originally posted by Katherine at 4th August 2012 at 15:27
Greetings from Zaya’s Guesthouse in downtown Ulaanbaatar, home of numerous itinerant international guests, some pretty good coffee, and for the next four nights, yours truly. Zaya not only runs a good show, she is a wealth of information about Ulaanbaatar, what to see, where to go, and even where to score a cell phone that will see me through 10 days of Derby mania.
I’m not really sure where Zaya is from, but from her accent I would almost guess Russia. Having a conversation with her made me feel like I was in some cool James Bond movie; although we were chatting about room policies and housekeeping rules, I wanted to slam down a shot of vodka, light up a smoke and say “Yes, but how much for zee veapons?” ha ha!
Anyways, it is a very decent place, full of people from all corners of the globe coming and going and doing all kinds of interesting things. I met a great lady named Alison who hails from New Zealand, and being the intrepid explorers that we are, we paired up today to hit the “Black Market” situated somewhere east on Peace Avenue (“Get on the bus, head east and start asking locals where to get off” were Zaya’s uncharacteristically vague instructions…)
And what is the Black Market, you ask? No, not what you are thinking (“Make sure nobody steals your kidneys” Jordan warned). It is a flea market of immense proportions, housing pretty much anything you can imagine from A – Z: carpets and cloth of all shapes, sizes, colours and textures; cookstoves, furniture and the materials to construct your own ger. We wandered through acres of shoes, enough pairs of pants to outfit the Mongolian army, some guy filling pop bottles from a 10 gallon drum of what I am sure was airag; and somewhere in the hardware section, tack similar to what I will be seeing in the coming weeks. I am so glad we are not using the traditional Mongolian saddles!
A ger in beautiful downtown UB
I am torn between visiting the "Destroy" beauty salon, and the "Grease" beauty salon I saw yesterday. I completely avoided the "Camel Toe English Pub".
Sock Monkey models the "Hatguur" hat I scored today at the Black Market for only 21,000 MNT
Meanwhile, back at the guesthouse, I also ran into a lady named Susan Fox, an American wildlife artist. Susan is here in Mongolia for the seventh time, will be heading out into the country in search of more subject matter for her incredible paintings, and was happy to share her wealth of knowledge about Mongolia, the wildlife (including horses), the people and the customs of this beautiful country. I had the privilege of seeing some of her portfolio – check it out: www.foxstudio.biz
I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of some of the other competitors – Erik Cooper has hit town apparently, but is lost somewhere looking for a cell phone and is probably in the clutches of the evil beer-selling kidney stealers; no word yet from the Dubai girls. Off to the countryside to visit a Mercy Corps project on Monday and then Tuesday it’s Day One of training camp. If the pedestrian-hunting taxi drivers don’t get me, I will check in again before we head off to the great beyond. And as they say here in Ulaanbaatar: “Saikhan untaarai” which means “Goodnight, sleep well”. Or maybe it’s “Walk down the street at your own peril, silly foreign girl”….
To be continued…