Around the World in 30 Days – More Ulan Bator

Around the World in 30 Days – More Ulan Bator

A couple more stories

One day, a fellow came to our building and painted the stairway down to the outer door. It’s the only way to get in or out. He painted the walls of the hallway. He painted the handrail.

Then, he painted the steps! It looked great and he left after a good days work.

I came out into the hallway and slid on the first step that was covered in a fresh coat of vivid green. I couldn’t touch the handrail or the wall which were painted as well. One was yellow and the other orange. I tiptoed down to the street as carefully as I could.

As I walked out on the street, I left a set of single green footprints on the sidewalk.

Later, I asked the lady, who runs the place about it since her entry rug was now covered in green footprints.

She only said, “He should have only painted every other step.”


As a lifelong fan of the Beatles, I found their popularity in Ulan Bator a little mysterious since they were big in the sixties and seventies. In a restaurant, you often hear their music.

It came about like this: western music was decadent (and they hadn’t even heard rap music yet). So all western music was unsuitable for listening and forbidden. You might listen in secret if you could get it at all.

In 1993, Mongolia broke free from the Soviet influence. Even Ghenggis Khan was out of favor with the Soviets. Now Ghenggis Khan is big in Mongolia. You land at the Ghenggis Khan airport and can stay at the Great Khan Hotel and drink Ghenggis Khan vodka and wash it down with Ghenggis Khan beer as as you plan your trips to the various Ghenggis Khan statutes, all of which are enormous.

As a tribute to the Beatles, a statue was placed in front of the State Department Store in 2008. That may not sound like a great honor, but it is. Everyone goes to the State Department Store. You have to. When you ask about an item you can’t find the smaller stores, they say this:

“Have you tried the State Department Store?”

Nine times out of ten, you will find it there. This store is also a landmark for finding your way around town.

“It’s near the State Department Store.” That settles it. No more directions.

If you don’t know where the State Department Store is, you will soon find out.


One night at the local pub, this Irish guy wove a story of how he was training dolphins for the Mongolian Navy. I had made the mistake of asking him what he does here in Mongolia, a land-locked country. I tried to trip him up but he had an answer for every question I threw at him.

Me: But there is no ocean here.
Him: These are freshwater dolphins.

Me: But the river is dried up right now.
Him: That’s why we have them in big aquarium tanks.

Me: If you really swim with the dolphins, why aren’t your fingertips wrinkled?
Him: I wear special gloves during the training.

Me: But there is no Mongolian Navy!
Him: This is a highly classified project and I really can’t discuss the Mongolian Navy status at this time. In fact, I’ve said too much already.

He never even paused before answering and what he had to drink was plenty!

He was yanking my chain so I said, “I stepped over drunken Irishmen all through Europe to get here.”

He replied, “That’s as it should be.”


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