We arrived safely yesterday, although our bags (perhaps not surprisingly) were unable to make the transfer from Ulaan Baatar to JFK in time. And while it may simply be in comparison with Aeroflot, the seemingly very nice folks at Delta called last night to say that our bags should be delivered this morning.
With my body clock slightly skewed, I decided to blog a few random notes and a few random pictures that hadn't made the blog yet. Sadly, we missed Spirit Day ('western attire') at Diablo Vista Middle School on Friday. However, unlike someone else at Diablo Vista Middle School, we aren't missing a black Lexus 470 SUV. It's parked outside the State Department Store on Peace Avenue. If anyone from Woodfield Hummer in Schaumberg, IL, is checking the Regal Vizsla, we know where your dark blue H3 is, too.
If you want to buy a previously owned, but not necessarily used luxury foreign car in UB, don't worry about finding some shady backstreet to do the deal. You won't even need to change money as the prices are in dollars. Short of parking them in front of the Parliament building, they couldn't be in any less public place. Next to the cop cars.
The reason to own a luxury car is almost as goofy as the reason to own a decent roadbike... while you might find someone mechanically inclined to fix your primo-ride, finding parts and more than 200km to actually ride it would seem to be the bigger challenge. Nevertheless, the day we flew to Mörön, we passed this dude. My first words thoughts were, "Has to be a foreigner...". But no. And you get a lovely picture of Power Station #3 doing it what is does best. The air is so thick with coal dust during the winter that I have no idea how guys like this get their exercise. Rock on.
While on the thread of flying to Mörön, we did see this statue outside the Mörön airport. We gather that this must be a relatively new statue based on former Peace Corps volunteers' memories of it NOT being there around 2001. In any case, here is the story of Khainzaan Gelenkhuu, also known as 'Gongor', Mongolia's idealistic, but practically minded Icarus; here's a nice story that features Gongor from the Toronto Globe and Mail.
And here's the entire Mongolian Navy. Not sure what else to say except that it probably doesn't make a lot of sense to have much more if you can only sail 5mos of the year. Incidentally, the vertical font above 'SUKHBAATAR' is Mongolian script. Sadly, in many ways, it is only really used in official documents. This picture of the sign above the main shrine at the Choijin Lama museum illustrates the differences between (from left to right) Mongolian, Chinese, and Tibetan scripts -- and, if I remember correctly, the scripts announce the building as a 'hall of peace'.
I did my best, though, to try a few Mongol beers while we were in the country in honor of Eric's BrewLog. Most of the beers are lightly-flavored lagers -- innocuous enough and perfectly palatable with slightly more character than your average American mass-brew. When we were in Olgii last time, I remembered having a dark APU beer with our friend, Jordan... the aroma was definitely 'goat-ey,' but the actual taste was really quite good. Perhaps we had an old bottle (or perhaps we were both so filthy that we smelled of goat and were confused), or maybe the folks at APU have eliminated the 'goat' fragrance from their Kharkhorin beers, but I tried one and was disappointed. My favorite beer of the trip was the APU Borgio -- a really nice, full-bodied lager. It didn't have the bitterness I associate with some German and Czech lagers, but went down very nicely with my some-variant-of-meat-and-potatoes dinner. Incidentally, here is the APU Brewery website (sadly, it only appears to be in Mongolian, but once the sound starts up it can be quite amusing).
That's the news from here. Hope to have some dog news later in the day once the rest of the world wakes up at a normal time.