Asia,  Mongolia,  Travel

Mongolia | The capital city of Ulaanbaatar

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Visit Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. This Splendid Shambles.

It’s not often you meet someone who’s been to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

But here you are, talking to one. *waves* If you’ve been around the blog for a little while, then you may be aware that I used to live in Ulaanbaatar as a kid. Just a couple of years, mind, but enough for it to be a part of my life in a rather large way. While I haven’t been back since I was 6, there are still memories I have of our time there, like going to school, going to countryside for breaks, and what our inner-city apartment used to be like. It was so great going back to the city and doing a little reminiscing.

Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. View from Zaisan memorial.

Ulaanbaatar is the capital city, and it’s a sprawling collection of old Soviet buildings, concrete structures and a definite lack of trees. But there are some really interesting parts of the city that we explored during our weekend there (we spent most of our time there at Terelj – that post is coming soon!).

Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, Sükhbaatar Square Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, Sükhbaatar Square

Sükhbaatar Square

The central point of the city is Sükhbaatar Square. It’s a huge open space with a statue of the square’s namesake, Damdin Sükhbaatar, at it’s core. On the north side there is the huge seated statue of Chinggis Khaan made of marble, with Ögedei Khaan and Kublai Khaan seated (and a lot smaller) on either end. Behind them is Government House.

The square once held anti-communism protests in the early 1990s (right before we arrived), which eventually led to the Russian moving out of Mongolia. Now the square is used for concerts, and the occasional rally, but mostly a place where tourists come to take photos and locals come to watch their kids ride around on bikes. There was a wedding happening while we there, which reminded me of the wedding we spotted in Japan.

Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, The National Museum of Mongolia. Monument sculpture.

The National Museum

The National Museum of Mongolia didn’t allow photographs to be taken inside (or rather, it did, but you had to pay more). But it was a great wander through the several rabbit-warren stories of the building. It’s a great overview of the history of Mongolia, with national dress displayed, old weapons, paintings, and of course, the written history of the country. It’s really interesting and well worth it if you’re ever going to visit Ulaanbaatar.

This monument/sculpture is located just outside in the courtyard, and is a stunning and moving representation of Mongolia breaking out of the oppression of the communist regime.

Zaisan Memorial. Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. Zaisan Memorial. Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. Zaisan Memorial. Ulaanbaatar Mongolia.

Zaisan Memorial

“Built by the Russians to commemorate ‘unknown soldiers and heroes’ from various wars, the Zaisan Memorial features stirring socialist realism imagery with Soviet mosaics and reliefs, including that of Stalin and Lenin.” – Lonely Planet says it better than I do.

It’s a long climb to the top of the Zaisan Memorial from the road, but our taxi driver took us up to the halfway mark, which was fantastic. We climbed at least 200 steps to get to the top, but on the way down it was at least that again, if not more. You can see the whole of Ulaanbaatar from the top, and the hills surrounding it. Due to pollution and smog, it wasn’t a clear view, but you can get the idea anyway.

Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. View from Zaisan memorial.

We spent some time in the big department store (tip: the top floor of the State Department Store is full of souvenirs. Would highly recommend the slippers!), and visited a few places close to where we were staying, including a book store. I may have bought Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Mongolian.

Stay tuned for more Mongolia posts!