Me-go: Around-the-World

Arriving in Mongolia


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My flight from Seoul to Ulaan Baatar was a bit bumpy and shaky but not such a bad three and a half hours. It’s always surprising how long it takes to fly between these Asian cities because they look so close on a map. MIAT is not an airline known for good service or reliable aircraft but there aren’t many choices flying to Mongolia. The tray table next to me was broken and wouldn’t stay up. A stewardess came back with white medical tape and taped it up which lasted for a good 20 minutes before it slammed back down again. Luckily I had the row to myself and enough room to write in my sketchbook. The meal was rather bland, and I probably shouldn’t have turned down the wine which I assume was to make you forget how bad it was.

Standing in line at immigration I was nervous because I didn’t have a visa. I knew that, as an American, I didn’t need a visa but everywhere I looked I saw places to write your visa number and type or a booth to get a visa. The immigration officer barely looked at my passport and gave me a green entry stamp. There is no information on there except the date, but I am told it is valid for 90 days but if I want to stay longer than 30 I have to register with the police.

My baggage as waiting for me and when the exit door opened I was confronted with a mob of happy Mongolian faces waiting for someone. A man toward the back was holding a sign with my name and I followed him out to his car. In 30 minutes I was at my hostel, UB Guesthouse, and checking in. The entrance to the hostel is in the courtyard between 4 building blocks. Looking at it you would assume the entire area is under construction because it’s surrounded by fencing, piles of dirt and crumbling plaster. In fact, this is basically how all of Ulaan Baatar looks. Walking down the street it is easy to fall into an open manhole or step in something disgusting. I thought I would need some time to really look around but I think I’ve seen plenty already. Besides, I will definitely be in town for the Naadam Festival in the middle of July so I will have plenty of time to see any more sights then.

I’ve met up with a woman from Northern Ireland who’s arrived by train from Moscow. We met online when plannign our trips and decided to book a tour together when we arrived. Tours of the countryside mostly include the cost of the car, driver and gas so it’s best to get 4-5 people to share the cost. We’re working out just how many people we can find to go with us and it’s looking promising that we can leave town on the 19th. We want to go South to the Gobi as well as West and North to White Lake and Khovsgol up North. This is probably going to have to be broken into two separate trips with a day or tow in-between to refuel, buy food and get a good shower in UB. At this point it looks like we’ll be going up North first for 10 days, since there’s a group of us ready. Everyone goes to the Gobi so it’s much easier to find other people to go on that trip. The North trip is 9-10 days and the Gobi is 7-8 days. In any case, I may have access to internet at one town along each route, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.

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