3Nations: Ulaanbaatar

Have a look at previous 3Nations posts on the Expedition Page. Go on, you know you want to!

Saturday 25th July 2009

Today was rather different from most of the days here in Mongolia. Instead of the Aravts pairing off and going to do activities separately, we were all going to be heading out as one big happy family!

The plan... taking in some of the sites of Ulaanbaatar! woo hoo, touristy fun! I'm always a fan of touristy fun.

First stop was the Gandan Buddhist Monastery. Which was packed with tourists, or at least it felt like it after the quiet of camp.
Ok... doesn't look as busy as I remember it...
We'd waited about a bit, waiting to find out exactly what was happening. I think someone was supposed to show us around, but that didn't turn out, so we eventually just started wandering round like the rest of the tourists. Right round the back of those buildings was a load of prayer wheels, which led us round to a prayer room, where there was a load of monks chanting. Unfortunately there was also a load of tourists surrounding and blocking the entrance, so I didn't really get to see anything.

But turns out, this was only a small part of the monastery. We found a temple nearby with possibly the biggest Buddha I have seen (and I've seen some big Buddhas in my time)
I didn't take the photo, cause of all the signs saying not too. But one of the others was naughty and snapped this quick one. Yes, it is a Buddha statue. Looks rather Hindu in style I thought; what with the 4 arms, breasts and the spot on its forehead.

Actually, check this out. It's a 360 view from inside the temple itself!

How cool is that!! Anyway, I asked Dawn, one of the leaders on the trip who is Buddhist, about the statues form and she said different statues were aimed at getting different aspects of the Buddha across symbolically.

After exploring the temple we were then taken to our next location, a sauna. A chance to get properly clean was a very welcome prospect at this stage, since we left China we'd been washing in buckets from water you had to heat over the fire. The showers were nice and strong, the green tea bath was very refreshing and the freezing plunge pool took your breath away. The fact that all the guys were in together and we were all completely naked.... *shudder*... I saw FAR TO MUCH of some people. and before any of you ask, NO there are no photos, and if there was any they would be hunted down and destroyed for the sake of humanity.

Moving on, after lunch we went to the National Museum of Mongolia, where we got to learn a bit about the history and culture of the country. I say a bit because only the first so many displays had english translations. We still enjoyed it tho, and I did get this:
It's my name in Mongolian
We were then given some free time around the main square area of the city before heading off for another meal. Myself and a couple of the others went in search of somewhere to post our postcards and I attempted to phone home (it was a stupid number of digits to use, like 20-30ish).

Dinner was followed by a visit to the Cashmere Market on our way to our final destination, Zaisan Hill. It's a huge memorial for Soviet Soldiers killed in World War 2 on the top of a hill just south of Ulaanbaatar.
Photo from travelblog.org
The inside of the ring is covered in a mural.

This panorama is just perfect actually, it looked exactly like this when we were there. Have a look round at the mural and see if you can find the woman breast feeding!

Thanks to those that I borrowed photos from, thanks also to 360cities.net for the awesome panorama views!