Thursday, April 28, 2016

More Goings On in Ulaanbaatar

I wonder if I should be worried about the fact that Mongolia has a Department of Pickpockets. There seems to be a lot of information about how there is a lot of pickpocketing here. So far, I haven't had any problems. I have to watch out for the maneuver whereby someone blocks you in front, someone blocks you in back, preventing retreat, and a third person rips you off. Or variations on that theme. The main thing is that there are apparently people working in groups to steal stuff.

Yesterday, I picked up my train tickets for the next leg of my journey. Finding the place was relatively difficult, but I gave myself the whole day to do it. In fact, I found it by early morning. There were no street names in the directions I was given, and a crudely drawn map showed the place as being directly behind Sukhbaatar Square, when in fact, it was over a kilometer behind it. I couldn't figure out how to get the door open to either enter or leave the building (upon leaving, I was trapped in a small, completely dark chamber for a bit between an inner and an outer door), but in both cases, I just followed someone else who obviously had expertise in opening doors.

But I had a good time wandering around and taking in the sights of the city. Ulaanbaatar is relatively compact and easily walkable. When I first got here I was overwhelmed and disoriented, but now I have a pretty good handle on how the city is set up. There are visible mountains to the north and south, so once one becomes familiar with them, it is easy to become oriented.

After picking up my ticket, I just wandered around for a while. I ended up finding a vegan restaurant that was attached to a Buddhist temple near one of the museums. It had really delicious food, and I got to experience traditional Mongolian food done vegan. Everything on the menu looked delicious, and I wish I could have just sampled a little of everything.

I met an American guy a couple of nights ago who is a visiting scholar from Albuquerque working with one of the museums. He was telling me about an effort he was working with to save a Mongolian horse from extinction, and that it had been brought back to viability from only 11 known individuals. I told him that it seems that the remaining individuals would be pretty genetically homogeneous, but he did that wasn't the case, as the ones remaining had been scattered around the world in zoos, rather than being a small band in one place.

Every once in a while I will hear people speaking English in public, but this is rare. Yesterday, I ran into a couple of German guys I had met on the train in the city, and we were surprised and glad to see each other.

More wanderings on the agenda for today.  It was below freezing when I woke up this morning around sunrise, but it warms up really early morning, it will probably be at least 8C (around 50F), and the high is supposed to be around 19C (maybe 70-ish F).

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