After I arrived at the hotel the receptionist smiled and walked into the management office where she picked up my room key. The same room as last time. A common experience for us expats I was to find out, we are all in same rooms which were likely not used since we were last here in December. The next morning I showered and walked down for breakfast. The restaurant was closed. Not just closed mind you but empty, no tables, chairs, etc as they were all piled in the hall. I wandered down to the lobby and woke up the three staff who were sleeping on the couches. Someone rushed off and a half hour later I got my breakfast in my room. By the next day the restaurant was reassembled and looked normal except at breakfast time it was empty and there no food in sight. Went to the lobby again, awoke the staff and (you guessed it) a half hour later breakfast arrived at my room. Eric arrived that day and we decided to ask about breakfast the evening before. Turns out we were the entire guest population of the hotel so why do the full buffet breakfast for only 2 people. I buy the logic but if only they had told me in advance. So we convinced them to wait for the two of us to show up at 7:30am and serve us breakfast in the restaurant, where it was easier for everyone. Ah the art of communications. It is the little things that often surprise us.
I was down in the hotel lobby and saw a map on the wall. It was of the Mongul Empire Map under Chinggis Khaan and his sons. What a shocker. It encompassed all of China and Russia, down through what is now Vietnam and on to parts of Indonesia as far south as Java then east across Asia along the Himalayas down to the Arabian peninsula through Iraq and across halfway through Hungary and up to the baltics. It stopped with the "Holy Roman Empire" Seems the Persians sent home the head of Chingass Khaan's ambassador in a box and he went back and decimated Persia in return. I watched a video on the transpacific flight about the history of Ghengas Khan and the building of his empire. Impressive in that he was quite an innovator and tactician but boy was he brutal.
In 25 years the Mongol army subjugated more lands and people than the Romans had conquered in 400 years. Whether measured by total number of people, countries annexed (30ish in todays world) or area occupied (about 12 million square miles), Chinggis Khaan conquered more than twice as much as any man in history. At it's zenith the Mongol Empire was an area about the size of the African continent (much larger than North America).
While it is "history" the Mongolians are quite proud of their heritage.
Here taxis are plentiful and almost any car is a taxi. Rates are negotiable and pretty much by the kilometer. From the hotel to the office would be 300-500 togog or 25-40 cents. Given the price of petrol I cannot figure out how they do it. I tend to walk because things are all pretty close so I get a better feel for the city and negotiating taxi fares when I do not speak any Mongolian is a bit frustrating. I met an environmentalist who is trying to protect the land and endangered species such as snow leopards, wild horses and wild camels, he told me that one of the most endangered species is not on the list; the "Ulaanbatar pedestrian". Crossing the street is taking your life in your own hands and requires being keenly aware of every movement around you. Drivers neither give nor receive any mercy (very Ghengas Khanish it seems). There is not very much snow but what there is melts under the tires and immediately refreezes into ice so even if a driver wanted to stop it is rather slick so I see cars skidding around corners all the time. No salt or sand here, too expensive for a poor country.
Global warming (or whatever your explanation) has set in and the 20 below zero (farenheit) temperature I experience every morning walking to the office is much milder than normal. A dry cold so not as biting as Chicago, but cold is cold after you have been out for a while. My Arctic parka and long johns are very much appreciated. Still walking is the best way to go. No ger's this trip but since my sister-in-law is a (excellent) quilter I located a quilting place created for unemployed Mongolian women and will be off to see them this weekend. Once you get beyond the surface layer you can find all sorts of interesting things going on. And yes the Swan Lake ballet was quite good and enjoyable even if it set me back a whole three bucks.