Day 52: Ulaanbaatar , Dinosaur detour

Admission Ticket for The Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs.
Enter here, if you dare!

I set off early, retracing my steps to the ‘black’ market.

I’m likely to be here for a few more weeks at least, so I’d like to blend in a bit more, instead of sticking out like a beached bike bum. My riding shoes aren’t comfortable for walking and my travel pants constantly draw attention, as they swish, swish, swish with their annoyingly synthetic sound.

The inevitable ‘detour’ ensues. Before finding the market, I find a slum, the local Ibiza nightclub and a host of other dodgy establishments with English signage. And then, finally, I find the market.

Having learned my lesson last time, I’ve left my bulky wallet in the hostel locker and tucked an ATM card into my shoe. Two hours later, I still haven’t bought a single thing. I’m just not good with choices!

The local shop keepers aren’t helping either. The first guy is too busy playing cards to help me and the second refuses to retrieve the cool Chinggis Khan t-shirt from its perch, high up on the stall wall. Too small, he claims.* Not for foreigners, I suspect.

Jumping into an unmarked cab, I enjoy a surprisingly affordable ride to my Mongolian class, but still arrive too late to salvage my private coaching session.

I’ve always had a problem with keeping to time, so I’ve learned to expect this. But I still feel guilty for wasting my teacher’s time and giving other Kiwis a bad reputation.

After more revitalising vegan refreshments, I pick up the walk where I left off.

Another chance ‘detour’ leads me to the entrance of the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs.

From what I’ve read, Mongolia is supposed to be a dinosaur hot-spot, so I ignore the unassuming exterior and go on in.

A handful of dinosaur skeletons are on display. Originating in the Gobi desert, they are claimed to be 75% original, which apparently is a lot better than the usual ratio. But they’re still just skeletons.

At each display, a friendly guide helpfully regurgitates a muffled English description. Then she hangs back and chews her gum loudly until her services are required again.

Compared to the world-class National Museum down the road, the dinosaur museum feels small and clumsy. Yet it’s cool to reflect on just how old our planet is and the diversity of weird and wonderful characters who have historically called it home.

My favourite piece is a huge armoured skull, which just reeks of ancient attitude. I wonder how many cool fossils never even make it to museums, detouring directly onto explorers’ mantelpieces instead.

On my way home, I pop into the bank to withdraw rent money for the hostel.

Retrieving a brand-new plastic ATM card from my shoe, I’m horrified to find that the magnetic strip has been scratched into extinction and the card is no longer recognised by the machine. Nice one Dan!! Weary of cracking the card with my heel, I’d placed it in between the innersole and the outer. But when I moved, so did the two parts of my shoe. Another lesson learned!

Back at the hostel, Fabriccio and I sit in the quiet common room and surf the internet, which has been reconnected after an outage.

I’m struggling to get potential GPS routes from my MacBook Air into my iPhone’s navigation app, Ride With GPS (opens new window). The file conversions require additional software and a lot of trial and error is necessary before I’ll find success.

And there’s another email from my ex! But the contents aren’t positive and we’re obviously still struggling to understand one another’s perspective. Our long distance dialogue feels token and unproductive. It’s hard enough to discuss matters of the heart when you’re in the same room, let alone when you’re thousands of miles away.