Thursday, April 28, 2016

Arriving in Ulaanbaatar

Well, crap. I was counting on having data in Mongolia, and was kinda blindsided by not having any. I thought I'd have a problem in China due to their blockage of websites, but in fact, I had no problem there. Now I don't know where my hostel is, if they will pick me up, or how to pick up my purchased tickets for the next leg of the Trans-Mongolian Railway. And I can't get online to find out. If I had realized that, I would have looked that all up ahead of time.  Gotta either find some WiFi pronto, or find a tourist bureau or something. Or both. I'm about a half hour away from Ulaanbaatar.

On top of that, I've been fleeced for every little snack I've bought since the train dining car changed to the Mongolian car. It's not too bad, it's just mildly annoying.  People can really use exchange rates against you if they are prepared and you are not. When I first walked into the dining car, the waiter just started bringing me stuff. Just coffee and snacky stuff, and then presented me with a bill that was about three times what I had paid for a full meal in the Chinese dining car. Then, later, I ordered a drink that was around four dollars, and paid in US currency with a twenty (he gave me the choice of paying with Chinese, Mongolian, or US money), and he was going to give me fifteen in change; a ten and a five. I told him he could give me Mongolian money as change, so he comes back with the equivalent of ten dollars in Mongolian money as change. I just can't stop doing things that get me ripped off more.

So I get to the train station. The hostel is definitely not there to pick me up. Everybody else I have been traveling with has a ride, and nobody has heard of this hostel. Shit. I go in the train station, ask at the information desk, they have no idea what I am talking about. I have nothing other than (thank god! otherwise there is no way I would have found the place or remembered the name) the address in English and the phone number and name of the place that I had entered in my calendar app. Nobody can decipher it; I ask if I can use the phone to call them by putting my extended thumb and little finger up to my ear like a phone cradle, but they shake their heads to indicate no.

I am getting nowhere fast. I sit around for a while, and then some lady takes me by the hand and leads me outside. There is a taxi there, I show him the stuff I have in English, and he is perplexed. BTW, Mongolian addresses have no street name in them. They might be something like "Room #39, Entrance 2, Building 10A, Sukhbataar District, Ulaanbaatar." And the English versions are completely indecipherable to someone who doesn't speak English.

He tries to make some calls, including calling the number I have for the hostel, and gets nowhere. I don't think they are answering the phone. He motions me to get in the cab,  so I do.  He starts driving, but I don't think he knows where he is going.

He keeps trying to call the hostel, but gets no answer.  So he is just driving around, I'm pretty sure. Somebody calls him, it is the proprietor of the hostel. He talks to her for a few minutes, and he looks at me and says, "OK," and makes a thumbs-up gesture. He wants me to talk on the phone; the manager speaks English. She says she is in the country, and will be in town in about two and a half hours. She says I can wait at the first door of the State Department Store. I repeat this back to her vacantly. I have no idea what is happening.

We drive a pretty good distance from the bus station, and I have no idea where we are. This is the first hostel that I have not had any means to follow where I am and where I am going. He drives up to a place, and motions me to get out. He will take me to it. 

I follow him into a building, up the stairs, to the third floor.  There is a sign there with the name of the hostel. Good, we are at the right place. I pay the guy, he leaves me there, and I try to go in, but the door is locked. 

I knock on the door, but there is no answer. So I sit in the narrow staircase with my pack. There is a small child who is playing in the staircase, and she is curious about me. She tries to speak to me, and doesn't seem to understand that I don't speak Mongolian. All I can do in reply is smile kindly.  After a while she gets bored and goes to play upstairs. I keep sitting in the stairwell for a while, and then someone shows up with a key to the hostel, and lets me in. She speaks very little English, but is able to show me my bed. She tells me the owner is on her way. But at least now I know that I have a definite place to lay down.

I wait another hour and a half or so, and the hostel proprietor shows up. She speaks English, and I pay for my room. It's about twenty bucks for four nights.  I relax at the hostel for a while, then set out to check out the surroundings.

1 comment:

  1. That was very much like my arrival in Karaganda. I had a guy drop me off at my flat, but I couldn't figure out how the door to the building worked and nobody answered the phone. I didn't know where the school was. It's a pretty unsettling spot to be in. I'm glad you finally got there!