I stepped off of a twenty six hour train ride in to a whole new world. I was excited and wanted to take it all in but I had all my luggage that was physically holding me down.
I have spent the last five months in China and have explored various cities and regions but its always been China. Each city had its unique charms and characteristics but it was still “China.” I know survival Mandarin and being in China was my “normal.” Seeing a kid peeing on the side is just an average day and I know enough food in Mandarin to get what I want. Coming to Mongolia things were completely new. The language sounded so different than both English and Mandarin. The currency is in the thousands and I wasn’t sure what was considered a good deal or not. It took me time to figure out what is a cheap meal (and two weeks later I am still figuring out the currency!). Even the colors of buildings were completely different. I saw pink buildings and even some in mint. The signs were in the cyrillic alphabet with sprinkles of English.
I arrived to the studio I would be staying at and got connected to the internet. Facebook wasn’t blocked. Instagram wasn’t blocked. Gmail wasn’t blocked. And to make it even better the internet was super fast. So incredibly fast. I was in heaven.
By the time I was motivated to get up and get dinner it was complete dark. I wasn’t sure where to go but I started walking. It was dark. With the darkness and the holiday I thought it was best to go get some cheap food at a supermarket near the apartment complex. I wasn’t sure how much my money would buy but I was hoping I could at least get some water. I had enough for water, instant soup, bread, apples, and even chocolate with money to spare.
Someone through Couchsurfing contacted me and suggested he could drive me around the next day. I accepted his offer as I figured Ulaanbaartar probably didn’t have the best public transportation and I was too lazy to figure out the bus system.
Having a local drive me around was the best decision. I got to see some sights and even meet his family where I was fed food and learned the traditional way to greet people. It was a great day. On many blogs I have read people have said that they don’t like Ulaanbaartar but I find it oddly charming. It’s a mix of old and new. The Mongolian language sounds the closest to Russian to me but I am definitely still in Asia. The temperatures are freezing but life still goes on.