Day 26 – Ulaanbaatar

Closed / Day 26 of 64 / 04 June

It’s day two in Ulaanbaatar and I woke up at 7.30am. I had my breakfast at the hostel before heading out. I was headed to the Dragon Bus Terminal [Драгон худалдаа үйлчилгээний төв, Dragon Khudaldaa Uilchilgeenii Tov], to get my bus tickets to Ulan-Ude. The terminal is located along Peace Avenue and is approximately 7km west of the State Department Store. I needed to take a bus, which according to TripAdvisor, is really simple. It isn’t. After trying to figure out the bus numbers, I got on board the wrong bus and got lost.

So, here’s are some tips on how to properly use buses in Ulaanbaatar:

  1. Have the Mongolian name of the place ready, in case you need to ask for directions from the driver or passers-by.
  2. Download the Ulaanbaatar bus app. Just search for “Ulaanbaatar bus” in your app store. Use the map feature in the app to find the bus stops nearest your destination. Click on the stop and you’ll see all the arrival timings of buses that call at that stop. Working backwards, do the same thing for the bus stop currently nearest your position. You should be able to take any bus that calls at both the destination and your nearest bus stop. If you want to be extra sure, show the driver the Mongolian name of the place when you board to confirm that the bus goes there.
  3. All busses in UB use U Money. You can purchase a U Money card from kiosks located near most bus stops. The card costs around 3000 MNT, and you’ll need to add additional value for your trips. Each ride on a bus costs 500 MNT. Despite the fixed fare, you’ll need to tap in and tap out much like in Singapore.

After much stumbling, I eventually reached the Dragon Bus Terminal at 10.30am. There, I bought my tickets for my bus to Ulan-Ude the next morning. The tickets cost 72000 MNT/40 SGD/pax, and the buses depart from Dragon Bus Terminal daily at 7.30am.

So big, yet so hard to find.

My ticket to Ulan-Ude, Russia!

From the bus terminal, I took a bus to the Gandan Monastery [Гандантэгчинлэн хийд, Gandantegchinlen Khiid]. The monastery is a huge complex located not too far west of the central area of Ulaanbaatar. The monastery is active, meaning visitors will be walking alongside practising monks. The monastery was the only site of limited organised religion permitted during Mongolia’s period under communist rule. When the democratic revolution succeeded, the monastery reopened fully and once again became the centre of Buddhism in Mongolia. Today, many visitors to the monastery are local devout Buddhists.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much for me to do during my time in Ulaanbaatar. Most places are closed on Sunday and Monday. So, after visiting the monastery, I decided to head back to my hostel to relax until dinner.

I had my dinner at the State Department Store Food Court. The food court is located on the seventh floor of the building. Taking the lift is the easiest way to get there. If you take the escalators, you’ll realise that they only go to the sixth floor. On reaching the sixth floor, you’ll need to turn left and go through the small set of doors that have the food court logo. Climb the stairs and you’ll reach the elusive seventh floor. The food at the food court isn’t fantastic: it’s essentially Mongolian fast food. But, the real reason the food court is so popular is because of its view. Eating at the top of the State Department Store gives you a beautiful view of the rest of UB and it’s surrounding mountains. After dinner, I headed back to the hostel again to catch some sleep for next morning’s twelve-hour bus ride.

Beautiful views of UB from the State Department Store Food Court.

– Ryan

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