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Terelj National Park

Tuesday 12th July

Sara, the head of the school Gabi worked at, and Bat-Bold, the school accountant, had offered to take Peter and me out to Terelj National Park. We waited outside for them in the little park between the apartment blocks: there were mothers with infants and milk containers, doing washing; older women in traditional dress, sitting talking; a pair of young women; kids; people walking through; a few cars going by.

We changed cars, picked up Jerry (another teacher at the school), went to the supermarket for food, then drove out to Terelj.

Terelj National Park
We stopped at a ovöö along with some local tourists who were also doing the circling and being photographed on yaks, in front of the ovoo, etc. We also stopped at a "turtle rock".

The first hotel we tried was too busy, so we went to the restaurant attached to another. This was much bigger than the ger camps we'd seen on the Intrepid tour: in addition to thirty gers it had wooden cabins, a concrete hotel, and tennis and basketball courts. A whole busload of Japanese disembarked while we were there.

Terelj is touristy — visitors off the trans-Mongolian with just a day or two in Mongolia go out there — and there were flash looking ger camps everywhere. And the areas we saw seemed almost "manicured", far from wilderness. I don't think you'd have had to walk far to get right away from it all, however.

Talking to Sara and Bat-Bold gave us a different view of Mongolia. They were both urbanised and entrepreneurial in outlook: as well as running the school, they'd started their own travel company and were interested in web sites and so forth.

After lunch Bat-Bold and Peter and I walked up a small hill, into the larch and beech forest, leaving the other two to sit. It was cool under trees, but the flies were bad and as it had been dry there were grasshoppers.

On the way back there was a rainstorm — the first real rains of the season, and there were some flooded roads in UB and even piles of hail outside Gabi's apartment! While we'd been having fun, poor Gabi had been wrestling with a Shanghai English textbook... trauma.

trying to catch pigeons
Peter and Gabi didn't feel like going out, but I was feeling a bit restless so I set off by myself and caught a taxi to the Gandantecgchinlen (Gandan) monastery. This was shut, but it was very peaceful, with just a few boys putting out grain and trying to catch pigeons — perhaps for release in ceremonies.

A nearby hill gave me a good view over the city.

an Ulaanbaatar panorama (big version for panning across)

I walked back across Ulaanbaatar to Gabi's place, stopping at a pub/cafe for a supper. There was no English on the menu, even though the prices were in US dollars, but with the help of a waiter I managed to order spaghetti bolognese for 50c. Being near the colleges, the place was full of students and felt very much like a university hangout.

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