With the temperatures dipping and a few busy previous days, we opted to stay in town and tour Zaisan, the new(ish) southern neighbourhood of UB last weekend. Since this part of the city is furthest away from the polluted “ger district,” apartment buildings and gated housing complexes are shooting up like mushrooms and everything still has a new(ish) kind of feel to it. In fact, the nice modern grocery store there (called Good Price – whether or not you’re paying a good price is a different story) is so new that there are almost no signs directing you how to find it (oh wait, maybe the lack of signs is not just a function of this part of town being new but rather a Mongolian trademark…)
Our first stop was the Zaisan Memorial built by the Russians to commemorate the fallen Soviet soldiers in World War 2 (there’s even a tank to show you the way, how’s that for signage?). Once you park your car on the small parking lot (that rumour has it only provides as many parking spaces as there were members of the memorial planning committee), you have to climb 300 steps to reach the overpowering, very Soviet looking memorial.
See? It’s Soviet looking alright.
Inside the circular monument is a large mural depicting Soviet-Mongolian friendship….and highlighting milestones in Soviet space flight.
And of course, next to the monument on top of the hill, what do you find? Another ovoo…. just remember to circle it three times for good luck.
Next, we stopped for lunch at the bottom of the hill in front of the golden buddha statue and then headed on to the near-by Winter Palace.
Yes, I know, our kids were so excited about another museum type of stop (at least we drove this time and didn’t make them march!) but it turned out to be a really interesting stop. We didn’t have high hopes as we weren’t quite sure what to expect but we greatly enjoyed our tour of the complex.
This was the house of the Mongolian Bogd Khan, the last Mongolian emperor. Inside the house are clothing and relics of the Bogd and his family including ornate thrones, beds, amazing (and probably very heavy) deels (Mongolian dresses), vases, toys from his children (little play gers!), and – an extensive collection of his “stuffed animals.” Sadly, I was not allowed to take pictures inside to show you what Mongolians mean by stuffed animals – let’s just say they weren’t so cuddly and that a whole lot of (not so great looking) taxidermy was involved! Oh the joys of cultural studies!
Next up – fall break for the kids! Let’s see what else we can cross our Asian bucket list!