Wednesday, August 31, 2011

KOTA KINABALU: 02 - You, Beach!

Tanjung Aru’s beach is not the cleanest one you’ll encounter in this lifetime. Locals and foreigners would tell you that if you’re looking for an awesome beach experience, you should ride a jetty and go to one of KK’s many islands. Tanjung Aru? Laughable. Well, not for me. Now let me defend my favorite Sabah beach.

While you would see cars coming in and people swimming, I think what they are really after is the vibrancy of the area: the social activities, the night life. With a lively bar and some resorts that double as golf clubs or videoke bars, there’s too much to observe or experience. The promenade makes up for the so-so brown sand. The muddy water smells a bit, but the kids don’t care. Just some ten minutes of walking from the airport and half of that from my guest house, this beach proved to be very accessible. In fact, I was wondering why I did not go there earlier during my stay. Perhaps, this is also the reason why people tend to frequent this beach. Besides, who would shell out 17 ringgit each time for a daily dose of Gaya or Manukan, right? Not to mention that jetties to those islands have some sort of curfew Tanjung Aru is open to everyone who wants to come, and the bar does not close until 2 in the morning.

It was at that bar where I had my first taste of alcohol in a very long time. Out of curiosity I ordered a cocktail called Screwdriver, which is just a stylish nickname for a rather bitter orange juice. Wikipedia would tell you that it is 1/3 alcohol and 2/3 orange drink. In short, Tang na may tama. Whatever, I don’t like it, and I don’t get why people would pay that much for it. Those people would also probably think that me eating Tang Grape Powder straight from the sachet without water is weird, or that Cry Baby and Sour Skittles are inedible. The feeling is mutual. Let’s weird each other out, but to each his own.

What I like about beaches is the calm that it brings you despite the chaos happening everywhere. You have the noisy kids, their equally noisy parents, the smooching couples, the resident weirdos, the stereotypical tourists. I don’t know why, but when I sit on a log by a beach all sounds seem muted, and what’s left are the gentle clap of waves against the shore, accompanied by a magnificent sunset that my eyes would definitely capture if it had a memory card embedded in it. At Tanjung Aru I did nothing but sit on that log, look at the horizon, and reflect on a lot of things. In fact, the creative juices were just flowing in my brain all the time while I was there and I could have written a beautiful short story altogether, but recording my thoughts would have interrupted the free flow of thoughts running around my head, so I decided against it. I promised Tanjung Aru, though, that if and when I write my first novel or screenplay, I’ll write one chapter while relaxing on her shores.

I guess that would explain why in my Budget and Itinerary article for Sabah I had a lot of “Tambay at Tanjung Aru Beach” entries. Beaches make me feel this way, regardless of their cleanliness or appeal (unless they truly stink, which would be plain distracting). But Tanjung Aru was accessible, so very accessible and I would like to thank her for sparing me some space where I could organize my thoughts, clear my head, and just relax. And so I don’t give a rat’s ass if your favorite Sabah beach is in Sipadan, Pulau Tiga, or Manukan. Tanjung Aru is mine.

KOTA KINABALU: 02 - You, Beach!

Monday, August 29, 2011

KOTA KINABALU: 01 - Borneo BeacHouse

There are better guest houses in Kota Kinabalu but Borneo BeacHouse is not that bad. The edge it has over the others is its location 10 minutes away from the airport, on foot. Whoever wrote that wasn’t lying but walks faster than I do. I completed the route in 12 minutes, but I had a big backpack with me. I’d give slow people around 15 to 20 minutes. More than that and you must either be crawling or in a sack race. Seriously? The Tanjung Aru Beach is closer to this guest house, less than five minutes of walking for me.

