Nearby Gandan Monastery, Door4, Orkhon5, Bayangol District, Ulaanbaatar, 976, Mongolia
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Hi - I am going to Ulaanbaatar in April and would like to know (from people who have been there) do I have anything to worry about in terms of pickpocketing and crime?
I'm staying near the circus
I was there in late 2006 and didn't have any problems. The advice we were given was it's fine during the day but don't walk about after dark.
Pick-pocketing does occur, apparently, but I have lived here for a year and a half and no-one I know has had any problems. The place they keep saying is bad is the Narantuul market, but I have been many times without difficulty. There is little crime, but it does occur. Night is the main time, but I did hear of someone being mugged right outside of State department store (which is near the circus) in broad daylight. If you are reasonably street savvy and don't take silly risks there should not be any problems. The biggest problem is drunks.
I was there in July last year, and someone tried to steal my camera - thankfully they didn't succeed, but we knew other people who had lost theirs.
Just make sure you have straps of bags over your head rather than loosely on your shoulder, carry the bag nearer your front, and don't leave small cameras in backpacks.
That said, it's generally a pretty safe place, we had no other problems, even at the Black Market where the pickpockets are said to be at their worst.
Travel Tips for Ulaanbaatar
No need to buy ticket to enter Gandan Monastery
I have heard some travelers buying Gandan Monastery "tickets" to enter, this should not be true as the monastery has numerous doors and is free for public.
Once you enter you will wonder why people are lining up to turn the wheels. That is because there are hundred and thousands of "Om Mani Padme Hung" mantras printed on paper and rolled in relief on the cylinder. Mongolians use prayer wheels to spread spiritual blessings to all sentient beings and invoke good karma in their next life. They believe that every rotation of a prayer wheel equals one utterance of the mantra, thus the religious practice will in return help them accumulate merits, replace negative effects with positive ones, and hence bring them good karma. Remember that the wheels should be turned clockwise!!
Naadam Festival - Wrestling
I started watching the wrestling at the beginning of day 2 (July 12th). Mongolian wrestling is similar to wrestling found elsewhere, except there are no weight divisions, so the biggest wrestlers (and they are big!) are often the best. Mongolian wrestling also has no time limit- the bout will continue with short breaks. It will end only when the first wrestler falls, or when anything other than the soles of the feet or open palms touch the
Each year some 35,000 wrestlers take part in regional heats before 512 go through to the first round of nine at Naadam. Before each elimination bout, wrestlers limber up and honour the judges and their individual attendants (zasuul) with a short dance called a devekh, or 'eagle dance'. After the bout, the loser must perform the takhimaa ogokh, walking under the right arm of the winner, who then makes a lap of honour around the flag on a pedestal and does some more eagle dancing. The gesture signifies peace between the two wrestlers.
Wrestlers wear heavy boots called gutui - similar to the traditional boots worn by ordinary Mongolians. The tight, unflattering pants are called shuudag, and the small
vest across the shoulders is a zodog. The open-fronted vest was allegedly introduced after one Amazonian-sized female wrestler floored all the male wrestlers. When it was discovered she was a woman the vest was introduced to ensure that women would no longer take part in bouts (and thrash the men!).
Winners are bestowed glorious titles depending on how many rounds they win. These are nachin (falcon) - five rounds; zaan (elephant) - seven rounds; and arslan (lion) - given to the winner of the tournament. When an arslan, or lion, wins two years in a row he becomes an avarga, or titan. One renowned wrestler was given the most prestigious and lengthy title of the 'Eye-Pleasing Nationally Famous Mighty and Invincible Giant'!
Gorkhi Terelj National Park
This national park is conveniently located about 1.5 hours north-east of Ulaanbaatar and there are many ger camps in the park. The scenery is very beautiful and relaxed, and resembles that of Europe with green mountains and interesting rock formations.
Overrated, but still acceptable.
You'll see this place recommended on a lot of websites and in travel books. It's an ok place, but in my opinion they don't compare to the Nayra Cafe. The benefit of Chez Bernard is that it is right on Peace Avenue near a lot of shopping, but that's really about it.
If you go, I would go for a snack or dessert and not an actual meal. General service takes forever, and I suppose it is due to the fact that the kitchens in your typical Mongolian eatery are not that large and maybe they only have one stove going. Once the food arrives, it's barely worth waiting for. To make matters worse, it's somewhat overpriced and you'll eventually find you can get comparable food and better service elsewhere.
Like I said, it's good to go into if you're in the area and you just happen to stumble upon it. But unlike a lot of reviews you see, I think this place is grossly overrated.
The Zaisan Memorial is a hilltop memorial south of UB that honors Soviet soldiers killed in World War II. It is a typical Communist era memorial and features a circular painting that depicts scenes of cooperation between the Soviet Unoin and Mongolia.
After driving up the hill to a parking lot you then need to walk up about 300 stairs up to the monument and mural. This is definitely a must-see because you can see the entire city from here, and is a spectacular view either day or night.
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