The same carriage attendant that did a great job of moving my stray feet during the night also did a great job of waking me prior to arriving in Ulaanbaatar at 7AM. However, she woke me too early, so I actually fell back asleep and had to hurriedly pack my things and get off the train. It was a horrible night’s sleep, but I guess I slept quite well. If it hadn’t been for the bed being way too small, it would have been fine. I felt a little sorry for our friend who was going to head in to work today (when the other girls have today off for some American holiday), that’s commitment, especially when she could have just called in sick and joined the rest of us for a lethargic day.
We went to Rosewood Café for breakfast, which is quite popular with the ex-pat community. I had a simple spinach omelette, and it was awesome, just a little light for someone like me – I should have ordered some sides.
Spent a few hours trying to find new glasses and contact lenses for Risa. Amazing how hard it was. First shop the optometrist was missing – first we were too early, then later he was away for lunch. Another shop didn’t even bother to do an eye test, and the prices were phenomenal (in comparison). They were also significantly different for each eye – T55,000 for left eye (-6) and T115,000 for right eye (-5.75). And, for some reason it was a massive challenge to find one-day contacts for Risa. Some of the shops had five contacts (so, two-and-a-half days worth), others had a few more. It just seemed bizarre that they were selling individual contacts instead of entire boxes… It was a mission, but we eventually found an entire box (eight days worth) and she got new lenses for her current frames.
Lunch was another ex-pat hangout – Joes Burger. Our friends said it’s the cheapest (and best) burgers in UB. It was certainly cheap! And, although they were simple, they were indeed delicious and filling. It’s been a while between burgers for me, so was happy for the comfort food.
We went and checked out another nearby market called Bombuda (or something like that? Maybe…) so our friend could pick up some fruit and vegetables. We also took the time to check out the clothing markets, which seemed to have some stuff that was nicer than the sprawling mess that is Narantuul. However, still no shoes in my size…
We had one final evening with our friends here, and top of the list for things to do (at least for me) was a ride on one of the triple tandem bikes that are for hire in the Chinggus Square. The rental terms were a little short (we were allowed to do one lap around the square), but we made the most of it. The bikes were alright once we had them up and running, but pretty hard to get started! I only wished that they had a quad tandem for hire so we could all have ridden around on a great big double date around the square (but then who would take photos of us…).
We requested Thai for our last dinner, though I’m not sure why. Maybe it was talking with a friend about Thailand all weekend while at the energy centre. Maybe we just craved something other than mutton. Oh and some spice!
We settled on a Thai restaurant just on the other side of central UB called Bangkok. It’s always a little sad going in to a restaurant that is empty, and generally doesn’t instil much confidence in me. The food was good, but not what I could usually consider Thai. Maybe it’s difficult (or just expensive) to get the require ingredients in Mongolia? Or, maybe this is the version of Thai that Mongolians prefer.
For a laugh, we decided to have a photo shoot dressed up in traditional Mongolian clothes. There was a rather good range of costumes to choose from, but I was glad that we were able to find one of the ‘Princess Padme from Star Wars’ style head dresses for Risa (probably the closest I’ll get to Natalie Portman). We were pretty happy with the photos, and the price (which I have forgotten) was quite reasonable. However, the one giant mistake that we made was forgetting to bring some make up! To really make the most of it Risa needed to have bright red lipstick, so if anyone reading this considers doing a shoot, don’t forget the makeup! Sadly, but understandably, we weren’t able to get a digital version of the shoot (as the photo studio sells the shot in different sized prints, which is how they upsell and make their money).
It was such a fun way to end our time in Mongolia, and we were both starting to genuinely feel sad to be leaving. It had only been two weeks, but we genuinely were starting to feel at home here. I’m not saying that I could (or would want to) live here, but we had a really good experience, probably helped by having a good friend who included us in a fun community.