From the airport, head to the exit up to the “highway” which is Jln Mat Salleh. You will see a park named Perdana. This park is hard to miss because it’s big and there is a large electronic billboard there. Take a look at the left and you see a big archway. If you still need more clues there would be a big blue sign saying TANJUNG ARU and an arrow pointing to where it is you must go to reach it. The place is a house which reminds me of my father’s family house in Bulacan. The garage is huge and the lounge has a pool table and a counter. The spiral staircase leads upstairs to the living room. The kitchen is free for all, except for the food. Eat only your own food, please. There is a bathroom with a tub but there’s just one. There are two shower rooms at the garage next to the toilets which are separate for men and women. Yes, you could use the bathroom upstairs but sometimes the water pressure is not too strong.

The four-bed mixed dorm is cramped and the double bunk beds are made of bamboo, not the common wooden IKEA’s you see in most youth hostels. Because of this the bed is shaky, and since I got the top bunk I probably disturbed the Japanese guy sleeping on the bottom bunk enough for him to contemplate murder. Joke. Who knows! I would recommend this guest house if you are just in transit in KK and you have an early flight the next day. With just 10 minutes of walking, it would really benefit even the worst crammer you know. Another reason would be if you like quick access to the beach. Tanjung Aru’s is not the cleanest you’ll get to visit in this lifetime but they have a bar there which is just as lively as those in the city center. And then there’s Perdana Park on the opposite direction. To get to the City Center, take a bus. 15 - 20 minutes.


KOTA KINABALU: 01 - Borneo BeacHouse

One Day


A foiled one night stand leads to long time amity between college friends Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess). The story of their enduring love and friendship is narrated through various events in their lives unfolding every year on the 15th day of July.

The said date and the corresponding year flashes on screen and is presented in such a way that it blends with the background. This seems cool at first because it gives you some sort of perspective as to the time frame the story follows. However, given that the story spans twenty years, the trick eventually turns redundant after a while, especially in some years where nothing significant happens like that of 1997 (open to correction) where Hathaway is only shown swimming before the following year makes its inevitable appearance onscreen. That was fast.



As a young kid, Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) witnesses the murder of her parents in her native Colombia. With prior knowledge and preparation, she survives the massacre and makes it to America to live with her uncle and grandmother. Fifteen years later she is a serial killer with a distinct MO, a clueless painter boyfriend (Michael Vartan), and an unquenchable thirst for payback. However, one minor mistake leads her to cross paths with FBI agent Ross (Jordi Molla), who begins to track her down. Her quest for revenge brings her to various places and gets her to do some kickass chick stuff like swimming with sharks, dodging bullets, and all that jazz.

The initial chase scene is peppered with excellent panoramic shots of Bogota's slums and a lot of Parkour that complements the frenetic change of pace in the plot. In fact, it is that sudden 180 degree turn of events that grips you and automatically keeps you hooked. Later on, our heroine tells her uncle straight to his face that she wants to be a killer. By then you would know that you are in for a thrilling movie experience. Think Salt meets Hanna a la Latina minus Cate Blanchett and her weird accent.

Crazy, Stupid, Love


Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) are about to have a divorce. Disoriented and dispirited, he begins to frequent a bar where he meets resident Casanova Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) who decides to take the poor guy under his wing. Given a quick makeover, Cal soon becomes a smooth talker himself and starts picking up women, one of which is English teacher Kate Tafferty (Marisa Tomei). Emily, on the other hand, continues to go out with co-worker David (Kevin Bacon). Meanwhile, Jacob starts to fall for a lawyer named Hannah (Emma Stone), and turns to Cal for advice. Together they try to survive this crazy and stupid phenomenon we call Love.

What is noteworthy about the movie is that all of the characters, except maybe for Bacon and Tomei who have minimal participation (more like extended cameos), have their own stories which are not left unresolved (almost) by the end of the movie. Enough exposure is given to each one of them for their stories to come full circle, unlike some movies where the support cast are just that, support. However, the most interesting thing about the movie is the plot. The climax is plain awesome in that it is a riot, in every sense of the word. It is funny, touching, and well executed, which is how the entire movie is. It is amazing how it could make you laugh, almost bring you to tears, and give you some realizations about life that come in handy in the real world, all at the same time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sweet Charity (9 Works Theatrical)


Charity Hope Valentine (Nikki Gil) is a dance hall hostess who seems to have nothing but bad luck when it comes to love, but still maintains a cheerful demeanor in life much to the chagrin of her dancer friends who see her as some sort of insufferable naive girl. En route to some lecture which she thinks she needs to turn her life around, she gets trapped in an elevator with claustrophobic bachelor Oscar (Kris Lawrence). Is he the answer to her prayers, or just another heartbreak waiting to happen?

