We Offer You The Real Mongolia
May 9, 2015
A Mongolian ger - Gorkhi Terelj National Park in summer in your guide to Mongolia's seaons
Your Guide To Mongolia’s Seasons
May 17, 2015

Ulaanbaatar. Fondly known as UB. It’s the capital city of Mongolia (for those that don’t know) and in English it translates into Red Hero.

Looking across from south to north from Zaisan Hill – Image by our guest, photographer Nick Rains 

‘….its monumental public buildings and its concrete blocks of apartment houses, their white monotony somewhat relieved by public gardens, bear no relation, architecturally or functionally, to the country’s past.’ 

Charles Bawden – The Modern History of Mongolia 

I find UB a surprising mix of east meets west. From its origins as a nomadic city it has developed into a tough, modern and cosmopolitan city full of contrasts and extremes. UB maintains a strong Mongolian identity of its own and has a ‘frontier’ feel and vibrancy.
As most of my guests know I also believe it is a city worth exploring – if for no other reason than it is home to roughly 45% of Mongolia’s population and spending time within the city will give you a contrasting insight into their way of life, compared to that of the rural population.

Once you’ve enjoyed UB from the ground level, why not head upwards and look down. What better way to absorb the sights and sounds of a city than from somewhere with a great view? Here are a few of my favourites!

Tasgaany Ovoo 

Strange inclusion you may think for those that know it.  However, this is one of my favourite views in the city – taken at Tsagaany Ovoo overlooking Gandan Monastery. 

The ovoo is connected with the monastery. Come up here and you’ll share the space with monks, local teenagers, a family and a whole heap of pigeons. It also gives you a great perspective on the city’s own unique Mongolian identity – a city of nomads rushing headlong into the 21st century.

Choijin Lama Temple Museum

Image by our guest, photographer Nick Rains 
If you’re tired of sight-seeing or ‘templed out’ there is an alternative. Sip on a cold drink as you relax and unwind on the balcony of the (excellent) Veranda or Silk Road restaurants that overlooks the Choijin Lama Temple. An alternative is the Terrace Bar on the 7th floor the Blue Sky Hotel. Open from around 4pm (Sat/Sun) and from 6pm Mon-Fri. 

Shashlik and beer stands 

Image by our guest, photographer Nick Rains 

OK. So this is very much on ‘street level but they’re great places to watch the world pass by.  In the high season months of July and August look for the pavement cafes – a canvas tent with simple tables and chairs. The ones outside the State Department Store overlooking ‘Beatles Square’ sell great shashlik- barbecued meat and cheap cold beer. Many an hour can be whiled away here! 

Sky Views

The view from The Edge! Taken in summer 2014 hanging out with my parents!

One of my favourites is the Edge Bar on the 17th floor of the Ramada Hotel (on Peace Avenue to the west of the State Department Store). This has an outside area which is just great in the summer months for watching the sunset. Alternatives not already mentioned include 

  • The View Lounge – on the 11th floor of the Corporate Hotel just south of Chinggis Square (between the State Academic Drama Theatre and the Bayangol Hotel). 
  • The 17th floor of the Central Tower (Chinggis Square – the building with Louis Vuitton).
  • The Blue Sky Lounge  on the 23rd floor of the Blue Sky Hotel 
  • The Premier Lounge in the Tuushin (Best Western) Hotel – just to the east of Government / Parliament House.

 Zaisan Hill

Image by our guest, photographer Nick Rains 

Always worth a mention. Located at the southern foot of Bogd Khan is Zaisan Hill, a circular memorial of modern Socialist art that depicts scenes of friendship between the people of the USSR and Mongolia. Zaisan Hill offers panoramic views out over Bogd Khan Mountain and the city. It’s also a great location for hanging out with local families and students. 

You can combine a visit to Zaisan with Buddha Park – a peaceful area close to Zaisan which features an 18m-tall standing Sakyamuni image. When it was erected in 2007, five tons of juniper were placed inside. Below the statue is a small room containing thangkas, sutras and images of the Buddha and his disciples.

Chinggis Square

Image by our guest, Frank Jones
A firm favourite of mine. Chinggis Square is right in the heart of downtown UB and great to visit by day, by night or if just passing through. If you’re short on time you pay a visit and experience Mongolia’s history in a nutshell. It’s all here – Chinggis, Ogodei and Kublai Khan fronting Parliament Building and Sukhbaatar the revolutionary leader astride his horse. But, it also has a more human aspect – with flower displays, men playing competitive games of chess by the Peace Bell (yes you can join in, but be prepared to lose!) and with children riding remote controlled cars. 

If you have visited UB and have any favourites of your own I would love to hear them. Even better, I’ll add them to our next exploratory walk of the city when the EL trip assistants and I go out and find new places to add to my UB guide. Let me know!
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