Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Temple Wedding.

During the home stay, Shuree took me to the main temple in UB – The Megid Janraysig Temple. A wedding party was visiting the temple for a blessing. Quite a posh do by all accounts. Amongst the guests was a famous comedian. He was quite sweet. When the temple usher asked me to pay an entrance fee to the temple, he intervened and suggested that I should be allowed in with no charge. I do move in elevated circles these days!!!

Whilst the older generation wear the traditional dress as everyday clothes, ceremonies such weddings need the right gear. The cut of the clothes is almost the same for men and women, beautifully simple. The variations in colour and embroidered designs make for a feast for the eye when a group gathers. I still need to catch that scene on camera!!!

And of course this little boy was the star really. Perhaps 2/3 years old, he was wearing a full three piece suit, much too big for him, …..and tie, with trainers.

Sunsets and Landscapes

No words needed.

Maija’s Place

Yes, Maija’s place is a ger. The address………somewhere in the ger district to the north west of the city centre, about 30 mins in a micro bus and coincidentally, on the road to Khass’s foundry.And, yes, you did read right. We travelled for the first time by microbus. And I now know how many people it takes to fill a microbus…….20 PLUS caller and driver. Taking the front seat, known locally as the mother-in-law seat (think about it!!), is very exciting!!!!!
A typical ger street on the edge of the district near to Maija’s home. Gers are usually in an enclosure called a “Hasha”, sometimes with a more permanent building along side.

The inside of a ger is very cosy and welcoming. The enclosed space always surprises me. It seems like a Tardis. There is, I think, an engineering explanation for this phenomenon but I will not bore you with all that!!!
After a very welcome cup of Earl Grey tea, sweetened with honey, the assembled company set off for a brisk walk in the rather chilly afternoon air.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gek Art

Gek’s two handed approach to painting is very entertaining to watch. And the resulting images are quite magical. Sunsets as seen from Ulaanbaatar recently have been spectacular. This is the finished image from the previously posted photograph.

This image is based on a scene from our first day in Mongolia. I think the sense of openness in the landscape and the gers right to be there is heightened by gers’ profile mimicking the outline of the distant mountains. Oh my god……….what am I talking about?? Move over Mr. Sywell!!!!!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sukhbaatar Square Revisited.

This is the statue of Damdiny Sukhbaatar, NOT Chinggis Khan as I said in a previous blog. He is in the centre of Sukhbaatar Square, and in front of the parliament building. He was the Mongolian communist leader. Damdiny Sukhbaatar (1893–1923), and was Mongolia's official national hero during the Communist era (1921–1991). For more information go to

The square is a good place to meet for young and old. It almost feels like the centre of the nation, with a population of only 2.3 million and a land mass the size of Western Europe, it is as if people need an anchoring point……Sukhbaatar Square.

And, of course, the English pub on the east side of the square. But Dave is only flying the flag for England, against competition from all the Irish Pubs in UB. They seem to be everywhere. And in any case, Dave’s was a much better location than any of the other pubs!!!!!

Men and Women Working Together.

This picture was taken on Sunday morning and is a common sight in UB. This couple are almost certainly man and wife, working as a team, putting the finishing touches to a newly completed building, just off the Suhbattar Square.
Another man woman team, again I am assuming man and wife, working on the side of a new building. Pulling the zoom out gives some idea of the task in hand!!!I could not get the zoom out far enough to show the whole building. It is a 12 storey. This place has so much energy!!!!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

New Home, Sweet Home

Well, here is our new home for the next two years. And it is excellent. We are on the fourth floor of soviet period block with only 20 apartments, just 2 mins stroll from the State Department Store and Peace Avenue. I have not lived in a city for 20 years and I have to say it is much better to be in the city centre than in the suburbs. Everything close by. Great! Don’t want to cook tonight? No problem, will the ‘888’ Chinese CafĂ© be ok? £2.50 total bill for the two of us. And authentic dishes……can’t beat it. First, of course, we had to raise the flags and include a representation of our host country. We are looking for a Mongolian flag, but the little ger will do for now.

The rooms are newly decorated and carpeted. The furniture and fittings are in my favourite style…..modernist!!!! The door leads to an enclosed balcony which faces west.

We have been having some wonderful sunsets lately.
The other window in the living room faces south making the room ideal as a studio. Look closely and you may see the snow on the hills.

Gek has allowed me include one photograph from her “work in progress” canvasses. They are all absolutely beautiful. I need say no more.

And of course Gek is also a kitchen artist. Veg. prep and clean up are my jobs leaving the creative process to the talented one!!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Job

Those of you who regularly visit my Blog will no doubt be wondering when I will be doing any work. Well, you will be glad to know that I have actually started work on the project VSO assigned me to as of Monday, the 25th September. And I have to say, it is a cracker!! It may sound a bit crazy, but I signed up to this gig without really knowing what I was letting myself in for. In the event, what I thought I was about to do for the next 2 years was a bit off the mark!!!

