Ulaanbaatar is the capital of Mongolia, a metropolis that is the pulsating heart of the country and combines the cultures of old with a lively feeling of stepping forward to new horizons.
The spiritual centre of Mongolia once lay directly on the Peking -Irkutsk trading route, thus it became an important centre of trade. At that time the city was called ‘Urgoo’ and life was determined by the region’s monasteries and lamas. Subsequently, Chinese traders and workers, Russians - and even Europeans - settled in this area.
Ganden Hyid is a pilgrimage destination for the faithful from all over Mongolia. They pray, and wind prayer mills and crowd into the main sanctuary. In the monastery’s main temple is a twenty six metre high statue, the Buddha of Mercy, patron saint of Mongolia, that weighs twenty tons and is decorated with gold and gems.
Almost fifty kilometres east of Ulaanbaatar is a leisure area for the inhabitants of the city, the Terej National Park, in which amid fine and protected nature, visitors can do what each Mongolian can do best - ride – across country and without limit!
In Ulaanbaatar, the Nadaam Festival begins where virtuoso throat singers and horse headed fiddlers set the contestants in the right mood and a typical snake woman from Mongolia’s state circus school performs amazing acrobatic contortions.
This has been an amazing visit to an exotic and little known world. And this capital city, with all of its incredible contrasts, seems almost unreal. But Ulaanbaatar is very much ‘here, now and heading for the future’!