kai. He was in a meeting, they mentioned the need for someone to help with communications, he suggested they give me a call. So they did. And now my days of updating blogs and playing Bridge are over.

I try not to complain too much, because it really is an excellent opportunity. I am working for the internal change management communications team. There is no shortage of work to be done, and when you’re talking change management in a land like Mongolia… well, there’s no shortage of challenges either.

But it does mean my hilariously funny blog posts will be less frequent (feel free to blame Kai for this too). Ergo, I shall attempt to satiate your Shantasia appetitie with photos from around the traps. Deal? Ok, good.

Let’s start with these:

This is within our apartment compound, walking home from the grocery store (about a five minute walk away). Every time I see the mountains in the background, I can't help but think that old mate Chinggis Khan once roamed around there. That's pretty cool...

Taken from the window of the Irish Castle pub, which is right next to the supermarket we were walking home from in the above shot. We live about 4km from the city. It's a straight run into town on this road. In this photo you can see the pillow of smog that clouds the city. It's from a number of pollution sources, but namely the fires they burn in the Ger district to keep warm.

Taken from the 11th floor of my office building. You can see Sükhbaatar Square in the distance, which is right in front of Government Palace. The reason I took this photo was because of the protesters gathering in the square.

This was the group of protesters gathering. We had been given a security warning that they might attempt to enter our building to protest against one of the other companies that are located there. They didn't. The trade unions are basically protesting a heap of domestic issues including high cost of food and fuel. It's election year (elections are in June), and the protests will only get more heated and intense.

Mall of Mongolia

The Black Market (Naran Tuul) is UB’s answer to Jinger’s Tats & Bunnies (Dong Jiao).

Although the few times I have been there, I have seen neither a bunny, nor a dodgy tattoo parlour operating out of a portaloo… so in other words, it’s not quite as good.

I suppose, to be fair, the bunnies and the tats could be lurking there somewhere. Not only is this market huge, it is also completely outdoors. Which translates to, ‘get what you need, and get the eff out of there before you are frozen solid’.

And, for the benefit of my loyal readers, I risked frost bite by taking off my mittens so I could get these photos for you. Do you know how long it takes to type these posts with only one finger left?

Anyone for a couch?

Ridiculous temperatures aside, check out that blue sky!

Kai was in heaven - the hardware section... lots of hacksaws and other sheep chopping tools.

Even the locals look cold, right?!

Familiar faces

You don’t tend to think of UB as a popular stopover city. But in just one week we had two friends pass through. I suppose it helps that they’re working on a project in the Southern Gobi (as you do), but still, I hope it keeps up, because it’s always a treat seeing familiar faces!

Thanks for visiting Bill!

Hey Cleary, bet you're jealous you didn't get a kiss from me!

New hometown

Ulan Bator is rough and ready; a frontier town. It isn’t very sparkly or glamorous, but it has a strange charm about it. After a month of living here, I find the city quite endearing.

Here are some snaps I took on a recent drive around town… nothing terribly exciting, but with you lot pestering me for pictures I thought it time I showed off my new hometown!