Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ulaanbaatar - Sept 10

I arrived in Ulaanbaatar (or UB as most people call it) and shared a cab with an American couple from the bus. Turns out we were staying at the same hostel. UB is much easier to get along in because almost everyone speaks some English. This was very welcome as I was too exhausted to try and learn a new language.

This sinus infection is still hanging on and I'm becoming quite miserable and sick of being sick. I arrived in UB at a decent hour and had visions of making a quick grocery run and getting to bed by 9:00. Oh the best laid plans...

First I went the wrong way to find the grocery store and walked around for probably 30-40 min before giving up and going back to consult the guidebook. Then I tried to get some money (Mongolians use the 'tögrög') but the first ATM I found wouldn't give me any cash. This was a problem as all I had in local currency was about $1.85 that I picked up from a money changer on the bus after we crossed the border.

Oh, that's a funny side story. As soon as we crossed Russian-Mongolian border some money changers came on board looking to sell Mongolian currency. I had gotten rid of almost all of my rubles thinking I would just hit an ATM for Mongolian currency. But I figured it would be good to have at least some local currency so I offered my 170 rubles (about $5) to the changer but he didn't seem to notice me. He took 1000 rubles from the guy sitting next to me though and went to move on. I tugged his sleeve and offered my rubles again and he made a face and waved me off and continued on. Seems he didn't want my paltry sum of rubles. Lol The next changer came down the aisle and did the same thing to me. But, when they were finished with the rest of the bus they came back to me and bought my pittance. I think I got something like 5800 tögrög and the American woman who had already spent 3 weeks in Mongolia said it was a pretty good deal.

So, back in UB... On the way to finding the big shopping mall with the grocery store I saw a restaurant that advertised free wi-fi. I stepped inside and was very thankful to get a good strong signal. I checked my bank balance and saw I was down to $80 in the travel debit account I had set up, so I transferred some money from my regular checking. Thank god for the Internet! I went on to the mall/grocery store and asked for the ATM. It was on the 5th floor and of COURSE the escalators weren't working. I was so zapped with this sinus infection that by the time I got to the 5th floor I wanted to lay down and sleep. But, I had no choice but to soldier on. This ATM gave me money thank goodness and even gave my balance in tögrögs. As it's 1415 tögrögs to $1 my balance showed something close to two million. I'm keeping that one for the scrapbook! Lol

I got groceries, but of course with everything being so new and foreign I had to wander and look at everything, despite being so tired. I did need to find some sinus decongestant and that proved more difficult and time consuming. I asked a store employee, showing her the two tablets I had left and the name 'pseudoepedrine' written on the back, but she didn't seem to understand. I pointed to my nose and made sniffing sounds and she led me to an aisle and handed me pore cleansing nose strips. Not what I was after, but it was a reasonable interpretation I suppose. I shook my head no and made louder sniffing sounds. She handed me a pack of pocket tissue and I shook my head no and mimed taking a pill and made more sniffing sounds and put my hand to my head to indicate fever or illness. Her eyes widened in recognition and she pointed out of the store and down the stairs. So it looked like I needed to go to the pharmacy.

I paid for my groceries - $19 for 2 bags of about the same size that in Russia cost me $40! - and went to the pharmacy. The woman spoke no English so I was having a hard time. Then a nice man came up and started translating and I left with something I think is akin to TheraFlu. Not exactly what I was after, but better than nothing I concluded.

On the way back to the hostel I stopped at the free wi-fi again and wrote an email to the nomad tour guy asking if it was at all possible to delay the departure by 1 day so I could rest and try to kick this sinus thing. I gave him my Russian cell and asked him to text since I didn't have email at the hostel.

I went back hoping against all hope he would say no problem and I could sleep all day. I had to shower because if I did have to leave for the tour at 8am, I knew it would not be good to have wet hair when it was cold and windy outside. I showered, repacked everything and collapsed into bed at 11:30- well past my original plan of 9:00 - but slept like a rock until my alarm went off at 7:30. I didn't have a text from him so I got up and on my way.

No comments: