Russia Day 10 – The Winter Palace of Bogd Khan

Breakfast was at 08:15, and we were on our way out of the national park just after 09:00. Today we would be visiting the winter palace of Bogd Khan – the last ruler of Mongolia. The breakfast was quite basic, but considering how many people they have to cater for, and how remote the place is I think they did a pretty good job!

It took a couple of hours to get back to Ulaanbaatar and across town to the palace of Bogd Khan. From a distance we could see just how much air pollution hung over the city like a fog. Apparently the majority of Mongolia’s winds blow from the north to the south, and the positioning of their coal power stations meant that they were positioned such that they pollute the city. They were however constructed during the Soviet time so may be something they hadn’t considered at the time.

When we arrived at the palace we were warned that photography was not allowed anywhere on the site, but for USD$26 we could buy a pass to take photos. My friend thought it was far too expensive, but I decided it’s a trip I’d only make once so didn’t want to miss the opportunity to photograph one of the few old buildings on Mongolia.

When we arrived at the palace we were warned that photography was not allowed anywhere on the site, but for USD$26 we could buy a pass to take photos. My friend thought it was far too expensive, but I decided it’s a trip I’d only make once so didn’t want to miss the opportunity to photograph one of the few old buildings on Mongolia.

The last emperor of Mongolia had four residences, but this one is the only one which remains after the majority of historical buildings were destroyed during the time of the Soviet Union. It was quite evident how much cultural destruction took place during that period, not just in Mongolia but also in Russia.

There are a number of buildings inside the palace, the majority being religious temples. We went around each one and was told about the purpose of the buildings, the history, and about the artefacts that were on display inside. At one point we were questioned over me taking photographs, but once they saw the photography pass around my neck it was soon cleared up.

In addition to the old buildings are a couple that were created by the Russians so are not of the same style. In the larger of these is a massive collection of the Bogd Khan’s belongings including a throne, a carriage, and even a ger made from the hides of many Snow Leopards.

Our lunch was not far from the palace, and not far from the office of the tour company we’d used. This restaurant served what our guide referred to as European food and was a three course meal of broccoli soup, breaded chicken and fries, and Neapolitan ice cream.

After lunch we were taken to the Soviet monument, the Zaisan memorial. This memorial is to honour the soldiers who died during the second World War and is located in the south of the city not far from the palace. The murals around the circular part of it depict the conflicts that took place and also the Soviet achievements after the war. From this point we could see all over the city and got a better idea of the amount of construction that is taking place. Apparently due to how harsh their winter can be they only have a few months each year to get as much building work done as they can manage.

Once we’d finished we were then taken to a Kashmir shop, something I didn’t really want to do so looked around quickly in case there was actually something I might want to buy. As there wasn’t I sat in the lobby of the building waiting for us to leave.

For the first time in days, we then checked into a hotel; the Ramada. We had a little over an hour there to shower and get ready for then being picked up for the remainder of our tours for the day. This did however also give us some time to pick up some more food for the train journey back to Irkutsk.

Our guide met us at 17:15 and took us to a Mongolian cultural show performed by Tumen Ekh. After driving through the traffic for a while it was evident we were going to be late so our guide took us the last part of the journey on foot. Photography at this one was allowed, at different rates: USD$10 for photos, a slightly higher rate for a video camera, and more for a professional video camera. For my Canon EOS 5D mk3 they considered this to be the USD$10 band – not strictly accurate, but it was okay with me!

The performances, especially the first singing one, reminded me a lot of the performances I’d seen in China. Though there were a lot of differences too such as the throat singing that produced some very unusual sounds. It also included a contortionist where she was able to lift her own body weight with her teeth.

After an hour and a half the performance was over and we were taken to a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant for food. It reminded me a lot of the one I visited in Sowerby Bridge in England, so it seems the English one did get a lot right! I had two servings of peppers, noodles, chicken, and sweet and sour sauce. This was then followed by chocolate mousse and a fairy cake. Even after all of this we got back to the hotel a little after 21:00.

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