Arriving in Mongolia

Author: Andrew

We got into Ulan Baatar on Tuesday June 5th around 10am. After 34ish hours of travel. Actually wasn’t too bad. Then Beijing layover was ok. The seats at Beinjing do not have armrests. So you can lay out. We got in around sunset and our flight to UB was at 8am. That made sleeping kinda natural.

Got to UB, breezed through visa process. Picked up at airport by Eric, a Frenchman that was childhood friends with one of Heather’s coworkers. He’s been in UB for five years with his wife and two children.

After the airport, Eric took us to a little mall in the newer rich area. Small, but tall, building. Just little stores stacked. The first level was a clear Whole Foods knock off, but looked like it had a dope selection. We headed to the second level and got our SIM cards. About $6 for 3gb of data. Great deal!

Then we headed to get some lunch because our Air BnB wasn’t ready yet. Eric took us to a place owned by another Frenchman named Yannick. Yannick has lived in UB for 25 years. His restaurant is near parliament and various embassies. So he has lots of useless info about diplomats. I had Mongolian soup, pretty good.

Then we got our Air BnB. Top floor, across from the Cuban embassy and very close to Parliament. Lots of video game lounges full of kids playing World of Warcraft. The apartment itself is very basic, but nice. My bed frame is actually the same ikea frame as the guest bed in Alameda. Water pressure is good and sort of hot. I guess everyone gets their water from the FOUR coal power plants in UB. The city actually shut off the hot water from one of the plants the day we landed, luckily we weren’t in the shut off zone.

We got settled in the Air BnB and took a nap. At around 7pm we went to get dinner with Eric and some friends of his that have experience motorcycling through Mongolia. We met Klaus  (German), Baptista (French), Betsy (American), and Pierre (French).

Klaus has ridden from UB to Germany. He had some good info on riding and road. His style is a bit different than ours, trying to cover as many km in a day as possible.

Pierre is about John’s age. Cool dude. Bought a Chinese motorcycle new for about $2000. He’ll ride it from UB to France. He plans to go straight north to Russia and follow the trans Siberian train west. That way if the bike poops out, he can jump on the train. He leaves June 19th. He and John seemed to hit it off well. If the time lined up a bit better, I’m pretty sure they would’ve ridden the trip together.

Baptiste works for a bike tour company called Vintage Rides. They do tours in Mongolia using Royal Enfields, a very popular bike in India. He had a ton of good info and maps. Heather picked his brain clean.

After that, we went home and crashed around 11pm. We were all pretty much back up at 3:30am. We left the apartment at around 6am on a coffee hunt. Around 7ish we found a 24 hour coffee/dumpling fast food spot. We all got coffee.

Got back to apartment after coffee. Decided to get a workout in. We found a place near our apartment. Addresses here are new. Like recently they’ve decided to just start numbering buildings. We are in building 27. It was super hard to find the gym. We did a big circle around our building, looking down at our phones to see if we were getting closer to the gym. Me and John gave up, but Heather made us look at one more building. she found the gym in the basement of a building.

We descended into the gym. And it was nice! Even has a sauna! Two college age kids were working. They said about $7 each for a gym pass for the day. We ended up getting a week for about $25 each. They don’t haggle a ton here, so we appreciated them working on the price.  I approach the Mongolians with a good attitude and it’s worked pretty good so far. Sometimes they seem kind of cold, but nice if you’re nice and direct.

The gym was great. Just what we all needed to shake off some stress about the bikes. I didn’t mention it earlier, but the night before some of the pats were quite worried about it taking weeks (or more) for us to get our bikes. That really took a toll on us, especially Heather. But the workout (and finding the gym) gave us a little win boost.

After the workout we headed to the freight forwarders office. On our way, there was a charity event for kids in the main square. There was a motorcycle club there supporting the charity. The MC was called the Mobil Riders, a mix of Harleys and other similar bikes. I took it as a good sign.

At the office, our agent, Mr. Gonnie, met with us. He had good news! Our bikes moved from an area 160km from the Mongolian border, to the actual border. Now our container has to be moved from the Chinese train (4ft wide rails) to the Mongolian train (3ft wise rails). Then it will only take a few days to get to us. In total, we hope to have the bikes in the next 7-10 days. Not terrible.

To celebrate our new timeline, we hit up KFC. About $2.50 for four chicken strips, fries, and a soda. Pretty good.

Then we passed a hair salon, John got a haircut that came with a massage. It was fun to watch and they did a great job.

Then we popped into the National Mongolian Museum. It was as cool as any other museum. A couple cool things mixed in with some filler. On the way out we hit up a lady who had some dope paintings by her son in law. She had oil paintings on leather depicting nomad culture. $20 a piece for decent sized ones. I got a couple. Might go back for some dope watercolors for $5. But I can’t let myself go nuts this early into the trip.

We were pretty tired at this point. So we headed back to the apartment. Picked up some pens (Heather was tired of me and John using her one pen) and some snacks. Heather got bacon flavored Lays.

Heather Phillips