After streaking in -20ºF weather and sleeping in by the fire last night, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise in Terelj National Park.
After breakfast we headed out for about an hour back into the city…
…stopping by the 40m high, stainless steel Chinggis Khan Equestrian Statue, constructed at the banks of the Tuul River at the site where it was believed Genghis Khan found his legendary golden whip:
Inside (7000 MTG entry) is the “world’s largest Mongolian boot”:
Take the elevator up to the 3rd floor and walk up a few flights of stairs (coming out of Genghis Khan’s crotch…we did all come from Mongolians didn’t we?) to get amazing views of the steppe and beyond:
We then continued further another hour back into Ulaanbaatar, passing by the Zaisan Memorial in the south, which we had already visited yesterday (highly recommended). We drove up a bit north from Zaisan, stopping by the Bodh Khan Winter Palace, a Chinese temple unique for being one of the few structures spared by both the Mongols and the Soviets for unclear reasons (8000 MTG entry fee).
Then we headed to downtown Ulaanbaatar where in the middle of the city lies the Chojin Temple Museum belonging to the brother of Bodh Khan. The place is closed on Sundays and Mondays in the winter, which we found out the hard way.
Then we walked around Chinggis Square (formerly Sukhbaatar Square), the heart of the city and the central meeting place for demonstrations (most particularly the ones in 90s the ushered in democracy for Mongolia) and concerts.
In the center is a statue of Damdin Sükhbaatar, one of the leaders of Mongolia’s 1921 revolution, who faces the massive Government Palace with the Monument to Chinggis Khaan at its entrance.
Then we had lunch 3 minutes east of the square at the highly recommended Modern Nomads:
After lunch we headed northwest to Gandan Monastery, where over 600 monks live and still perform processional rituals at 9am.
At around 6pm we went shopping at the State Department Store to grab Mongolian cashmere (priced at about $20 USD for a scarf) and last minute grocery items for our upcoming 28-hour train ride to Hohhot, China.
There my friend from NYC, who grew up here, Gana, referred me to meet with her childhood friend here Shirako!
As Shariko enlightened us to life in Ulaanbaatar as a freelancer and clothing line designer, our ballsy group elected to have dinner at a North Korean restaurant called Pyongyang, one of the 100 or so chain restaurants outside of the DPRK that serve legit North Korean beer and cuisine such as dogmeat soup (seriously), cuttlefish BBQ, and “cold noodle”.
All their servers are handpicked for their youth, beauty, and all go through rigorous screening for their loyalty to the DPRK given that the worry for defection from these restaurants is high. Most randomly, most of them happen to be graduates of art schools, and none of us are sure why. When it gets more crowded, servers and staff perform a set of North Korean songs and dances from their days performing for the Arirang Mass Games.
Photography is not allowed in these restaurants, but…well…remember what I did on the 5th floor of the Yanggakdo Hotel 4 years ago?
After a quick hour dining here we dashed to the train station to catch our 8:45pm train for Hohhot, China.
It wasn’t long before we started drinking. Here’s to the next 28 hours on the train!
– At time of posting in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, it was -2.2 °F – Humidity: 70% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear