Wednesday, June 17: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
11:00 Check out of Hotel Zaluuchuud and walk to Lotus Guest House. Still no hot water but the decor and atmosphere are nice and the rooms extra large.
12:30 Ethelene and I take a city bus to the Black Market. She wants to buy a felt rug and I’m looking only for photos. I end up buying a vintage belt buckle in the shape of the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign. It’s probably from the 70s or 80s, and with not one but two typos it’s, ah, unique. “Nelcome to Fabdau Las Vegas, Nevada.”
6:30 Some of the vendors are packing up for the day so I head to the taxi stand. I wasn’t entirely sure which minivan to take, and most that were departing were doing so with 25-30 passengers and their purchases crammed into 8-passenger vans. I could deal with the people but I wasn’t in the mood to have a goat and cage of rabbits in my face, so I set out to walk home.
Thursday, June 18: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
7:30 I’m up early to see John and Ros off to the airport. A couple from Seattle have taken the private room at the guest house. Larry and Sally are in their early 60s and have just hopped off the Trans Siberian for a few days in UB. Within a minute of meeting me, Sally asks if I have been to Burning Man. I’ve often said that Burning Man was “life changing” but I wasn’t aware that I now have “Burner” stamped on my forehead.
17:00 I meet Rachel, Ethelene and Renee in Chinggis Square and we cross the street to the State Opera and Ballet Academic Theatre of Mongolia. We have tickets to the ballet. Yes, the ballet. In Mongolia.
17:40 I manage to break my own personal record for ballet by at least three minutes. We’re just seven minutes into the performance and I’m already nodding off.
20:15 Rachel and Renee and I head to another Korean BBQ restaurant for dinner.
23:57 Frankie, Neill and I manage to get served at a rooftop patio near the guest house. The waiter comes back 2 minutes later to tell us to “drink up” but Frankie turns on his considerable charm and we actually get three more beers delivered to the table before the midnight cut-off. The waiter even allows us to drink at our leisure. I suspect that the rooftop location affords them some leeway with the law.
Friday, June 19: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
12:00 Frankie and Ethelene have left the group. We’re down to Neil, Rachel, Rene, Zoe, Mitch and myself.
15:00 I’m sitting in cafe when I overhear a voice that doesn’t have any discernible accent. The girl looks Mongolian but when I ask where’s she from, she replies Canada. I ask if it’s Ontario. Yes, she replies. Toronto? No, Richmond Hill, she says. Alice and I grew up within about 20 km of each other and her parents go to Woodbine “all the time.” She’s in Mongolia doing a one-month internship at a TV station. She’s smart, well spoken and has a face for TV. I tell her that I’ll watch for her on CBC when I get back.