Friday, March 13, 2009

A new flat

My flat is in the green building

Views from the window

I moved into a new flat at the weekend, my former landlord's son had returned from Korea and wanted the flat. I am pleased with my new home, tho not as smart as my former penthouse, it is closer, a 5 minute walk, to the centre of town, quieter as it is not right above the largest road junction in UB, and better laid out. The furnishing is spartan but i like the space. The fridge does not work but at present I can use the balcony as freezer, unfortunately the milk was solid after being left out overnight. There is even a TV and I spent an hour this morning watching BBC World News for the first time for a year.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Back to UB

I returned to UB on 21 Feb after a 4 week break enjoying the tropical beaches of lamma island hong kong. UB was still cold. I was also just in time for my third new year celebrations, the Mongolian New Year, tsaagan sar is linked to lunar cycles and this year was at the end of febuary. Celebrations are largely family based and involve eating large amounts of buzz, mutton dumplings. One of the customs is to decorate significant hills and trees, a link to shamanistic religions.

Returning to UB I was struck by the pollution, a dirty haze and an ever present acrid taste of dirty coal. Just before I left for HK I was interviewed for a magazine about tourism potential of Ulaanbaatar. A difficult interview, as although I really enjoy living here it is an ugly city, with heavy pollution, poor infrastructure and transport and the few historic buildings do not bear comparison with similar sites elsewhere in the world. I did not wish to offend my Mongolian colleagues by criticisng their city but at the same time I did not wish to give unrealistic expectations about international tourism. I do think Mongolia is a great destination, but that greatness is because it is the last surviving nomadic culture in a harsh beautiful and largely undeveloped landscape. UB is just the jumping off point, not a destination in its own right.

The cold weather gives me a chance to indulge my pleasure in wearing hats, and Mongolia must be the best place in world to be able to wear what would in the UK be a silly hat, and get away with it.