I woke up at a decent hour today, ate breakfast, showered and set out to see the Winter Palace of one of the important Mongolian Buddhist temples, the current Buddhist temple complex and the Natural History Museum.
I decided to go to the Winter Palace first. I got on the bus indicated by the guidebook as going to the Palace and some nice Mongolian girl saw me reading the book and asked if she could help. She told me what stop to get off on and even offered to walk with me to find it. I said thank you very much, but I didn't want to interrupt her day and I would be okay I thought. She said it was very far to walk - maybe 1/2 mile. I said that I am a tourist and it's okay for me to walk, I like to see the city.
So I got off the bus and started walking. I saw some interesting buildings and took some photos, then continued walking looking for the "6 temples with a large white one on the right", as the guidebook indicted. I walked for what seemed 1/2 a mile, but then I came to the second river, which was not indicated in the guidebook so I stopped some women and asked. They chattered amongst themselves and then pointed ... in both directions! I retraced my steps and went into a supermarket to ask. Again the man was very nice and walked outside with me and pointed in the direction I had just come from. When he went back inside I asked a different man if he spoke English and told him what I was looking for. He seemed very sure of his directions and pointed me in the opposite direction of the store clerk.
This is the conclusion I have drawn about Mongolians... they want to practice English with you, and I think they really want to be helpful, but they also don't want to admit if they don't know something. This is sweet, but very frustrating as you end up wasting a lot of time walking in circles. This also happened to me yesterday when I was looking for a restaurant. A woman saw me looking at the book and the streets and offered to take me to the restaurant, only she started walking in the direction I was sure it was not. After 2 blocks I said I thought it was the other way, so she stopped someone in the street and asked and they said yes, the other way. She offered to walk with me, but I told her thank you, she didn't need to. Eventually I found it about 1/2 block past where she had offered to help in the first place. Ugh! If you ask 5 Mongolians directions, you will get 7 different answers!
So for the Palace... I walk back the way I had come, almost to the bus stop again! But this time I'm on the other side of the street and I see those buildings I took a picture of closer up. I see they kind of look like temples and one is white. Then I see this little gold plaque that says 'Winter Palace'. Yup, it's the place I took pictures of about 35 min ago! Ugh!
So I walk up and everything looks closed. I snap some photos and then push on the door by the closed ticket counter. I figured, hell I came this far, I'm not giving up without seriously trying to see this place! Miracles upon miracles, the door opens! I walk in and there are a couple of guys mowing the grass but no one seems to pay me much attention, so I waltz in and start taking photos. Only, I didn't get far before a guy came up and told me they're closed. I pointed to the sign that says they are open 10-6 but he points to the winter timetable that says closed on Wed and Thurs. Evidently the Winter Palace people decided that winter had come early this year. So I didn't get to see the Palace I had gone on such a search to find. Ugh.
I was still miserable with a stuffed up head and really tired so I decided I would go to the doctor. I got on a bus that I knew at least went to the main square, which would put me closer to the SOS International Medica, and I figured I would catch a cab from there. Only the bus turned at the square, and instead of stopping at the corner, went another 4 blocks before stopping. Double ugh! At this point I was close to the other temple I wanted to see so decided to just go there before the doctor.
I walked around shooting photos and even got some bootleg video of Buddhist ceremonies! It said no photos but it didn't say no videos so I covertly held my camera on my arm and recorded. Shame on me, I know. Then I went to the main temple where there is a Buddha statue that is 87 feet tall!! That' 3 stories! It's gilded gold and is quite imposing. It's only 2.50 to enter the temple but it's 5 to take pictures. This is the case with everything in Mongolia! (Sorry, I am using a wacky keyboard that won't type the dollar sign. It also has the y where the z should be and vice versa. Ugh!) There are hundreds of these round, gold ... pots for lack of a better word, and people walk around the Buddha and spin every single one of them. This is supposed to bring you luck. I twirled a few on them, but not all. But maybe I should have, or the Universe was getting me back for the bootleg video, because as I was standing there looking at this crazy huge Buddha, a pigeon crapped on my shoulder. Guess I better spin some more pots!
After the temple I FINALLY went to the doctor. It did look kind of far on the map, but the traffic also looked bad, and I didn't want to get stuck on the wrong bus again. So I walked. And walked. And walked. And Walked. I swear it must have been 2 miles! That's a beef I have with the Lonely Planet books - their map scale is a load of crap! I was so tired when I got there I just wanted to sleep. The receptionist asked which doctor I wanted to see and I said the American one. She said the ex-pat doctor on staff was actually from South Africa, but he obviously spoke English. I was in and out in maybe 30-40 mins. $147, a shot in the butt and some pills later and I feel much better! :) The antibiotics I took a week plus ago had cleared up the sinus infection, but my sinuses were still really inflamed and clogged. He gave me a steroid shot (prednisone) for the inflammation, and sudafed for the congestion. I had tried like crazy to get sudafed here in UB before leaving for the Gobi, but that's when I came away with just the TheraFlu stuff. Perhaps pseudoephedrine is only available by prescription here? They are worth their weight in gold to me anyhow! Within 20-30 mins of the shot and 1 pill, I was already feeling better. My head unclogged, my headache went away and my drippy nose finally stopped! Of course the drippy and headache comes back when the sudafed wears off, but it's SO much better than it was.
Feeling better, I was able to enjoy UB's other saving grace - the National Academy Dance and Singing Troup. It was only an hour and 15 min but was really good. There were a number of dance acts with beautiful costumes, some awesome throat singers, contortionists, regular singers and an orchestra. I got some amazing video, but now I'm starting to worry I won't have enough GB for the Great Wall and Beijing. I've got 5GB more of memory cards and about 80 pictures on the card I have in now. I may have to buy another in Beijing. Since I came with 17GB that sounds a little crazy, I know.
After the performance I really wanted to buy a CD of the throat singers but I had zero cash. I had to pay to take photos and I didn't even have enough to cover that. The lady just took all the cash I had and said ok. I asked the woman selling CDs if I could run to an ATM and she would wait. She said yes, 10 mins. So I ran 2 blocks to the nearest ATM and ran back just in time. Then I needed to use the restroom and as I was coming out an artist was selling his paintings and seemed like he really wanted me to buy one. They were actually nice and I selected a small one I can carry easily. It was only 5,000 togrogs, which is only about 3.50, but he seemed super excited to sell it and get the money.
After this I went to the grocery store to get food for tomorrow's train. The cashier gave me my change but it was 1 togrog short. I read in the book that almost no one uses the 1 and in fact I know I hadn't received a few before. As 1 togrog is equal to 0.0007 cents, I'm not too worried, but I did want to have one for a souvenir so I asked holding up one finger and said 'souvenir' so she didn't think I was just being a ridiculous tightwad tourist. lol
After that it was back to the guest house, eat leftover pizza and type this blog post. Now I will take a shower since I have to get up at 6.40 already to get the train. (Also can't find the colon sign. lol)