Are you on a short stay in Ulaanbaatar? No time to explore countryside? Ok then, here are few things you can do in Ulaanbaatar. Of course you can start with a one-day city tour by hiring us for US$50. That includes gasoline. You pay your own tickets, food. Route is like this: Gandan Monastery-National History Museum-Main Square & Parliament House-Winter Palace Museum of the Bogd Khan-Zaisan Soviet WW2 Memorial Hill-Tumen Ekh Ensemble (6pm Cultural Show everyday)
Take a day trip to Gorkhi-Tereij National Park, 68km east from the capital city. Hire us for US$50 to take a ride to the national park for a day trip. We will stop at the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex (53km), the tallest equestrian statue in the world. You can take a picture with wild bird in your hand. Yes, they put the golden eagle or vulture on your hand. Vulture is 20kg, it is heavy, you have to support your elbow with the other hand. We continue drive to Turtle Rock, a giant rock formation in the shape of turtle in a beautiful valley with high rocky mountains around. You can do horse riding (15k per hour) or camel riding (10k for a ride) over there. You can’t skip Ariyapala Temple, a small meditation temple on the mountain. View from there is beautiful. If you brought a takeaway lunch, this is the right place to take it out and eat while looking beautiful valley down there.
What else in city you can do, you may want to see a dinosaur exhibition at the Hunnu Mall, do some bargain shopping at Narantuul black market. Why it is called black market? Is there such illegal stuffs? Yes, you can find there everything cheap from nice fake of North Face travel clothes, designer handbags, watches, illegally imported medicines, pills, animals, fur skins, bullets etc etc. What usually foreigners buy is furry hats, hand made boots, traditional costumes, religious antiques, shaman tools, horse saddle, travel items, warm clothes. About religious antique items, the sellers over there they don’t provide you with customs clearance certificate that you can carry them home. So, buy them at your own risk. It is worth going over there, only thing is you have to be aware is pick-pocketing. Do not underestimate skills of the pickpocketers. If you go there with #LocalFriendsinMongolia, you will save a lot of time to search items you want to buy. We will also help you with translation.
Also, visit to Choijin Lama Temple Museum, and go cashmere shopping at Gobi factory’s outlet store. Europeans they find cashmere price here a lot cheaper than in Europe. They buy cashmere scarves, sweaters, hats, gloves, even cashmere shorts or underwear, souvenirs for everyone at home. Go with Local Friends in Mongolia, they have discount cards of cashmere outlet store, state department store.
Last thing before you go is go out to drink and dance, enjoy Ulaanbaatar’s nightlife. Ulaanbaatar has so many karaokes. We like to sing karaoke with friends or colleagues after work. Try local beers such as Borgio, Sengur, Golden Gobi, Niislel as well as hard drink vodkas such as famous Black Chinggis, Gold Chinggis, Bolor etc etc there are many. Karaokes charge their room (~30K/hour) by hour regardless of how many people, plus you have to buy drink. Usually Mongolian, Korean, English and Russian songs are available to choose from. Although walking alone at night especially woman is not advisable because there will be many drunk men will be hanging around bars after midnight. So, it is always best to go with locals. Some of the night clubs have entrance taxes, and they tend to overcharge foreigners if you pay the drinks by credit card. Always carry cash, and pay per order.
What to EAT/DRINK? If you are a vegetarian, then it is hard to taste real Mongolian food. Mongolian food is heavy meat usually mutton and beef. We don’t have sea, so don’t even think about trying seafood here. We don’t eat seafood. Of course, smoked fish, frozen salmon etc are available in almost all major supermarkets. Chicken meat price is kinda higher than mutton. Strange! Yes, chicken we do not eat everyday. This 3 million population country has 60 million animals. In Ulaanbaatar, you can try sheep meat, goat meat, cow meat (beef), yak meat, camel meat, horse meat. Mongolian dried meat Borts is quite famous in the world. You can buy packeted dried meat from any supermarket and take some home. Also try bottled airag, which is fermented horse milk, and khoormog which is camel milk yogurt. These are available in supermarkets. One thing, do not mix airag or khoormog with milk tea. It will cause stomach crisis.
Try landmark Mongolian dish called Khorkhog, it is a Mongolian mutton barbecue made with red hot stone in a pot or pressure cooker. It is yummy. Local Friends in Mongolia, we can do bbq day for you at the weekend. You just have to buy the ingredients. If there is a group of 4-5 people, then we can organize it more like bbq cooking day outside the city, in a yurt, in a fresh air. Boodog is another bbq, but it is made within skin. Khoninii Tolgoi, sheep’s head, might sound bizarre.
Buuz is a steamed dumpling filled with mutton or beef. Khuushuur, meat pastry, is also a must to try. They are very cheap and available in every eateries. Mongolian version of Chinese Chow Mein is called Tsuivan, hand made stir fried noodles with mutton, and Mongolian version of Central Asian Pilaf is called Budaatai Khuurga. Also, try Guriltai Shul (Mongolian noodle soup), Khuitsaa (vegetable soup with meatballs) All meals are ordered together with Tsai-Mongolian salty milk tea. Foreigners are kind of amazed to try salty tea. You supposed to put sugar into tea, right? Mongolians drink salty tea.
We do not have such street food culture like other Asian countries. Food has to be served indoor, shashlik or kebab (skewered meat) is served at least under roofed structure like beer garden, not outside. Of course, Ulaanbaatar has so many international foods such as Russian, Chinese, Indian, Sri Lankan, Mexican, Brazilian, Ukrainian, Italian, Korean (both North Korean and South Korean), Japanese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Kazakh, French, German. International food courts are lately becoming popular in the streets of Ulaanbaatar.