The thing about Nikki Gil is that you could see her just enjoying her role. Do you sometimes notice how some theater actors tend to grandstand during a musical number that somehow they cease to be the characters they are portraying and instead become just singers for a while as if in a solo concert? This does not happen to Gil. What you see is the character singing, not the actor. She does not need to hog the spotlight because she nails her character, mannerisms and all. Members of the audience are also convinced, the proof of which are the plenty of cheers and applause they give every time she drops a one-liner or does something wacky. She also looks good in wigs. She should consider starring in a Cathy Garcia Molina movie.

Noli Me Tangere: The Musical (Tanghalang Pilipino)


We would assume that you have already encountered Rizal's social satire in a variety of media: some movies, TV specials, and the novel itself. Now, Tanghalang Pilipino adds some music and voila! You have a historical musical. With nothing onstage aside from a flight of steps and windows on the walls, the actors are able to move freely and are well equipped with the necessary props to further establish what is needed for the scene. The steps are maximized for effective blocking, while the traditional windows complement the lighting well enough for some dramatic effect. A furniture is added in each scene when necessary. This, however, becomes a disadvantage when a scene calls for bigger space, like when Ibarra ran up and down the same set of steps twice just to depict distance. This is unintentionally funny and drew some giggles from the audience.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

[BEIJING] Budget and Itinerary

MONDAY: August 15, 2011
G140 (Shanghai - Beijing) - 555.00
Train Lunch (Rice Meal) - 35.00
Line 4/2 (Dongzhimen) - 2.00
Sanlitun Hostel (1 night/1 bunk) - 65.00
Hostel Bar (Pizza + Shake + Coke + Cookies) - 83.00

[XUANWU] Even Pandas Plank Nowadays

I was supposed to go to the Miutanyu section of the Great Wall today. Wikitravel says that this is less crowded than the more popular portion at Badaling, which they dubbed as the "Great Wall of Tourists". Another interesting thing to note about Miutanyu is that they have a cable car going both ways, but that's not the real deal yet. Hold your breath. Okay. They have a toboggan! This means you can slide all the way down! This sealed the deal for me. So, what happened? Laziness. I arrived at Dongzhimen at exactly 9 AM, the last trip of the 936/867 bus going straight to Miutianyu. I couldn't locate the bus. I took a chance on the 916 bus going to Huairou, and then I took bus 867 which ended its run at Hongluo Temple. No wall for me. The taxi was asking for a hundred yuan. No, thanks. I boarded the same bus going back to Dongzhimen. I'll just add the Great Wall to the long list of victims of my laziness. I know this won't be my last time in Beijing. My Mandarin studies will bring me back to this city one day. Then, I would have my stroll on that wall. Hopefully the toboggan would still be in operation by then.

Monday, August 22, 2011

[DONGCHENG] The Forbidden City of Tourists

The first thing you’ll see before you enter the gate is a portrait of Mao. Similar to gates found in palaces in South Korea, this one is rather big and you can climb it if you want, for an extra fee. Entrance to the area is gratis but be ready to get pushed and shoved. What would be a great day to visit Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City? I wouldn’t know. I went on a weekday hoping that the crowd would at least be thin. Well, it was probably thinner than it would have been if it was a weekend, but there was still a big crowd in there. Whatever the board of tourism is doing, it’s obviously working. People are mostly obsessed with structures that have witnessed the intriguing events of the past, and the Forbidden City has a lot of interesting figures in history to back it up, from the 24 emperors who lived in it all the way to the infamous Empress Dowager Ci Xi.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

