My flight from Beijing to Ulan Bator was uneventful. If anyone is wondering, yes, Air China feeds you on the short flight. Looking out the window while eating, I saw the dessert spread out below the plane. The area between Beijing and Ulan Bator is bare, dotted with the occasional dwelling. As we approached Ulan Bator mountains started to appear. There was snow in the mountains and I could see herds of animals from the plane.
We were flying low over the mountains. We flew between the mountains and hit the long runway just past a road. We came in fast, so the jolt when we first made contact it was jarring. Taxiing to the terminal I got my first closeup view of Mongolia. The airport had some small buildings spread out. There were also some small prop planes parked to the side.
Clearing customs was a little confusing. I did not have a visa and originally went to the wrong area. Mongolia issued my visa upon landing. After clearing customs I stepped into the public area of the airport to meet my driver. Yep, I decided to have the hotel send a driver. Part of the reason was I don’t speak Mongolian or Russian. I also was unable to secure any Mongolian tögrög before leaving Japan. This meant I only had USD, yen, and yuan with me, but no local currency. It was easier to go with the hotel’s car service.
It was worth it. The driver brought my luggage to the car. Once I was in the car, I was provided with a black portfolio. Inside was some local information – maps, sightseeing information, etc. – as well as English language news. Driving from the airport to the hotel I saw rundown areas next to new construction. It was interesting to see.
I arrived at the hotel without incident. I stayed at the Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace, a five star hotel in Ulan Bator. No, it isn’t as expensive as it sounds. The service was amazing. Every morning I had breakfast at the hotel. It was included in the price of the room. Breakfast was delicious. There were many different types of food to choose from. After the first morning they remembered my tea preference and brought it to me as I sat down. There were newspapers or newsletters in a variety of languages.
There are a few restaurants in the hotel. I ate dinner two nights at the restaurant on the first floor. If you ever go, make sure to try the cheesecake. It is delicious and unlike any other cheesecake I’ve tried. I also ordered room service a few times. Compared to eating the same food in Japan, room service was cheaper.
My room was huge – larger than my apartment. The bed was massive (and super comfortable). I even had a view of the mountains from my window. The snow disappeared over the few days I was there. Seriously, look at this room!
More on Mongolia in a later post…