16 and 17 August,
We’re here! Landed in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia yesterday evening to warmth and sun after a delayed but wonderful flight from Hong Kong.
We departed an hour later, than scheduled after sitting at the gate in a very hot plane. The problem was a passenger who was having problems with Customs. No details available.
While we were in Hong Kong I asked a young waiter for a report on happenings outside the airport. He said the demonstrators were given an ultimatum that if anyone passed a barrier they’d be arrested. So I gather they are still at the departures area of the airport but not disrupting passengers or flights. No excitement so doubtless, now international news interest.
Our flight took us first over the South China Sea as we climbed away from Hong Kong. It’s a busy stretch of water with ferries and freighters heading in various directions. The sea is rimmed by golden sand crescent beaches, some of which seem completely isolated.
We flew over China’s industrial areas, agricultural stretches, wide rivers and forests.
Then I snoozed after a lamentable lunch. Upon waking, the Gobi desert stretched brown and seemingly endless below us. Here and there a molten gold or mercury coloured lake/pond shone metallic in the sun. Cloud shadows chased our plane’s shadow across the vast sweep of harsh land. Going to unknown, distant places a few tracks etched across the landscape.
Gradually the land below became greener and hilly. Not a tree to be seen. We were now flying over the steppes. As the plane lost altitude, small white dots revealed themselves as yurts. Sometimes single, sometimes in groups of three or four they generally sat within square fenced off areas. Finally the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar spread into the grass lands. The tower of a coal fired power plant belched some smoke into the air. Train tracks converged, apartment blocks piled close upon each other, the planed swept down to a gentle touchdown and long taxi.
Customs clearance was a little slow, we ended up being seen by the diplomats lineup agent. Our one checked bag was riding the belt when we arrived. Then we were being met by a young woman and we’re out the doors and into a nicely dusty van driven by a nicely aged man with tall riding boots. He spoke a few words of English, taught us two words of Mongolian. Nearly impossible to pronounce Byrtha for thank you. Most of the vehicles seem to be right hand drive but also drive on the right side of the road. Odd.
Our guest house is in a residential area. It isn’t fancy but clean and organized. A mall and restaurants are within one block. We exchanged money and still haven’t quite wrapped our heads around the 2500.00 to 1.00 conversion. Dinner wasn’t that great. Pat and I had lamb dumplings which turned out to be old mutton dumplings … we had a second Mongolian beer to wash down the taste.
Helen drew the short straw and is in the top bunk of a rather squeaky bunk bed. We’ve slept well, Pat has found us coffee and we are about to set out on a day of exploring.