[CHAOYANG] Not Too Late for Beijing 2008

I arrived in Beijing at past 10 in the evening after spending 10 hours in that car, a ride offered to me for 300 yuan with a Mongolian family of three also in it. Think of it as a group taxi. The bus usually costs around 200 yuan and the normal 11 hour trip usually becomes 14, as per tourists who have done the Erlian - Beijing route by land. With that in mind I thought this was the better option, and the best thing was that it wasn’t a scam. As I would like to say, I’ve already reached my quota this year when it comes to getting ripped off. After late dinner at the guest house’s bar, I immediately fell asleep.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

ULAANBAATAR: Budget and Itinerary

TUESDAY: August 16, 2011
2.00 - Line 2 (Dongzhimen)
25.00 - Airport Express (Terminal 2)
535.60 - Hainan Capital Airlines (Beijing - Erlian)
80.00 - Jeep (Chinese Border)
5.00 - Highway Quota Something (Chinese Border)

54,600 - Train 275 (Ulaanbaatar)
1,500 - Coke 1.5 (Zamin Uud Station)
3,200 - Lotte Choco Pie 6 pack box x2 (Zamin Uud Station)
200 - CR (Zamin Uud Station)
1,600 - Towels, Sheets, Tea, Coffee (Train)
MNT61, 100

WEDNESDAY: August 17, 2011
400 - Bus 20 (Suhbaatar Square)
19,800 - Gobi Tours Guest House (2 nights/1 bunk)
7,500 - Food Planet (Beefsteak w/rice + Fries + Coke x3)
10,800 - Red Horse Pub (Beefsteak w/Rice + Fries + Pepsi Can)
MNT38, 500

THURSDAY: August 18, 2011
6,300 - Food Planet (Roast Beef w/rice + Coke x2)
2,988 - Keychain (State Dept. Store)
11,999 - Souvenir Shirt (State Dept. Store)
11,490 - Souvenir Shirt (State Dept. Store)
14,990 - Souvenir Plate (State Dept. Store)
8,499 - Kiddie Mongolian Phrasebook (State Dept. Store)
11,000 - Helmut Sachers Kaffee (Cake Slice + Choco Milkshake)
3,500 - Entrance (Gandategchenling Monastery)
1,000 - Grab N Go (Coke 500 ml)
7,800 - Food Planet (Roast Beef w/rice + Coke x2 + Fries)
MNT79, 566

FRIDAY: August 19, 2011
2,500 - Entrance (Winter Palace)
400 - Bus 43 (Buddha Park/Zaisan Hill)
800 - Grab N Go (Minute Maid Orange)
1,500 - Coffee House (Pepsi in Can)
2,700 - Grab N Go (Asian Stir Fried Rice)
700 - Grab N Go (Bonaqua)
400 - Bus 33 (Suhbaatar Square)
400 - Bus (Peace Avenue)
1,000 - Train Station (Bonaqua)
54,600 - Train 276 (Ulaanbaatar)
1,600 - Towels, Sheets (Train)
MNT66, 600

SATURDAY: August 20, 2011
1,000 - Car (Zamin Uud)
1,000 - Road Fee? (Jeep)
MNT2, 000

100.00 - Jeep (Mongolian Border)
4.00 - Rickshaw (Erlian Bus Station)
3.00 - Solongo (Pepsi Can)
9.00 - Shop (Snacks)
300.00 - Car (Erlian - Beijing)

