One of the perks of having international projects is traveling to distant, new places. Although I had a pretty busy schedule, I was able to experience some interesting places in the Land of the Blue Sky Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - also known as the Red Hero City. Mongolia has 260 days of sun every year and Ulaanbaatar is one of the three largest cities in Mongolia with about a million and a half people. That’s half of the entire national population in one city! With a rich and complex history spanning from Chinggis (also spelled Genghis) Khan, China, and the Soviet Union, Mongolian nomads were the first to domesticate horses and is the coldest capital in the world.
Pronounced oo-laan-baa-tor, the name means Red Hero. We were advised that my team and I were saying it incorrectly and were humbled in a short pronunciation lesson. Embarrassed that we weren’t saying the name of their home city right, we welcomed the friendly correction. It was a nice interaction, and you can tell the Mongolian people take pride in their country.
Ulaanbaatar is about 45 minutes away from the Chinggis Khaan International Airport. After 18 plus hours of traveling, the majestic hills of the countryside were a pleasant sight. Yurts and horses were scattered about here and there, even a few cows that brought us to a roll as they are given free range rights over the highway.
Mongolia is just like any other bustling city with traffic in full swing at a very early rush hour as Mongolians make their way to work and school. There are city buses, cars, and people everywhere. Driving there is a bit different, you almost have to be a professional Nascar driver to maneuver in and out of traffic. Whenever you ask how long it takes to get from A to B, you will usually get the theoretical time first, follow by the time it takes if there is traffic, and there is always traffic.
Mongolians take pride in their heritage. You’ll find statues, murals, and historic buildings all over the city and the government buildings are big and beautiful. The most popular sports are Mongolian wrestling and basketball.
Ulaanbaatar offers a great variety of restaurants, department stores, karaoke bars, coffee shops. Most of them you can find driving through the city but can also be found with a quick internet search. You can walk to most places but there are taxis and the local equivalent to our Uber.
No one on our team speaks Mongolian but we still managed to get around the city. I encountered quite a few locals that spoke excellent English and helped me navigate to where we needed to go. I was impressed with everything and everyone I encountered there. I didn’t feel like a stranger at all. Mongolians are the nicest people I have ever met and I hope I get the opportunity to visit again.