After dinner last night, it started to rain. The rain didn’t stop all night, and it got to the stage that it was starting to leak inside our ger – there is always a hole in the roof of the ger to let the chimney for the wood stove exit. It seemed that the water was entering here, then trickling down the internal roof supports and dripping on Risa, who had to wake up and move beds. I don’t know if it was the vodka we’d shared with everyone last night, but it was a night of crazy dreams (it’s quite rare for me to remember my dreams). I woke with the following phrase looping in my head, ‘you have been promoted due to a clerical error, however while your rank and responsibilities have increased, your wage has not’… I would love to know what that is from…
It was an early rise to get to the airport on time for our flight. I thought we got up because it was going to be a long drive, not because the driver was going to crawl all the way to Dalanzadgad. All the rain had turned everything to mud. After 30-minutes of sliding through that mud, we arrived at a long and flat bitumen road. However, that road was a work in progress, suddenly stopping without warning (or signage) and requiring us to detour out to either side of the road and back into the mud. The car was occasionally coughing on the highway and I could see that the fuel gauge was empty and I was worried that we were going to miss the flight. Alternate plans were going through my mind. But, my concern was unnecessary – we arrived at the airport before they were ready for us to arrive.
We said goodbye to our guide, Altaa, and our driver, Bagi, and let them get ready for their next tour (that was arriving on the same plane that was taking us back to UB).
The flight was un-eventful, and we arrived in a warm and sunny UB an hour-and-a-half later. The driver that took us to the airport on Monday was there waiting for us and grabbed us as we wondered through the arrivals looking lost, fighting our way through the offers of taxi drives to the city. I know I’ve mentioned the horrible traffic in UB before, but today was exceptional for us. It took a little over an hour to get from the airport to our friend’s apartment in the centre of town.
After a week without a shower, it felt amazing to return to our friend’s place and shower. The city is upgrading the hot water supply (they have a centralised hot water distribution, which I still find odd) and has been shutting hot water to entire city blocks at a time. It was a relief that there was still hot water, even though it is little more than a trickle.
I’m not addicted, but it was good to have Internet connection again – we’ve still got so much to organise for our time in Turkey and Kyrgyzstan. It’s hard to pull yourself away from current plans to sit down and make time for future plans.
We made plans to watch a Mongolian cultural performance last week, but didn’t get the email in time. The performance is like a sampler plate of several different Mongolian music and dance performance styles. It felt pretty odd walking to the building that it was taking place in. If our friends hadn’t said that it was in this building, I would have thought that the theatre had moved and their website (and the Lonely Planet) was out of date and this was the old location. Turned out the website was out of date, and the prices had increased from T12000 ($7) to T20000 ($12) – not a problem, except I only had T24000 cash… and they didn’t accept credit. I had to run to the nearest ATM (through what looked like an abandoned park) and luckily only missed the first two acts.
I wasn’t technically meant to take photos (that is a separate T20000 fee, or amateur video for T100000), so I was a little cautious about it. The performances were incredible. I was amazed at how contemporary the sound was, some of it really reminded me of Sigur Ros (which is a good thing). There were singers, musicians, dancers, and my favourite, throat singers! The throat singing is the strangest sound, and is too difficult for someone like me to describe with words. The best I can do is to say that it is like someone singing a deep growly heavy metal style at the same time as regular voice. Our performer also had this incredible high-pitched singing that sounded more like a synthesiser than a human voice.
And then there were the contortionists. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it before. They way they moved was so unhuman like. Their fluidity and strength was almost reptilian. I read that the Mongolian art of contortion stretches back more than 1000 years, and I could only imagine how it must have looked back then. Totally mesmerising.
It was Friday night again, so we thought we’d have a night out in UB. Our friends had a work dinner, so we met with them after they’d finished at 8:30PM at the outdoor terrace bar. It gave us another chance to see the town from above during sunset. It was ambitious sitting outdoors for a beer, and after about 30 minutes we took the beers to the upstairs bar on level 23 and spent a few hours drinking and winding down (from our very busy week).
Oh, and when we heard about a 24-hour kebab shop not far from our friend’s house, well, we had to pay it a visit for a late night feast. Sadly, not a great kebab – too much sauce. Looking forward to Turkey!