First impressions

We got off the plane with the wrong foot. None of us had managed to get even a single minute of sleep and we were cranky, terribly jet-lagged and exhausted.

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But you never get a chance to have a first impression, right? Today I can only give you a patchwork of snapshots. We’ve been here for about 12 hours and everything is still a bit overwhelming.

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First of all, the most striking aspect of Ulaanbaatar, or UB, is its unbelievable traffic. Everybody is honking all the time. Pedestrians have no rights whatsoever, not even on pedestrian crossings with a green light. Every time one has to cross a street they put their lives at risk. There are pavements almost everywhere, but they are full of holes and represent a serious threat to anyone’s ankles. Public transport is virtually non-existent, but the distances within the city are walkable (if you can avoid being run over by a car on your very first attempt to cross a street). Remark by Francesco: We will try to shoot a video while we cross the street because it is unbelievable: it recalls the old videogame where you played a frog that had to cross the street without being run over by a car…I was not even good at that game!!!

There are skyscrapers, and there are huts that sell sweets on the pavements. We have seen KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and a few other chains, but the “supermarket” opposite our place does not sell milk. You can only find yoghurt. Toilet paper is a luxury item. F: other remarkable items were: Nutella (apparently it is everywhere) and the jams made by Bonne Maman… If you are looking for a coffee and a good WiFi, head towards a shop of the Tom and Toms chain: for 2 euros you can have a very good coffee and a fast wifi.

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After a controlled nap of 90 minutes, we reluctantly got up and headed out for a run. It was the only way to sweat off all the crankiness from our journey and to reset our minds and bodies. And it worked. The first 2 kilometres proved challenging: we had to run in the traffic, even though – surprisingly – the drivers showed more respect towards runners than pedestrians, even stopping to let me pass on one occasion. And then we bumped into a small miracle: a park with a 3000 m tartan track… which abruptly ended after 1500m. From there we had to do some cross-country running to get to a smaller track, but all in all the entire park was a pleasant surprise. And they have public toilets in several spots around the park! I didn’t check if there was toilet paper available though. And although we only met two Mongolian girls who were running (quite hard, actually), we were encouraged by a couple of kids. Others looked at us in a curious way, but I guess the sight of two Westerners running around in UB must not be extremely common. F: by the way, the park has other entertainment options: archery fields, water games for children, places where you can rent a bike or eat a burger…definitely worth a visit, even if you are not running. It is the National Park located south-east to the city centre. Fun fact: you have to cross the train line to get there and it is easy that you will spot a long train either on your way there or on your way back.

Now that we have pushed the reset button, we are ready to make the most of this incredible place. Stay tuned for more 🙂 c

Here comes the map of our run, so you know where to go! 😉 f


https://www.strava.com/activities/1102132718/embed/eecb34cdb59741a7ba1ecc0491dcbd4ccaf9a09e