CNY1, 063.60 - SUBTOTAL
PhP7, 445.20

MNT247, 766 - SUBTOTAL
PhP7, 432.98

PhP14, 878.18 - TOTAL

*******Estimate of MNT1,000.00 = PhP30.00

TUESDAY: August 16, 2011
Check-out (Sanlitun Youth Hostel) 05:20 - 05:25
Line 2 (Dongsi Shitao- Dongzhimen) 05:40 - 05:45
Airport Express (Dongzhimen - Terminal 2) 05:50 - 06:30
Transfer by Foot/Walkalator (Terminal 2 - 1) 06:30 - 06:45
Check-in (Terminal 1) 06:45 - 07:00
Boarding (Hainan Capital Airlines) 07:05 - 07:35
Hainan Capital Airlines (Beijing - Erlian) 07:35 - 08:55
Shuttle Bus (Erlunda Airport - Erlian) 09:15 - 09:50
Jeep waits at Border (Chinese Border) 09:50 - 10:30
Wait for Jeep (Chinese Border) 10:55 - 11:15
Jeep (Chinese Border - Mongolian Border) 11:15 - 11:20
Immigration (Mongolian Border) 11:20 - 11:35
Wait for Jeep (Mongolian Border) 11:35 - 12:35
Jeep (Mongolian Border - Zamin Uud) 12:35 - 12:40
Train Tickets/Money Changer 12:45 - 15:00
Boarding (Zamin Uud) 16:30 - 17:30
Train (Zamin Uud - Ulaanbaatar) 17:35 - 09:30

WEDNESDAY: August 17, 2011
Bus 20 (Ulaanbaatar Train Station - Suhbaatar Square) 10:00 - 10:20
Check-in (Gobi Tours Guesthouse) 10:30 - 10:40
Lunch (Food Planet) 16:15 - 16:55
Sightseeing (Suhbaatar Square) 17:00 - 18:00
Bookstore (Librairie Papillon) 18:00 - 18:30
Sightseeing (Nat'l University/Dashchoylin Temple) 18:30 - 19:00
Sightseeing (Sky Shopping Center/Avtay Khaan's Palace) 19:00 - 19:30
Sightseeing (Wrestling Palace/UB City Museum) 19:30 - 20:00
Sightseeing (Suhbaatar Square) 20:00 - 20:20
Dinner (Red Horse Restaurant) 20:25 - 21:00

THURSDAY: August 18, 2011
Lunch (Food Planet) 11:30 - 11:40
Sightseeing (Souvenir Shop) 11:50 - 12:05
Souvenir (State Department Store) 12:10 - 13:00
Bookstore (State Department Store) 13:00 - 13:30
Sightseeing (Mongolia National Circus) 13:40 - 14:10
Snacks (Helmut Sachers Kaffee) 14:15 - 14:40
Sightseeing (Chingeltei) 14:45 - 15:20
Sightseeing (Gandategchenling Monastery) 15:30 - 16:10
Walk (to Guesthouse) 16:15 - 16:40
Dinner (Food Planet) 19:00 - 19:40

FRIDAY: August 19, 2011
Sightseeing (Khan Uul) 12:00 - 12:20
Sightseeing (Winter Palace) 12:20 - 12:45
Bus (Winter Palace - Buddha Park) 12:48 - 12:50
Sightseeing (Buddha Park) 12:50 - 13:10
Sightseeing (Zaisan Hill) 13:10 - 14:00
Lunch (Grab N Go) 14:05 - 14:30
Walk (Zaisan Hill - Winter Palace) 14:30 - 14:45
Bus (Winter Palace - Suhbaatar Square) 14:45 - 15:05
Retrieve Things (Guesthouse) 15:10 - 15:15
Walk (Peace Avenue) 15:15 - 15:35
Bus (Peace Avenue) 15:35 - 15:45
Walk (Ulaanbaatar Station) 15:45 - 16:00
Boarding (Ulaanbaatar) 16:00 - 16:30
Train (Ulaanbaatar - Zamin Uud) 16:30 - 07:10

SATURDAY: August 20, 2011
Jeep (Zamin Uud - Mongolian Border) 07:15 - 07:20
Jeep waits at Zamin Uud 07:20 - 08:45
Jeep (Zamin Uud - Mongolian Border) 08:45 - 08:50
Jeep waits at Mongolian Border 08:50 - 10:30
Immigration (Mongolian Border) 10:30 - 10:45
Jeep (Mongolian Border - Chinese Border) 10:45 - 10:50
Jeep waits at Border (Chinese Border) 10:50 - 11:00
Immigration (Chinese Border) 11:00 - 11:10
Wait for Jeep (Chinese Border) 11:10 - 11:25
Jeep (Chinese Border - Erlian) 11:25 - 11:40
Rickshaw (Erlian - Bus Station) 11:40 - 11:50
Lunch (Solongo) 11:50 - 12:40

