Ulaanbaator is a sleepy medium-size town that happens to be the capitol and only real city of any size in Mongolia. The Soviets essentially built this city and it’s painfully obvious in the architecture, monuments and city planning that the Mongolians had little say. If you were dropped in the middle of UB (as it’s known to the local ex-pat community), you could easily think you were in a Siberian factory town. Outside of Shukbaataar Square the town is composed of low-rise Soviet apartment buildings, with a rather huge ring of Ger-burbs surrounding the city. It stands in contrast to all the new-shiny construction with a definite Asian theme we’d grown use to in China.
The Soviets didn’t just leave behind a bunch of buildings and monuments when they left. Black Russian bread and cheese, wonderful cheese (something you don’t see too much of in China) is all to easy to come by. There are still a few conspicuously Russian faces in town, and a huge, huge, three block long, one block wide Russian Embassy (they probably needed the space when they ran the country) is located within sight of the Parliament House.
The town itself is a bit sleepy, I mean that literally, at 9AM we are some of the first people out on the street – also in contrast to China. The locals themselves are proud as punch to claim Chingis Khan as one of their own. In his spirit they don’t like to stand in line, drive like maniacs and drink like …well they drink like Russians, but anyway.