Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ulaanbaatar Scavenger Hunt - 10days in UB

If our time in Ulaanbaatar was a scavenger hunt, our submitted sheet would read something like this:

Equipment provided upon beginning scavenger hunt
• Mongolian-English phrasebook dated 1995
• Mongolian Lonely Planet 2008 Edition (poorly researched with grossly inaccurate maps and telephone numbers)
• No working knowledge of Cyrillic script
• Copy of UB Post (English Newspaper)
• Smartphone with optus SIM card (global roaming not operational)
• Internet access
• $30 USD. 0 Mongolian Tugrug

Super Easy:
Warm, homely local guesthouse
o Scav Item: Complimentary house slippers
o Hint: They will be displaying your namecard at the airport and drive you and your bike boxes to their said warm, homely guesthouse (Idre’s). Points will be taken off if you don’t find this place.

• English conversation class
o Scav item: locations of key tourist hotspots in Mongolia. Post-class baked goods.
o Hint: Idre’s sister will opportunistically collect you after breakfast and take you to her school in a taxi.

• ATM that accepts Mastercard
o Scav Item: Mongolian Tugrug
o Hint: Upon learning the Cyrillic script you’ll find ‘BANK’ easy 

Michele’s French Bakery
o Scav Item: Good coffee and pain au chocolat
o Hint: One of the few places LP accurately locates

• Guest speaking appointment at UB International School (home of the future elite)
o Scav item: deliciously gooey chocolate brownie from bake sale
o Hint: follow the smooth, well-sealed roads, high fences and (friendly) security guards. Meet with kind babysister of GPS mount (see below) to secure an invite. He’ll supply you with a map written on a napkin.

• Mongolian Immigration Office
o Scav Item: 30 day visa extension
o Hint: It is NOT where the LP states that it is. Catch bus number 8 for 15km then walk another 30minutes to a dusty field.

Fresh vegetable stall
o Scav item: Tomatoes and cucumbers
o Hint: Learning ‘supermarket’ in Cyrillic will not guarantee fresh produce

• Bayan Mongol Ensemble - UB’s premiere trad jazz outfit – concert, advertised in UB Post
o Scav item: Two ticket stubs and a swingin’ good time
o Hint: follow the strains of such classics as ‘Summertime’, ‘In the Mood’ and ‘I will Survive’ to the State Philharmonic Hall (address not listed online, in phone book, UB Post or in LP). Locals give a location, followed by ‘but it was burnt down 2 years ago…’.

Fortune read by Korean School Teacher
o Scav item: Korean scrawlings predicting everything from your love of mountains to libido.
o Hint: At a Dutch Queen’s Day Party you’ll identifiy the fortune teller by his love of Hite (Korean beer). Praise banchan, kimchi and bulgogi. Gain respect for biking to Fortune Teller’s home city of Gwangju. 

• Home cooked bansh
o Scav item: Very full belly
o Hint: Arrange to couchsurf with Mongolian family in Northern Ger District. Be prepared to be beaten by childen aged 3-11 in a variety of board games. Bring your slicing, dicing, dough rolling and dumpling wrapping skills. Note: Slicing skills not necessarily mandatory as Ali’s fingers can testify.

o Scav Item: Mongolian SIM card with GPRS activation
o Hint: Not where LP thinks it is. Ask at Michele’s French Bakery. Will need to contact other cycle tourists online in advance to understand what is available and what to ask for once Mobicom store is found

• Kazakh Embassy
o Scav item: 2 month, double entry visa
o Hint: (surprise, surprise) nowhere near where the LP says it is. Maximum attempts allowed to find Embassy and enter during Consular Office opening hours: 3. Look for Kazakh flag down a dusty side street, over the bridge and far away…

Morin Khuur (Horse Head Fiddle)
o Scav Item: Traditional instrument of standard slightly above tourist grade
o Hint: Instrument stores listed by LP are non-existent. Internet not helpful. Tourist Information not helpful. Randomly find music store while in search for last Scav Item in ‘super difficult’ category. May require multiple visits to store before it is open, don’t believe opening hours. 

• Fedex office
o Scav item: receipt for postage of parcel to Australia
o Hint: deceptively at the location listed in LP. Look inside the building with ‘Hotel’ and ‘Restaurant’ at the top. Go to level 1, turn left.

• GPS mount to fit 1.5in diameter handlebar
o Scav item: self-explanatory
o Hint: locate international dealer. Find willing and trustworthy school teacher/adventurer couple (Dave and Mags) in UB to act as recipients. Order online while in South Korea. Fly between said countries. Simmer. Meet over beers and receive goods (Mobicom scav item required).

Super Difficult
• KGB Museum (NOT FOUND)
o Scav item: piece of Soviet-era surveillance memorabilia
o Hint: maybe this museum doesn’t want to be found…

• International Professional Morin Khuur Invitation
o Scav item: personal invitation to said competition from President of Morin Khuur Association and Head of UB City Arts and Culture Department
o Hint: keep asking questions and eventually you’ll get to the top. Location is not listed in UB Post article, nor online. 

• International Professional Morin Khuur Competition (NOT FOUND)
o Scav item: Photo of self enraptured with Mongolian ‘horse-head fiddle’ music
o Hint: It’s at the University of Arts and Culture…not the University of Technology or Economics or Languages or any of the other 100+ Universities in UB. It’s not in the street listed online and the location given by google maps yields another burnt out building under construction. Red herrings will be supplied by multiple students loitering at the front of every other university you find.

Last UB days


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