Friday, August 19, 2011

KHAN-UUL: 01 - A Palace, a Park, and a Hill in Three Hours

I had plenty of time yesterday, but as I said, “There’s always tomorrow!” It’s funny how until now I don’t seem to have an idea of how I behave in such situations. It was pretty much obvious that I would be waking up late again. I was planning to wake up at 6 AM but I only did so at 11 AM, just giving me enough time to take one last shower for the day before my long train ride back to Zamyn Uud. What’s left for me to explore were: a) the very big park a few blocks away from the guest house; b) the Winter palace; c) Buddha Park; and d) Zaisan Hill. Although they are not that far away from one another (maps are often exaggerated), some of them (the huge park and the Winter Palace) would require some time for you to enjoy them. Since I stepped out of the guest house at 12, I only had three hours to make it back so that the train would not leave without me. And so I skipped the big park (It has a Ferris Wheel! It has a Ferris Wheel!) and walked.

Walk south away from Sukhbaatar Square. Along the way you would find a peculiarly pink building (Mongolians love ‘em pastel colors) which is the National Academic Drama Theater and the National Library on the opposite side of the street. Take a photo. Those two buildings look cool. You could ride a number 43 bus when you reach Bayangol Hotel. I got there in five minutes with pauses for taking photos and a video. Since the map made it look so far apart I thought the Winter Palace wouldn’t be that far either. It took me around 20 minutes to get there on foot. What’s the catch? Of course I was a bit tired when I got there. The traffic was heavy going back to Sukhbaatar Square, but the road was almost empty going to Zaisan. If I took a bus I could have arrived there in five minutes or so and had a lot of time for a palace excursion that didn’t seem too rushed.

The said Winter Palace has been converted into a museum. This is the only Khan palace you would see in UB, the others are located in some distant province. This palace is rather small and a bit modern thanks to the Russian inspired residence beside it, which is still within palace grounds. You have to buy a ticket and the info at the booth also indicates that there is a fee for photos and videos. I did not get this. The tourists inside were taking pictures of the palaces, but not of the interiors since there is a blatant sign there saying that photography is prohibited, which made me think that taking photos and videos of the palace grounds was ok, and that was what I did. Maybe what they wanted to say is that there is a fee if they give you a camera crew to follow you around as if you were hosting Discovery Channel? That sounds absurd, but I like that, lol.

Anyway, moving on to the layout, there is a big red gate. There are four figures by the entrance but I don’t know who they are. This trip has really left me with a mission to get to know Buddhism as a religion. Maybe I’ll start with Wikipedia. There is a square with a palace to the north (not accessible), a mini temple to the west housing silk arts, and a temple with Buddhist painting to the east. Enter the northern gate and you'll see a similar setup. The two temples on both sides have more Buddhist arts, while the one to the north is accessible this time, still with some exhibit on Buddhism. Take the exit to the right to see the Russian inspired house.

After the Winter Palace I decided to take the bus to Buddha Park, which was a stupid decision once again because the ride only lasted three minutes. Yahoo! The park itself is already done but there is ongoing construction of the residential area around it. Zaisan is the area for UB’s nouveau-riche, and I envy those soon-to-be residents because a combo of those hills and the river greeting you in the morning as a fixed view is simply awesome. There is a Grab and Go at the park and this time they have a restaurant aside from their typical stall. It’s a good stopover for refreshments to pack in some energy before climbing Zaisan Hill, which is already visible from that area. In fact, you could capture the Golden Buddha and the Zaisan Hill Memorial in one frame, depending on the angle.

