Anyone live/travel to Ulan Bator?

I heard that Ulan Bator was one of the worst cities in the world to live in (ok one person told me but they are in the know, so they say). Possibly due to the climate?

Anyone actually visited or lived there? Is it an exotic paradise that ignorant Americans nativists ignore, or a Gulag-weather-like nothing-to-see-here place?

My parents like to visit unusual locations like Ulan Bator and the remote areas of Siberia, particularly through a medical charity similar to Doctors Without Borders. I seem to recall them having nothing good to say about Mongolia in general and that the capital had terrible air pollution.

I’ve never been to Ulan Batar before, but I do know people who have participated in the Mongol Rally, which is a 10,000 mile drive from the UK to Ulan Batar for charity and adventure. They had more positive things to say about Mongolia than some of the other countries they drove through.

Bit of a shithole IMHO - stopped off there on the trans-Siberian a few years back - agree the air quality was bad. Just remember it as being a place with not a lot to see or do, although it was interesting to see all the overt Soviet influences in architecture, writing etc.
Apologies to any Ulan Batorians if I’m giving the place undue short shrift - I was only there a few days.

Mongolia as a country seemed much more attractive for an outdoors visit - I’ve spoken with people who’ve done some amazing hiking and cycling out in the wilds there.

Here (video) is an episode of House Hunters International where a British businessman who was opening an English-language tutoring firm in Mongolia searched for a home in Ulan Bator.

I was always curious about Mongolia. It doesn’t really ping the national radar, as nothing ever really happens there. The countryside looks gorgeous to me (as viewed on Google Maps) – I love lots of nothing, which is exactly what it has. It’s a bit cold for my tastes, though; temperatures don’t generally top an average of 72°F there.

I would love to hear from anyone who’s been to the Mongolian countryside.

[del]Flew there on a jet-powered broom with a witch named Pamela Flewelling, to golf in the Outer Mongolian Open, which I won with a score of 72. 72 holes in one.[/del]


I was there a couple of years ago for a short vacation.

I liked the place. There is wacky ice-cream colored Soviet architecture everywhere, the suburbs are made of yurts. and the nightlife is surprisingly ultra-hip. Mongolians are pleasant and interesting, and you meet a lot of really unique individuals. I was coming off of two years in China, so I had the probably unusual reaction of “OMG you guys are just like me! You eat bread and have an alphabet! It’s almost like being back in California!”

Anyway, it has its own quirky charm, and there are a few real gems. I wouldn’t suggest that my grandparents go there instead of a cruise, but Mongolia is an AMAZING country and it’s worth taking the time to know the UB if you are heading out that way.

Just watch out for those Mongolian Nazis.

Interesting. Mongolia is in the first stages of a natural resources boom-the country is likely to have vast deposits of copper, zinc, oil, uranium, and possibly tin. The problem is that the government doesn’t have the experience in tending out leases and exploration agreements. Naturally, resource-hungry China is in (or wants in) on the action…but the Mongolians are suspicious of Chinese intentions.
There is quite a bit of risk, but people who invest wisely in Mongolia may well become rich.

Other fun things about UB…

The old Soviet state department store is in the center of town, and it’s the best place to shop for just about anything, from tourist trinkets to textbooks. It’s a nice place- they sell good gelato and it’s surrounded by pleasant beer gardens. The best part is part is that the most prominently displayed items are…camping gear. A country that is primarily nomadic, it turns out, really likes nice camping gear.

There is indeed a Mongolian BBQ. It’s an American chain. There were enough tourists coming in and asking for Mongolian BBQ that eventually they had to ask someone to come in and make one.

The nightlife is fun because there is a lot new new money. You can walk down a street and go from ramshackle temporary yurt suburbia to a BMW dealership. So at night you get all the tastefulness of the post-Soviet nouveau rich, combined with the generally wackiness of a society that’s basically mostly cowboys. I remember one club that was underground, in what felt like a bunker or an abandon parking lot or something. It had the biggest video screen I’ve ever seen, and the walls were glowing white. Everything was cool white or distressed concrete. The girls were dressed in the tightest spandex the world has ever seen. I spent the night talking with a Mongolian who had spent his life in Texas, and finally moved back for good.

There are some great homespun museums, including the very moving Museum of Political Violence (loving run out of the home of a victim of political violence by his family).