Photo credit to Melissa Weinmann for the photo above.
Hello from a balmy -15ºF (-22ºC) in the coldest capital city on the planet: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia!
After chugging along from Irkutsk, Russia, our attendants woke us all up at 6:15am, giving us about 30 minutes to dress up, warm up, and take down our sheets. Our train pulled in right on time at 6:45am.
And the cold just hit us IN THE FACE.
But our two local contacts Enda and MTT Ganba were there waiting for us on the platform, holding my name on a placard.
Enda comes from Modern Mongol Hostel, and was gracious enough to arrange us a driver and a comprehensive 2 day itinerary I helped him design, while MTT Ganba of Mongolia Train Tickets was there to provide us our onward Trans-Mongolia train tickets from Mongolia into China. Two trustworthy services I highly recommend.
They took our bags and drove us to Tom N Tom’s Coffee where were able to warm up our toes, charge up our electronics/cameras, and get on the internet to deliver this blogpost from yours truly.
While leaving our stuff to charge back at the café, we crossed the street to head up the 300+ steps for the Zaisan Memorial, a memorial complex that honors the Soviet soldiers of World War 2 that fought for Mongolian independence.
Keep in mind the subzero temperatures and the altitude…this climb can be more difficult than expected.
After 15 minutes, we were up at the top and treated to gorgeous views of Ulaanbaatar, the Tuul River, and its surrounding mountains:
Once up here, linger for the views and the 360º murals depicting the fall of Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan, the friendship between the USSR and the Mongolian people, and the launch of the Soyuz space capsule.
The sun begins to rise at 8:40am but doesn’t quite reach above the mountains at this time of year:
But once it does rise, so does the city:
…except for the pollution, which was unfortunate to acknowledge (all of us are wearing our N95 respirator masks right now; the difference in breathing with and without is quite stark here).
We then headed back to the shelter of the café, warmed up again, topped off our electronic charges and headed out to Terelj National Park.
We stopped by a Dinosaur Park inside the National Park along the way. Unfortunately it was shuttered, but it didn’t stop me from jumping over the fence and getting up closer:
Then we drove by Turtle Rock:
As we settled into our ger/yurt prepared by a local Mongolian family who lived just past Turtle Rock, we met a fellow Austrian traveller Kevin, who had also recently signed up for a YPT tour to North Korea:
For $20/hr we explored the park on horseback:
…and enjoyed a peaceful sunset over the mountains:
Then, fueled by the sheer thrill of the challenge, we decided to go streaking in -30ºC (-22ºF) weather. It wasn’t so bad; we lasted about 2 minutes outside.
We also took about a whole hour struggling to keep our fire going in our gers, and ended up giving up and making a massage train instead.
Currently we’re waiting for the moon to set so we can see the stars better, as well as our newest addition Mihaela to arrive directly from the airport where she will continue with us the rest of the way to China and Tibet.
Welcome to this wacky little travel family Mihaela!
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- At time of posting in Terelj National Park, Mongolia, it was -30 °C - Humidity: 77% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear