We have gotten to know the city of Ulaanbaatar reasonably well because Susanne stayed here more than two months and Martin almost six weeks. It is a city of contrast.
We both felt very comfortable in Ulaanbaatar. Maybe even too comfortable. For us it was the first city in a long time where everything was available although still with some quirks that we had also come across in Central Asia. Ulaanbaatar is definitely a city that gets under your skin.
The history of Mongolia is very interesting, from the time of Chinggis Khan, the development of Buddhism, the Soviet era and the democratic revolution. It is a country that is developing itself at a rapid pace, being confronted with all the hurdles that are a part of this process. Then there is the strong nomadic heritage and taking easy innovations not for granted in many areas, such as running water and heating. Traditions and superstitions are still very much evident. We were very lucky to celebrate Tsagaan Sar in UB where the old traditions became even more clear to us.
The streets of Ulaanbaatar show a modern and traditional Mongolia. Youngsters wear modern clothes, makeup, nice hair and dine in hip restaurants. At the same time people walk around in their heavy and colored beautiful deels, the traditional clothing. It really shows pride and heritage. In the center modern buildings rise up, but only two kilometers out of the center people live in gers or their simple houses without the luxury of running water, heating and with a drop toilet outside. Soviet remembrances are apparent in the city and luckily still a few temples remain (after the soviets destroyed almost all in the country). Life is hard work, but the people expect it to be. Regretfully alcoholism is also seen on the streets.