A couple years back a nasty frost killed off much of the livestock of Mongolia’s 1.5 million still-nomadic rural inhabitants. As a result they came to the city, swelling its population, aimless, often angry, quickly alcoholic, and overwhelmingly young. Out of their element with no way into the urban network but as construction workers to the incredible number of building projects going up in and around the city. Witness below the left side of the horrid plans for the future Hilton Hotel Ulaanbaatar:
That 60% of the country’s population is under 30 years old is readily apparent on a weekend in Ulaanbaatar. Next to the UB mart, where one can buy a felt photo book with the words “I tripped to Mongolia” painted on the cover, a Western brick house whose purpose is unclear. Ten years ago there were at least as many horsemen as cars in Mongolia for transport; now traffic clogs the city’s and arteries and the thin, acidic traces of pollution ride the otherwise pure mountain air.
Ross, who’s staying in Irdre’s Guesthouse Hostel south of Seoul Street, recalled that his first day in town he heard breaks screeching behind him on the busy road and then a thump. The pedestrian was was killed. The roads seem to me even more unsafe for pedestrians than South America and even Moscow. Even Mongolians are frightened to cross the street. W was set upon by a young boy who hid in a manhole and then jumped out and grabbed his feet, apparently trying to get at W’s socks and shoes since they’ve figured out where many hide their cash.
“it’s not safe at all,” agrees Tugshoo at the canteen where the TAF employees eat cheap lunch of meatballs and soup. She’s eight months pregnant. “My mother was robbed today in full daytime. Someone ran away with her purse was a bus station.” Drivers of official taxis have made off with women and men both to the ghetto ger districts. The women had to jump out of the car; the men got beat up. S had his shoulder completely shattered. They steal your phone in crowded places by knocking it to the ground first. The stories are everywhere. Everyone has one. The mountains are not the only thing that makes this city like Quito.