There are two giant bells housed in gazebos not far from the golden Buddha. Taking pictures was quite difficult because of the sun. It was also surreal because I was seeing the Golden Buddha, but the park had the Pussycat Dolls on loudly playing on the speakers. Weird, I know. Go back to the entrance and head east for the steps leading to Zaisan Hill Memorial. Along the way you’d see the Korean embassy to the left, and a billboard of a mall, or I think it was of a hotel, that would soon rise by the foot of that hill. The steps are to your left, next to the military tank. You could also find food stalls if you snubbed Grab and Go at Buddha Park and then realized that you are hungry after all.

The climb is not that steep and relatively easier than most hills I’ve climbed before. The thing was I didn’t bring water with me. Good news? There’s a Grab and Go stall at the parking lot, again. They are everywhere! So I grabbed a Minute Maid orange drink which never tasted so good! They don’t sell water, but you would find out that there is some sort of convenience store halfway up the hill. They sell water and snacks in there. Tourists traveling in groups are usually brought all the way up to that parking lot, cutting their climb in half. Your advantage is that you get more exercise than them, and they spend more money than you do.

I was trying hard to take a picture of the memorial from afar but there were tourists going down the hill and I just couldn’t wait for all of them to disappear because I was under time pressure. One of them started waving her hands wildly because she thought I was taking a picture of her. Oh, I’m so sorry. I thought you were part of the hill! Shy ka ate? Why don’t you accidentally fall down the cliff first so I could take a better shot? Angelina Jolie, is that you?

Whoever thought of the design of the said memorial is plain genius. The walls don’t cover the whole structure. In fact, they seem to be afloat. What makes them so good to look at are the murals depicting friendship between the Soviets and the Mongols. The cool part is you don’t just see those frescoes, you also see a panoramic view of UB below them at the same time. Cool.

Although UB still needs to add some interesting buildings for a more impressive skyline, climbing up this hill is still worth it because of that feeling of achievement, the exercise, and the relaxation if you find a good spot away from the sun. You’ll find both tourists and locals frequenting the said site. It is a must see if ever you find yourself in UB one day. Besides, it’s not that far from the city center. Just try to skip rush hour.

I was back at the guest house by three to retrieve my stuff. The bus going to the station was nowhere to be found. I am really clueless when it comes to bus routes. UB has no metro. They don’t need it. Yet. So I just took a chance on the various buses plying Peace Avenue and finally arrived at Ulaanbaatar Train Station by 4 PM, just in time for boarding and for a big bottle of Bonaqua. I was in a cabin with three Mongolian women, who were friendly, but again, communication was hard because of the language barrier.

Crossing the Chinese/Mongolian border for the first time to go to UB is an adventure. Regardless of the hassles, you see it as a fun experience. Going back you now see it as a chore and if you are not patient enough, you might just have to do something to kill time. It took a while for us to cross the Mongolian border. You could check the Budget and Itinerary post for the exact time but I think it was around 2 or 3 hours of waiting, but everything went smoothly after that. The trip cost 100 Yuan this time, which was 20 Yuan more than when I first crossed that border. The three Mongolians with me on the jeep also paid the same amount, so I think it is really the rate. Whatever, I just wanted to go back to Beijing and take a shower.

And eat! I haven’t had time to eat lunch and the fried rice I ordered at the resto in Erenhot never arrived so I just walked out with a Fvck You All expression written all over my face. I was waiting for half an hour. How hard was it to cook fried rice? More than 24 hours and all my stomach had to go on were Choco Pies and Pepsi. The bus would cost you around 200 Yuan. A woman approached me and offered a ride by car for 300, sharing it with a Mongolian family of three also going to Beijing. The trip took ten hours and I was at Beijing by half past 10. We departed from Erlian at around quarter to one. The best thing about it? It wasn’t a scam. The journey is long and boring with nothing to see but grass. Try your luck with a book if you could endure the headache you’ll get after reading it.

I’d love to go back to Mongolia to see what’s outside UB but I am not taking the train again, unless the trip is connected to Moscow. Or maybe I would, if someone would go with me so we can play Harry Potter, as long as I get to play Voldemort and there’s no cap on Avada Kedavra.

KHAN-UUL: 01 - A Palace, a Park, and a Hill in Three Hours

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