A grim, depressing place :(
The receptionist didn't speak any English and seemed to consider the arrival of a guest who spoke neither Russian or Mongolian, outrageous, if not something to be actively discouraged.
At the end of a long corridor, covered with threadbare, red carpet, I reached Room 315, where I fell into a fitful sleep, staring at a long, dingy brown stain on the wall and listening to a pneumatic drill at the construction site located conveniently outside my window. I awoke several hours later with a headache and a bad taste in my mouth. My needs were basic: food and water.
I returned to the reception desk; it was deserted. There was an eerily large dining hall; it was also deserted. I wandered around forlornly, calling out, "Hello. Is anybody there?"
I located the kitchen door and entered groaning, "Food." A stout woman in a blood-spattered apron tried to shoo me away. A younger woman emerged at her elbow. She had a friendly face. I rubbed my stomach and clutched my clawed fingers to my mouth. The two women started arguing.
The result was that I returned to my room with a bottle of something brown, sweet and fizzy, two slices of stale bread and and some lukewarm chunks of fatty mutton, like a mouse scurrying back to his bolt-hole. The pneuamatic drill fell silent.
I awoke again briefly to the sound of a group of men, shouting next door, but my head was too heavy to lift until six hours later, when a black, Bakelite telephone, of the sort that I had seen in 1940s detective films, started ringing.
I dressed and headed, with some trepidation, downstairs to the dining hall again. It reminded me of a school assembly hall. There was such a high ceiling that the place had a slight echo. Tables were laid with grubby white tablecloths for about one hundred people. That morning there were two other customers apart from myself.
After about ten minutes, I started to grow a little restless. There was no sign of any food....
To be fair this was way back in the 90s and I expect that the place has improved a lot since then. Uniquely depressing.
GOOD Chinese Food
There are quite a few Chinese restaurants in Ulaanbaatar, but few people know about recently opened Ulaanbaatar Hotel Chinese restaurant (on the first floor). Chef is from Beijing, so if you want to try real good Chinese food, try at UB hotel. Pineapple Chicken, Seafood.
Unlike virtually all other former Soviet Republics or Soviet Satellite countries I've been to, Mongolia actually seems to embrace the Soviet area as a positive one in their history. I can understand why, and the Soviet Union financially invested heavily in Mongolia and helped them towards independence. All over Mongolia I saw Communist era monuments which, if were in Europe, would have been torn down the instant Communism disappeared.
This statue of Lenin, with the exception of a handwriting all over it, is in pretty good condition and sits just about 1 to 2 blocks east of Sukhbaatar Square and right on Peace Avenue. right in front of the Ulaanbaatar Hotel.
Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) HQ
This rather dull Soviet era building would never have become a tourist attraction before the riots that took place in the city on the night of July 1st, 2008. The riots happened after allegations of vote rigging and election fraud after General Elections were held on June 29th. Anti-MPRP protesters gathered in front of the MPRP headquarters, clashed with the police, and set the building on fire. Police used batons, water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Around midnight local time, President Nambaryn Enkhbayar declared a state of emergency for the following four days. The Cultural Palace, north of the MPRP headquarters, was also set on fire. I was in Mongolia, but not in UB, at the time of the riots and watched, in disbelief, what was unfolding on TV along with my driver and tour guide at our ger camp restaurant in the Hustai National Park. When I came back to UB, this now burnt out building next door to the posh 5-star Ulaanbaatar Hotel, is an unwanted blot in the main tourist part of the city centre and has become a tourist attraction in its own right.
In town, the Hotel Ulaanbaatar...
In town, the Hotel Ulaanbaatar captures the spirit of a country not yet in a modern world. The best 'accomodations' however are out in the countryside and in the desert, on the ground or in the ger of a friendly stranger.
Lenin in front of the Ulan Bator Hotel
Palace Hotel, Ulaanbaatar
Palace Hotel, Ulaanbaatar