Do not like early morning starts. Admittedly my 2 tent mates who fled to watch the sunrise (again) were up even earlier, but my bed was like a stone and had no desire to leave it. Unfortunately, I also made the mistake of trying to get the fire going on my lonesome, and was rewarded with a charred glove and 2 rather vicious blisters on my thumb and middle finger.
We were out of the Ger Camp early enough to get back to Ulanbaataar before noon, and had some free time in our rooms (sharing room for me this time) before we headed out for lunch. Some took the opportunity to go shopping for souvineers, and even though I already had my painting, I tagged along looking for postcards. We found some pretty quirky shops, though nearly all of them sold the same stuff, before ending up back at the square since one of us really wanted to buy a painting. While there, only one solo seller was around, with nothing we liked, so seemed a little like a lost trip. Spotted a film crew and the majority of the group decided to photobomb her in the background (bored and sleep deprived tourists are, well, bored and sleep deprived tourists). Of course, once that fun was over, what did we see out of the corner of our eye but no less than 5 sellers locked on us and heading our way.
The ‘original’ artist of my painting was there, and must have spoken to his son about the western girl buying his work because he knew I’d bought the horse painting a few days before. Had some new things this time, and ended up buying another one – probably shouldn’t have, but its very striking and made the mistake of thinking if something’s only about 7 pound its still cheap (which it is, but not on my budget if you buy more than one) as well as a canvas painting by another seller that I’d seen before and been thinking about for days. One of my tour mates had already done the primary haggling so I got it for about 3 quid.
Had to head back to the hotel or miss lunch at this point. We ended up in a little fast food like joint with a borderline tolerable menu. I was desperate to save money at this point so ended up ordering a chicken salad and some steamed bread. The bread was okay, the salad was mediocre – changed the ingredients apparently so looking nothing like its photo. Afterwards, it was more shopping, this time in the State Department Store just outside.
This place is a complete labyrinth of stores. A lot of us needed random things and Vogy said this was the best place to get the majority of them. She went off with someone in dire need to fuses (so far, every shop he’d been to laughed at him for the request), while I went off in search of some more Ibuprofen (the last 2 weeks decimated my supply – thankfully thats what its called in Mongolia too, so managed to get some for a slightly extortionate rate). Wandered round seeing what was available (this thing is about 8-10 floors and full of tiny little rooms – could have spent hours looking at everything) before getting distracted by a unmanned stand with some very pretty watches next to a repair stand. One was particularly nice, and not badly priced, but not with what I’d spent already – and it was also clearly closed right now.
Just then, Vogy and my tour mate (with fuse success) walked by and clearly noticed my torn expression so offered assistance. I look over at the repair booth…and then down at my broken 11 digit and bent hand.
Vogy was my godsend. She joined me at the repair booth and translated to the woman the issue and the price. In 15 minutes I have a completely repaired watch (admittedly not entirely certain how waterproof it is now) for less than a pound. Same repair job would have cost me 10-20 back home.
With the shopping done, we finally got to the museum that Vogy had tried to take us to the first day. She had to leave early on after the hotel called about a situation with one of our rooms, but we were basically given some time to wander at our pleasure and head back to the hotel at our own pace.
The museum was pretty interesting. Two of the floors were closed but it basically had the history of Mongolia up until just after the Mongol Empire fell. Plus a floor about the modern history and the political movements that brought Mongolians their independence.
When I had finished, only one other tour mate was around, so we headed back together. When we all gathered at the hotel, we headed out to do some shopping for the train tomorrow and to exchange our togruk – once you leave Mongolia it becomes worthless, can’t even exchange it – before heading out for dinner.
The two vegetarians in the group had heard about this great vegetarian restaurant called Luna Blanca and had been wanting to go ever since setting food in Mongolia. Since they’d rarely complained since travelling (and I’ll try anything once) we all set out to find it. Had to go down a few questionable streets, but did have success and got there before last orders.
Food was okay – very heavy on the soy meat and tofu which I didn’t really like (if I hit a veggie restaurant, I want to eat veg fooods, not meat substitutes), but the Miso Soup I had for a starter was really nice. When we were finished, the owner of the restaurant came over and started talking with us – she’d lived in America for a while so her English was excellent, and spoke to us about vegetarianism and bringing it to Mongolia. Its a lot more common now, but Mongolia has always been a very meat heavy country, so it is a challenge bringing it over at first. Probably helped by her daughter, who is actually a Mongolian popstar (and she gave us her debut albulm for free too!). Unfortunately, she also started talking about her friend who insists she lives on a diet of only water, and we all started to glaze over – don’t care what anyone says, that’s not possible.
Tomorrow is yet another early morning – we have to be up for 6:30 to get to the train station for 7:10. I’m just going to sleep on the train for a few hours when we set off again…