I didn't think I would have time for computer stuff once I got here but our apartment isn't particularly close to tourist sights so there's not much for us to do after dinner. I'm at the internet cafe on the ground floor of our building. We have just today and tomorrow to get in our sightseeing before heading off to the field site to work. Out of our group of six only two of us had done much reading about what to do in UB so we sort of pointed the way. Personally I don't understand just showing up in a strange city and asking "So what is there to see here?" I'm also the only one who brought a phrase book, which has already proven to be essential here.
Catching a cab to the main square was our first challenge-- turns out my pronunciation of the Mongolian name was terrible. It took us forever to get someone who would take us. There were large groups of people on an arm of the road and all sorts of buses, taxis, and unmarked cars (regular people making extra cash by offering an unofficial taxi). They would pull up and yell out their destinations, at which point people would come running from the waiting crowds to pile in. We just say our destination to anyone who would listen and ended up taking an unoffical cab. From there we stuck to the Lonely Plant's walking tour which allowed us to take in a few temples and monasteries, the Natural History Museum, the main square, and my first Indian-Mexican restaurant. Now we're back and chilling out.
Ulan Bator is more run down than I imagined and even more Soviet looking (architecturally) than I expected. Once you make it out of the central city though you start seeing more typical mongolian-style housing which is much nicer on the eyes.
People are a little reserved, but not standoffish. So far my attempts at Mongolian have successfully won us cab rides to the correct destination and bowls of dumpling soup-- hooray!
OK, must go now-- wish me luck in the Gobi!