A month away, continued

June 3, 2013

UB main square UB main square mast UB street light

In and around Sukhbaatar Square in Ulan Bator. A large space surrounded by an opera house, a culture house, the palace, a massive sculpture of Genghis Kahn….but also some lovely street lights.

choijin museum 3 choijin museum 2 temple grounds

Lots of the Buddhist Temples in Mongolia were scrapped during the Communist era, Choijin Lama Monastery, above, was lucky enough to be allowed to stay on as a museum. The Temples were a feast for the eyes and a proper celebration of life in all its forms. Walls and ceilings full with lurid painted patterns and images, ghostly prints hanging from the rafters, stuffed textile spirits, hundreds of cast Buddhas and deeply dyed banners, the smells of smouldering incense and the whir or prayer drums.

Wherever you look in Ulan Bator you can see the mountains that surround the valley city. You can also see building sites. Old and new budged next to each other.

choijin museum 4

From the top of the hill crowned by the Zaisan Memorial you can see the city growing as it pushes against the sides of the valley.

Zaisan 1 Zaisan 2 Zaisan 4 Zaisan 6

The Zaisan Memorial was built to commemorate the lives of Soviet soldiers in World War II. The mosaics also nod to Mongolian independence, relations with China, Japan and space exploration. I wonder how much the teenagers who hang out up there know or rate the sentiments expressed in the graphic style. The Mongolian language, full of sounds that seem to get turned over and around the tongue many times before being let out of the mouth, was a little too nuanced for me to pick up enough to have this conversation.


Walking over patchy snow and ice that is melting away to reveal the sandy, dry grasses of the Terelj National park on a day late in March. A change to the more familiar-slush mud puddles of Russia.  Some lovely dry brush trees and hills to etch at a later date.


Something about Ulan Bator was really wonderful. It seemed to me to be the people, who walking down the street would meet your eye with an open smile to share a joke or to simply acknowledge that we are both here together in this moment. I might have been naive or overly romantic, but Mongolia and the Mongolian people felt open, warm, full of interest and playful curiosity. Maybe this is down to their nomadic souls, perhaps it was just how I was feeling at the time. Ulan Bator is a developing city with all the potential unknowns that this status brings, whatever path it choses to take I hope that warm and open feeling remains.

2 Responses to “A month away, continued”

  1. dianajhale said

    Just found this – fascinating view of somewhere we don’t often see!

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