We took a short break from the TransMongolian train and for the leg into Mongolia, we took the Ulan Ude to Ulaanbaatar Bus. The bus is a good way to travel because it’s much cheaper than the train and it’s much faster.
The bus drive was beautiful. At the Mongolian border, I was nervous as the only person on the bus without a Mongolian visa, which wasn’t required for Americans at the time. There were no problems… I was easily stamped in!
The Russia/Mongolia border to the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar was an easy trip. This was the biggest traffic jam we saw:
Arriving in Ulaanbaatar was a traffic nightmare. This city of over a million people and most of the population of Mongolia doesn’t have any expressways – just a 6 lane, red stop light street that cuts west-east thru the city. It’s called “Peace Avenue” but there is no peace on that road – just honking cars.
At our hostel, we met up with the other 3 ladies who were going to be on our 7-day tour to the Gobi Desert – Diane, a retiree from West Seattle, Joy, an actress from NYC, and Amanda, a Canadian who had been teaching English in Korea.
After our tour to the Gobi, Edna and I had another full day in Ulan Bator. We visited the largest monastery in the country.
The natural history museum is a good laugh. Some of the displays are so sad, but there is an excellent dinosaur fossil exhibit, sponsored by a foreign party. Then I walked around the capital,
had a beer at the Irish pub,
and attended the Mongolian cultural show at the National Theater.
An amazing night of dance, symphony with instruments I’d never seen before, and Mongolian throat singing. Although many instruments were string instruments and versions of violin, cello, etc., they were adorned by carved horse heads!