After rural Mongolia Ulaanbaator doesn’t feel like a different country, it feels like a different planet altogether. You can get everything here: a cappuccino in a stylish coffee house, a louis vuitton bag, a brand new Mercedes AMG G, or a painting right out of the art gallery in the new shopping mall for 10’000 Euros. And if you look at the flood of expensive cars and stylish people you get the feeling that there are many that can afford all that crap.
Bernd says 3 years ago many of the sky scrapers in the city center haven’t been there and indeed, it looks like they are just about to be finished. There appears to be plenty of money in this country and it looks like a bubble is growing here. However, this is all backed by mining:
Foreign direct investment in Mongolia’s extractive industries – which are based on extensive deposits of copper, gold, coal, molybdenum, fluorspar, uranium, tin, and tungsten – has transformed Mongolia’s landlocked economy from its traditional dependence on herding and agriculture. Exports now account for more than half of GDP. Mongolia depends on China for more than 60% of its external trade – China receives some 90% of Mongolia’s exports and supplies Mongolia with more than one-third of its imports.
The Chinese money has to go somewhere after all and this money attracts lots of people, rich foreigners as well as the formerly nomadic living farmers. More than half the population of Mongolia is living in UB. They have a huge infrastructure problem, the traffic is crazy and they have several coal-fired power plant right in the middle of the city and hundred of thousands are living in yurts using coal stove to heat and cook. In winter the sky is grey and the snow becomes black. But you can see that they trying: I have never seen so many Toyota Prius. All the taxis drive Prius, I’d say 20% of the cars are Prius.
Anyhow, it was crazy to see this but UB is definitely not worth a visit. I however are very happy to be able to stay in the hotel for 4 nights, use a shower and a toilet. I also went to the barber and had to do shopping for the next week. Quitschi got its motor oil replaced as planed and Bernd surprised me this morning by announcing that he repaired the leak in my front differential while I was still sleeping and it is indeed an excellent repair just using a hammer. This guy keeps surprising me.
Tomorrow we are off: direction home.