The Project,
“……….will focus on building a public–private sector partnership to design, implement and provide for the financing of a modular, non-formal skills training programme for the construction industry. This is to be achieved by drawing together resources from the construction companies, public and private training providers, and the relevant government agencies. The project will target the unemployed out-of-school youth and poor adults living in Ulaanbataar.”

This is the Third Component of the Third Educational Development Project, funded by the Japan Fund For Poverty Reduction (JFPR). The first component covers the development of the national curriculum and the second is to improve the teaching and learning environments in primary and secondary schools.

We are currently setting up an office in the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development – National Housing Centre to the west of the State Department Store along Peace Avenue. (Every place in UB is referenced to Peace Avenue and The State Department Store). Baigal, the project coordinator and myself are the first to be recruited to the project, so our initial task is to set up the Project Implementation Unit (PIU). I also have a interpreter, Aruinaa who works with me 4 hours a day. If we can recruit all the staff needed for the project, there will eventually be 7 of us working on the project over the next three years. All very exciting and interesting.

From my desk I look out over the start of the Ger district and I can just see the roof of The Megid Janraysig Temple. Amazing. How the hell did I get here!!!!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

U B Transport

This blog entry has to be for the train spotters amongst you!!! This is the king of the road. A soviet period trolley bus. How they are still working is a miracle. But you have to love them. No. 2 runs the length of Peace Avenue and cost 100 Tugrug, about 5p, per your journey. These beauties are going to get a blog entry on there own. Love them.
Next in the pecking order is the diesel bus. Some are quite old but newer buses are appearing on the streets.The Micro bus. They are registered and licensed but are privately run by individuals, usually a family. These are the scamps of the road. They charge around all over the place….literally. The cost is 300 T (15p) per journey. The passengers are recruited by a caller who hangs out of a window shouting the bus’s destination. They creat chaos at bus stops. These busses also do out of city journeys of up to 12 hours. It is quite a challenge to count how many passengers can inhabit one bus. But I will keep trying!!
The registered City Taxi. Like all taxi’s, in any city, in any country. Any private car can become and instant taxi. Stand at the side of the road and put your arm out. Within seconds you will get a ride. But beware. Cars are driven as if they are horses. Anything goes as long as you can make it work. Two way roads can become short term one-way systems….if the enough drivers think that is the way it should be. Junctions with working traffic lights still need to be policed by the traffic cops. And of course, pedestrians do not appear on the drivers’ radar. It is a battle of wits. Crossing the road becomes a physiological confrontation between driver and pedestrian. Enough pedestrians working as a team can face down a car……..but NOT a microbus!!!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thinking of Beijing

A working engine on the way to the sheds. The enhanced image on the hillside is Chingis over looking the city. You can see him from everywhere in the city.

And the end of this line is Beijing, 29 hours away. A trip to take.

But not Just yet!!!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


OK, another train spotter blog. This time a real one. Close to the Peace Bridge to the south of UB is a small but absolute wonderful out door museum….of old railway engines.

As soon as a I clapped eyes on this beauty I thought of Dr. Zhivago!!! I know, wrong era. According to the plaque and my dodgy Mongolian, she is a P-36A, built in 1956. She weighs in at 133 tons, is capable of 100 km/hr. and can develop 1500 bhp. Neat

Check out the Star.
And here we have a CZ – 116 from 1935, weighing in at 90.8 tons and capable of 115 km/h.
Nice paint jobs. The green chap is a TEM-1 from, I think, 1956 weighing in at 123.9 tons (very precise), and capable of 93 km/hr. His friend in the grey livery is a TE-2 from 1959 at 170 tons. This engine is half of the complete unit, the two parts being coupled. He also has an interesting badge for a nose,
Uncle Joe.
The cutest engine had to be this narrow gauge, but where from? A bit of research will need to be done on this one. The plaque will also need more research. She is a “159 Steam Engine” built in 1937, weighing 16 tons and capable of pulling 139 tons.

Buildings, Crazy Sites.

There are some really interesting buildings in UB, old and new. This is the first of a series of blogs related to construction. As you will see later, UB has some quite unique architecture.

But to start with, sorry, I could not resist this picture. The only conclusion I have come to is that the top floor has already been sold and the new owner wants to move in pretty soon!!!

All-glass buildings are popular in UB, with some unintended reflections, I am sure. Check these out.

Quite a nice twist on the old reflected in the new

And my own personal favourite, 7 different reflected images on one corner of a wall of glass. The top of the building looks absolutely lovely…….blue glass to lead your eye to the ever blue sky. You can see what the architect was trying to achieve darling, but at ground level,…… of dear


Doing photography always produces more images than you can include in any given project. But there are always those images that could be classed as “Almost Ran’s”. ‘Moment’ blog entries will cover these images…….the ones I liked but which found no place in the main themes.

A study in black and white with blue. So elegant.

Buringa finishing her supper. Really cute.


This gentleman was our guide to ger protocols. He is a University lecturer in Mongolian culture.
A couple of the Lotus Centre children. Great smile.