Bad start in Ulaanbaatar
The sound of car horns all around you.
Not short, little toots but long, drawn-out angry blasts to intimidate. Coming at you from left, right and centre.
Brakes screeching. More horns. Shouting.
Welcome to Ulaanbaatar, city of chaos. I didn’t realise it then, but the traffic in Ulaanbaatar would frustrate me more than any other city on the trip.
My first few hours in Mongolia did not go well. Three things would go wrong that day, one after the other. I don’t normally have such bad luck, but I did, that day.
The first thing that went wrong was that my bus from Ulan-Ude, Russia, arrived at 9.30 at night, 45 minutes late. That mattered because I’d sent an email to my hostel requesting for a pick-up from the city bus station.
The second was our bus didn’t stop at a ‘bus station’, but had instead left us by the side of the road near a petrol station. Tell me again how this is supposed to make sense, I thought as I got down, tired and pissed off. I’d been in the bus since half past seven that morning.
The third was when I called my hostel, despite my apologies for the late arrival, the owner pretended not to know what I was talking about. Pick-up? Reservation? No. She ended the call when I was in the middle of explaining.
Did I say ‘three things’? There’s more.
After getting a taxi to the hostel, I was assigned a unit in the block adjacent to the main one. It was the worst room I’d ever set eyes upon. There was a pile of uncollected rubbish bags, stinking and ripe, at the entrance on the ground floor. Open pizza boxes with bits of cheese still stuck to them lay strewn about next to the garbage bags.
The strong smell of urine followed me all the way up the staircase leading to my room. In the unit itself, there was hair on the kitchen floor and the bed was unmade. The bathtub, not surprisingly, was also clogged with hair.
What annoyed me the most was that none of these nasty details had been mentioned by reviewers on the hostel site or on any booking website for that matter. Had no-one ever had the pleasure of staying in this second block? Was I supposed to feel special that I was the first?
When a man, swaying and drunk, nearly bumped into me on my way to the main building later, I knew that I had to find another hotel first thing in the morning.
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