Patti and Cap are sitting across from me in the dining room of the Comfort Hotel in Darkhan, Mongolia. Just beyond us is a nice breakfast buffet, from which I have already partaken. Now, I’m finishing my cup of tea and thinking about last night.
Shortly after I was shown to my room, an apologetic Yusuf knocked on my door and tentatively asked if I would mind swapping rooms with Cap and Patti as the bed in their room was too small for the two of them. Of course I wouldn’t mind, I assured him, and off we went with my duffle bag to make the exchange.
I thought about warning them that my room seemed to be right over the karaoke sign, but figured there was no point in that as it might not happen and they would get a nice night’s sleep.
So this morning, I ask. “Sleep well?”
Oh, dear. Mongolians seem to love karaoke, I think. On one block in Ulaanbaatar I counted five karaoke shops, and that was on on;y one side of the street.
“Karaoke too loud?”
“No!” Patti explained that the guests in the room across the hall from them had a very loud, very long argument late into the night. Finally, about 1 A.M., they heard a nearby door open and a very loud, very authoritative voice said about ten words in Mongolian. Then a door slammed and all was quiet the rest of the night.
|Part of the buffet.|
|Rice and , yes, hot dogs.|
|Mmmm.... Flour soup with lamb?|
So, I finish my tea and we load up in the van for the final leg of our trip. In a few hours, we will be back in Ulaanbaatar. Cap will have time to make his 2 P.M. meeting, which has speeded up our itinerary.
I talk Patti into riding in the front seat, and though reluctant at first, she is thrilled once we get on the road.
|Boys herding the cattle.|
After a few hours, I see the rising columns of smoke and steam from the coal-fired electrical generating plant cooling towers that mar the cityscape of Ulaanbaatar and make it the second most air-polluted city on earth. The first is Ahwaz, Iran.
Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution comes mostly from the coal-burning electrical plants, but also from thousands of gers, in which coal and wood are burned for heat. The city sits in a mountain-ringed basin subject to temperature inversions that hold the smoke in the basin.
And then we’re there. Chimdee pulls the van up in front of the Sunshine Hotel and I get out. Cap and Patti are staying in an apartment just across a narrow access lane, so they’re home, too.
In my room, I download the hundreds and hundreds of photos I took on this five and a half day trip to and from Lake Khuvsgul onto my small travel tablet and label some. I make a trip to the local grocery to get few things for the next couple days before we leave UB early on Tuesday morning.
I’m going to miss this place. I’ve come to think of my room at the Sunshine Hotel as my home away from home, and the staff as my family away from home. I’ll miss Yusuf and Chimdee, too.
|My hot breakfast the next morning.|
I plan to spend four days in Hong Kong before flying to Seattle and then on to Anchorage. For now, I have two days to get myself and my luggage organized for those flights.
Sunday afternoon, Cap, Patti, and I meet several of Cap's friends for lunch. These are some of the dishes served. For some reason, I didn't take a photo of the main course--sheep ribs with potatoes and onions, which is delicious.
|Push this thing and a horrendously loud bell rings to summon your server.|
|A variety of dishes to accompany the sheep ribs and potatoes.|
|"Mushroom warriors" aka sea mushrooms.|
|and bacon potato salad.|
|The Hot Pot Korean Restaurant, just down the block from our digs.|
|Cap and Patti navigating the slippery sidewalks of Ulaanbaatar.|