Dinosaurs, snow and giant statues
From Beijing we took an early morning train up to Erenhot… or Erlian, we’re not quite sure (the town seems to have 2 names, but it’s hard to work out). We passed time by sleeping and eating food, but mostly by playing games of Big 2 or Uno (High School Musical 2 edition!). The scenery was pretty samey, after the first couple hours out of Beijing and its mountainous terrain we wound up heading through the Gobi Desert, and subsequently filled our carriage with sand and dust.
We arrived to Erenhot in the late evening to discover it was a surprisingly awesome little town. First thing we did was look for a hostel, but then we figured we probably deserved to treat ourselves to a real hotel.
Soon we were back outside exploring the delights Erenhot had to offer. First point of awesomeness: Tank-shaped electric buggies for riding around the main square
Turns out they’re also big on dinosaurs
Apparently this area is pretty big for fossil discoveries so they’re made it a point of tourism. There are big dinosaur statues all over the place, and of course we got photos of ourselves riding and wrestling them.
The 8 year olds in all of us started losing our shit as we decided we just had to hail a cab to drive us out to the middle of nowhere to the dinosaur park. It was no Drumheller, but it was still pretty sweet.
We figure the tourism angle Erenhot is taking is probably mostly for the domestic sector as being the only white kids in town turned us into instant stars. Everybody wanted pictures with us.
The cab driver then drove us some 25 km’s out to the kissing dinosaurs that guard the city limits. Unsubstantiated fact #3723: the city is lobbying to Guinness World Records to have them officially recognised as the worlds largest dinosaur statue(s?).
From Erenhot it was another 12 or so hours by overnight train up to Ulaan Baator. Surprisingly Mongolia has a lot more undulating landscape than we were expecting, and also we saw a fair bit of snow around the place. It was by no means complete coverage, but still weird to see.
We killed time in much the same way as the last trip, but this time we debated whether you could fit (ie. smuggle) a person in the overhead luggage compartment. I was pretty sure it wasn’t possible, but Damien was out to prove me wrong. For what I expect was only the second or third time I have ever been wrong in my life, Damien proved that it_ was_ possible, but with hilarious pictures to prove it so I’m ok with losing that round.
None of us really knew what to expect of Mongolia or its capital, UlaanBaatar, but what we got is not at all what we expected. The city is fairly modern and there are European and Soviet influences all over the joint. They’re super proud of Genghis Khan (locally he’s known as Chiingis), and there are statues of him all over the place.
Back to the Soviet influence, there are monuments to Lenin and the like, with a big communist statue and mosaic on the hillside overlooking the city.
From Lenin to Lennon, Damien and I also stumbled upon a homage to The Beatles. It doesn’t make much sense, but Beatles, YAY! I guess?
It snowed here a little overnight, and it’s a sign of how damn cold it’s been getting here. It shouldn’t really surprise me, but I thought I had left the worst of winter behind me back in Canada. Our hostel hooked us up with a driver who took us all out to the national park which wasn’t all too amazing, but it was cool to see a more natural and traditional style mongolia.
After that our driver took us to a massive monument to Genghis Khan in the middle of nowhere. He is huge! Something like 41 metres tall.
Our time in Mongolia is now almost up, tomorrow we set our sights on Russia.