Sunday, May 1, 2016

Two Markets

I've been to two markets in Ulaanbaatar, and they couldn't be more different. The first one is the State Department Store. This is like Macy's on steroids, if Macy's were the size of a Wal-Mart. It is seven stories high. The first floor has a grocery store, and all the other floors have all kinds of stuff. Actually, I only went up to the fifth floor, so I don't even know what is on the top two floors. My tolerance for shipping is just not that high.  It's probably pretty overpriced by Mongolian standards, though not too overpriced for Westerners. The grocery store is pretty decent, though; I bought a lot of stuff there since it was close to my hostel.

The second market is the Naran Tuul, and it is the complete opposite. The Naran Tuul, or black market, is an enormous shopping mall-slash-flea market gone rogue. It is one of the most dangerous places in Ulaanbaatar. Supposedly you can get just about anything here, if you know who to ask and where to go. People randomly get charged a cover charge to come in, but I didn't get charged. Guess that must mean that I run with the in crowd. Ha. I didn't get robbed there either, which I took as a good sign. I did take some precautions that made me feel a little safer. There is a covered part with narrow, winding catacombs, and then an uncovered part on the outskirts. There are designer labels on fake goods, and some of them are spelled terribly Abibas, Calvin Klain, and My Little Phony (the last of which is kind of aptly ironic). The whole thing is surrounded with shipping containers containing goods, and there are also shipping containers scattered throughout the interior. I didn't want to leave without buying SOMETHING, even though I really didn't need any consumer goods (well, i needed a scarf and maybe a balaclava for colder climates, but I didn't find anything like that). So I bought a bag of what looked like donut holes from a vendor who was selling bread products from a shopping cart for all of about fifty cents. They turned out to be more like bread balls, but they were tasty, and I spent a couple of days munching on them. There are some real deals; you could probably buy a pair of pants for five to ten bucks, for example. If I lived in Ulaanbaatar, I would probably buy a lot of my day-to-day stuff here.

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