I woke up to find myself travelling across a seemingly endless flat plain, which resembled the deserts I crossed in Australia, particular the Nullarbor Plain. This place had a lot in common with it – only the colour composture was slightly different. Darren and I headed down the carriages to have breakfast.
The scenery changed shortly after, as we got closer to the city of Ulaanbaatar. And it was getting beautiful. This place is a naturalist’s dream. I was amazed with what I saw. Then the change in culture came as we approached civilisation. People had their ger tents pitched up along the wooden fences – I was in a different world.
By 1pm, we had reached the station at Ulaanbaatar. I packed my things, and dismounted from the train. I looked for the agent that would have been holding my name sign up. I eventually found her – a woman. We greeted eachother, and I was taken and transferred to my homestay. I didn’t know if Darren would be in the same homestay.
On the way, the roads were chaotic. This is by far the worst driving I have ever witnessed. People here are not patient at all when it comes to driving, it seems. Everyone wants to be first; there’s no waiting. It’s even worse than it is in Athens, and that’s saying something. That’s saying a lot, in fact.
Nonetheless, I was safely transferred to the homestay. I was going to see how people live here. It wasn’t too different from what I experienced in Latvia two years ago. Same soviet-style apartment blocks, with about three main rooms per apartment.
Surprisingly, I met Darren, who was in one of the bedrooms. He said he figured he’d see me again.
So, I unloaded my stuff and took a break. I planned to go out into the city with Darren for a bit. I was hungry, and we wanted to find a place to eat. So we headed out, and walked towards the city centre, which wasn’t too far.
On the way, we entered a restaurant pub. I decided to order some dumpling soup. I was keen to have them, yet again, just like I did two years ago in Latvia. I missed those dumplings. Darren ordered some Greek salad.
We chatted away and enjoyed our meal. At the end of it, when it was time to pay the bill, we found out that we had to pay a 200% foreigner tax. We were both appalled. Darren was quite angry, and he was ready to leave without paying the tax. The tax added was 20,000 Mongolian Tugrik, equivalent to about $20. That’s $20 added to the price of what we ordered.
We ended up paying; not without a complaint though, and left. Thanks to them, I’ll have to pull out money again from an ATM, which was something I didn’t originally want to do. You learn from experience, I guess. That was the second time I’ve been scammed. First, the teahouse in Beijing, and now, a pub in Mongolia. These people seem to love getting money out of you. We know not to go to that pub again; hopefully matters won’t be the same when we try somewhere else.
We headed into the city centre to continue our day. It was time for some sightseeing. We took some photos of the Government House and hung around for a while. We visited some shops, and a supermarket to buy some supplies. We bought ourselves some noodles. At least we won’t have to pay any ridiculous tax on these. We could cook them at the homestay with their hot water.
Upon returning to the homestay, I had a nap, as I was a bit tired. Then I had my noodles. I wasn’t going to go out for the rest of the day, so I went into Darren’s room and we hung for a bit. He was using the computer, so I asked if I could hop onto facebook and do some picture uploading. He managed to connect to a free Wi-Fi spot. Then he connected Skype and had a chat to his girlfriend, while I sat back and had a read of his Russian phrasebook. It was good to hang for a while, and tomorrow morning, I would be off to Terelj National Park.