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Ulaanbataar bus adventures

Day 128: Country #16

The unique characteristics of Ulaanbataar essentially being the only city one of the largest and most sparsely populated countries in the world pretty much means the bus system is entirely centered around the city center. With that logic in mind, I set out on my own to explore the city at a faster pace than the previous few days with my new friends.

0608 Mongolia x1

On my way to Mongolian Buddhist meditation in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia

I woke early and tried to catch a morning Buddhist monk led meditation session at Gandan Temple, but wasn’t able to locate it. It was a comfortably cool morning wearing an extra layer of military jacket liner. Then I walked further west to a commercial street lined with shops using the Russian alphabet, which felt a little odd at first since everyone looked Asian. Following the street south, I eventually reached Peace Avenue, the main road and headed back toward the city center.

0608 Mongolia x2

Consumerism slowly reaching Peace Avenue in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia.

I found my way to the nearby National University of Mongolia and walked around the campus a little until I found a food area catering to students with good prices and portions. I didn’t really know what I was ordering until I got it, then I realized why the staff thought I was over the top with my order.

0608 Mongolia x5

Large noodles + rice might have been overkill, but they also gave a lot of meat. Students need a lot of calories for learning!

Next, I continued west, attracted to the various embassy buildings lining the greenbelt and curious about the E-Mart which I located on my map. I noticed an unusual naming convention for shops – the small corner stores were all called “super markets”, which felt like an over glorified label for a small shop. Even the “malls” which I encountered along the way felt more like a handful of stores connected by a hallway after a few walls between them were haphazardly broken down. I wanted to find an example of a true department store. E-Mart contained three open levels full of merchandise and a parking garage.

0608 Mongolia x6

E-Mart might have missed the mark a little with it’s attempt at capitalism… the baby lounge is not a smoke shop…

I caught the bus back, then accidentally transferred to a northbound line, which took me far out to the edge of the city at the base of a large range of hills. The road literally stopped at a roundabout. The bus driver looked at me with curiosity, likely thinking that I was lost, but his son hopped on board at some point and was able to provide some rudimentary English translations as the driver took his break and we breathed in the fresh air. I learned that the bus doesn’t go as far south as I had hoped it would.

0608 Mongolia x7

The northern edge of Ulaanbataar by bus. Mongolia.

I stayed on the bus and eventually got off at Bogd Khan Palace Museum, an old temple, aka “The Winter Palace” for the emperor pre-communism. Comfortable with the bus system, I decided to also head west because I read that more Ger dense neighborhoods, a major source of winter pollution, were located in that area.

0608 Mongolia x8

Western Ulaanbataar, Mongolia

I went pretty far, but then the bus suddenly shifted north and I didn’t want to venture that far north again, so I got off and walked around the area a little until I found a bus heading back the other way. As evening approached, I had already seen the return path and knew that Mongolia’s high latitude meant a lot of daylight, so I felt comfortable getting off the bus a little early and walking the rest of the way back in order to soak in a little slice of life. I weaved into and got a little lost in the maze designed neighborhoods while looking for food, but eventually made it back safely.

Military clothing technologies are quite versatile and light weight. The warm layer I wore under my sweater was a simple jacket liner that can be easily detached from the military uniform. I’ve also mentioned Permethrin clothing treatments for warm weather pest management.


  1. wouw.. you are very brave taking bus there. Mongolia was the hardest country I had ever travel. We were there in 2015 for 4 weeks and gosh….what an adventure. we rent a car, driver and a cook to explore the country and most of the time we do not have shower for 3 days especially at the desert. oh boy….luckily I brought lots of wet tissue from Europe to clean up ourselves. ha..ha..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Mongolia has modernizing a bit more since 2015, but it’s still very sparsely populated, maybe even more so now that most of the population moved to Ulaanbataar.

      Your experience reminds me of when I went to Namibia back around 2014 (2nd least densely populated country in the world, after Mongolia) – rent a car, drive through the pitch dark desert, fill up at every opportunity (or risk running out of fuel), camp in the middle of nowhere… good experiences, but you have to be prepared and know what you’re getting into ahead of time.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You welcome:) We are off to Madagascar in 2 weeks time and I am dreading it, ha..ha.. I see and read soo many blogs and guide books and it seems the country is worse than Mongolia. Oh boy… what I get myself into…

        Liked by 2 people

      • Awesome. That’s an exotic one! I considered it with a friend, but then we realized it’s quite far from Africa and we didn’t have the time back then. The biggest issue will probably be the bugs. I recommend treating your clothes with Permethrin and getting a mosquito net hat. I offer a few tips in the Solomon Island posts.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Mongolia is really great, but a little out of the way. It seems you like food… Are you vegetarian? If you are, then Mongolia might be a lot harder, but if you like meat, it is a paradise.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Mongolia will be extra hard. There are only 2-3 vegetarian places in Ulaanbaatar as far as I know. This is according to a vegetarian tourist who I met on the bus from Beijing to Mongolia. We spent hours looking for vegetarian food and the places weren’t even open during their operating hours!

      Liked by 1 person

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