There are two flights a week going to Khovd, the last leg of our trip. One leaves on Thursday and the other on Sunday. Since we had meetings at the embassy on Thursday, we are spending several extra days seeing Ulaanbaatar, trying to fix the image of urban Mongolia in our minds before moving on to what has been described as rural even by Mongolian standards.
Ulaanbaatar is a city that is growing everywhere, all at once, at a frantic pace. Cranes spike the skyline in all directions, from center city out to the very edges of town. Practically all of this activity seems to be private business ventures such as corporate offices and luxury housing. What is noticeable is that for all the private activity there is relatively little public infrastructure activity going on. This morning we walked through several blocks of major renovation to Uh Toyruu, a major artery that loops across the north side of the city. It is being completely rebuilt with an excavation that goes deep under the road's surface. We also got to the center of the city near the Government House, where the roads and sidewalks have been recently replaced. And a new highway to the airport is being built to replace the present decaying one. Still, there is a lot of catching up to be done.
I am noticing architecture and construction today, and the many interesting differences. Many still live in gers, or some combination of small wooden structure in the summer and ger in winter, since the ger is easier to heat. A trade fair for high-tech housing in the Government House plaza showed off high efficiency stoves, solar water heaters, waste incinerators, steel channel ger frames, and model gers complete with flush toilets and cable tv.
There is so much glass and steel being built here, but it still comes in its own flavor. Most noticeable are the windows that open, even on high rise offices.
Although there is much that seems quirky, it often comes with its own logic, and seems odd mostly because it is new to me.