Life in Ulaanbaatar
Outside view of the typical Ulaanbaatar apartment building
Most people in Ulaanbaatar live in older Soviet-style apartment blocks
like this one. Individual apartments are sometimes renovated quite nicely,
but hallways and other public areas can be less than pleasant. The most
important quality measure of an Ulaanbaatar apartment is its heating.
The heat in these buildings comes from the city, and there are no controls.
Therefore one is at the mercy of The System for decent heat. Some places
are 25°C in winter, but less fortunate souls have to live with 10°...
The System turns on the heat on September 15, and off again on May 15,
irrespective of the outside temperature. As a result it can be +30 inside
in early May when it is +20 out, and +15 in late May, when it starts to
Mercury Market: One of the larger indoor markets in UB
These clean indoor markets offer a wide selection of foods from all over the world, including German butter, bananas from Ecuador, and most other foods one may need. As long as one has money food is no problem. The sad fact of life here is that many Mongolians earn so little they couldn't afford most of the products sold here...
Meat market in UB
Meat, and especially strong-smelling Khonii makh (mutton; pictured), is Mongolia's staple food. Meat is sold in large chunks, or whole, with the vendor nor buyer paying much attention to specific cuts. The preferred tool of the butcher is a large hacksaw or axe to chop off chunks. If you're a vegetarian, this country is not for you!
Selling fresh milk at -20°C
Diary products are the other staple foods in Mongolia. Even in winter fresh milk (suu) is sold on the streets. Tarig (Mongolian yogurt) is excellent, and is widely available for much of the year. Airag (fermented horse milk) is a delicacy which fetches a high price in the city.
Tuts - the ubiquitous street kiosks
For some fast shopping head for the nearest Tuts. Here you can buy the basics, and many are open late nights too. They are run by enterprising individuals, and can be surprisingly well stocked. In the smaller cities, these may be the only place to get imported goods.
Next: the countryside