Circle the Arctic 2015

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June 16, 2015

Today we began at a civilized time — 9 a.m. CC and I have been here before and the tours arranged are exactly the same as we saw before. We decided to go along anyway.

Largest indoor BuddhaThe first stop was the Gandan Monastery. It also houses some 150 monks. Buddhism suffered mightily when the Russians took over the country and the effects seem to be still evident. The structures are in various states of decay and the surrounding sidewalks are actually dangerous. The Monastery's claim to fame is that it is supposed to have the largest indoor Buddha statue in the world (it seems that every place we go has "the biggest Buddha" in some respect).

Shanty town gursGoing from the Monastery to the Fine Arts Museum, our second stop, we passed by Gur-town. Over half the populace are essentially squatting on the land in the city. The number was as high as 70 percent a few years ago. These residences are shanty town dwellings with a mixture of gurs and other dilapidated structures. There is no water or sewer provided to these areas. There are 3 million people in Mongolia and almost half of them live in UB.

This Mongolian "shanty town" sharply contrasts with other parts of UB where 5 coal-fired power plants provide electricity and heat to the office towers and residential high rises. There is a building boom and construction cranes are everywhere. New apartment buildings are everywhere. The Mongolians typically do not rent but buy their apartments. At the moment 35,000 units stand empty — a very large number signaling over-building. Reminds me of Dubai when we visited there.

Art in Museum

The art in the Museum is crowded, reminds me of Brugel, in the sense that the pictures tells a story. Further, the style is flat, Grandma Moses-like.

We then visited a cashmere outlet. Cashmere from Mongolia is well known. We even got a special fashion show. Not much that could be worn in southern California, the South, or Texas, which is where a lot of the people on this trip seem to come from. CC bought some items.

National History MuseumFinally, we went to the National History Museum. We had visited before but there is some logic in frequenting museums as a rapid way to catch up on local customs, culture, and why the place looks and acts the way it does. The sculpture (boxed in) is dedicated to the cause "No to Death Penalty", a droll cause in a country that, if it didn't invent genocide, brought it to astounding heights in the Chinggis Khan conquest of the then-known world.

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