Day 65: Ulaanbaatar , Gear shopping: Clothes & books

Book cover of 'Natural Wonders of Mongolia'.
Last minute research.

I should be used to the street noise by now, but it still annoys me.

Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang. Bang bang bang bang bang bang!

A visitor is trying to rouse the neighbours by pounding on their tin fence.

Woof! Woof woof woof woof woof!

That damned dog.

Skiiid. Vroom vroom vrooom skiiiiiiiid.

A car negotiates an icy patch.

Scream! Scream!

It sounds like someone is being murdered, but the little girl is just laughing to herself. Kids.

Coming from a modern city, it’s easy to take internet connectivity for granted.

In contrast, the connection at my hostel seems to be quite spotty. My work requires downloading of large Virtual Machine files, each one several gigabytes in size. These downloads often time out and require restarting from zero.

This is frustrating and I feel guilty that I’m wasting shared bandwidth. Although, the bandwidth does seem to increase dramatically when no-one else is staying - or when the owners think as much..

Whatever the reason, when I find some instructions on how to resume incomplete downloads (opens new window) it’s a weight off my mind, even if it’s a little late.

It’s gotten really cold here too. This is especially noticeable when walking up the hill to the hostel.

The slight increase in elevation causes my mouth to ache. It’s only on the left hand and I hope that it’s Sinitus and not payback for my poor dental hygiene in rural Russia.

I’ve also caught a cold and am super tired from working nights. I’m desperately trying to catch up on some sleep before heading out on the bike and, of course, I’m also procrastinating. Creature comforts breed dependancy and the thought of biking in the Gobi in this cold weather feels really intimidating now, despite the weather forecast for my southern destination of Dalanzadgad being 8 degrees warmer than it is here.

A walk to the State Department Store yields a Columbia outlet. They’re advertising foil lined clothing, which is supposed to reflect your body heat back at you. It’s hard to know whether it’s hype or not, but the foil doesn’t add much to the weight, so I buy a pair of long gloves, a long sleeved riding top and a funky ear flap hat. With a discount it comes to ₮ 186,500 ($143), but it’s a small price to pay for some much needed peace of mind.

Then it’s a trip to the pharmacy to buy some disinfectant for my first aid kit. Packaged in a sealed glass bottle, the iodine masquerades as delicious Tiger beer. It puts the risk of alcopops into perspective and doesn’t seem particularly practical.

Another day, another cafe. Today it’s the N cafe, perched on top of the small but well stocked Nomon bookshop.

The cafe owner is young and intelligent and asks me what I think about Ulaanbaatar, and about his experimental velvet layer cake. It would be great to have a serious debrief on my experiences before I leave here, but then a film crew arrives and I become an awkward studio audience instead.

On my way out I make an impromptu purchase of the Natural Wonders of Mongolia. It features impressive mountains, dormant volcanoes, dinosaur fossil sites, ancient seabeds and UNESCO protected areas - including the beautiful Orkhon River valley that I visited on the van tour. I realise that I actually know very little about Mongolia and that my ride is likely to miss a lot of the good parts.

On my way home, a very forward homeless man asks me for money for a coffee. He's the second I've met while I've been here - the first, "Eric" extracted ₮ 2000 from me for "the job interview bus", maybe. In lieu of a donation I buy today's requester two hot coffees from a nearby cafe. He looks happy enough, it’s a cold day to be out on the street.