My Bus Ride From UB

When I travel to and from UB (Ulaanbaatar), I usually take the train. I get on in Erdenet in the evening, and 11 hours later, I arrive in UB. I like the train, probably harking back to my days as a pre-schooler when my family and I would travel overnight by train from Washington, DC to Southern Pines, North Carolina to visit my grandparents. Yesterday, however, I decided to take the bus back to Erdenet, a roughly 6-hour ride, depending on road conditions, and it happens during the day.

The Dragon Center is perhaps the sleeziest, seediest, ugliest place in UB. Buses come and go frequently to and from aimags (provinces) all over Mongolia. The place is teeming with all kinds of people, doing many different kinds of things. PCVs are regularly robbed there, though it’s often the ones who forget to guard their iPhones and wallets. It’s a great place to get away from. So to think about going there on purpose doesn’t fill me with anything but determination to get through it. I should have taken a picture for this post, because when I google Dragon Center UB, there are no pictures of the center, only very classy shiny pictures of things not near there.

I arrived at the Dragon Center at 8am yesterday because I wanted a seat on the 10am bus to Erdenet. I asked for a window seat, got my ticket, then I sat down in a cafe there that’s dirty, and where, fortunately, the staff ignores you. At one point a young man sat down opposite me, and asked me what time it was. I let him read my watch. It didn’t occur to me until later that there was a big clock on the wall that I’m sure he was aware of. But who knows? He left soon after. I guess my 12-year-old scuba diving watch didn’t impress him.

I read until it was time to board the big Hyundai bus. The driver kindly led me to my seat, and there was an obese woman taking up not only her seat, but a good portion of mine as well. And she was sitting in my window seat. However, the driver had made it clear that the half seat that was left was mine. I was miserably uncomfortable during the ride, despite frequent changes of position, but we finally made it to the lunch stop after 3 hours. I got out and stretched and ate the lunch I’d packed. I made faces at a laughing toddler who was running around for all she was worth, glad to be off the confines of the bus. I watched the aerial acrobatics of my friend, the Red-Billed Chough, and listened to its call.


So far, the spring flowers I’ve seen have been dandelions. Today on the lunch stop, I found a sweet little yellow flower growing close to the ground. So that put the tally of spring flowers at 2.Image

The driver gave us a half hour, and then we all piled back in.

The condition of the road was so bad that the driver kept going off the road and driving overland. There were tracks that other vehicles had made, but at times, it was quite bumpy all the same. And he was driving very, very slowly. Even on the main road it was slow going because of all the holes and bumps.

About an hour before Erdenet, the fat lady got off at a little 2-ger spot. After that, I was very comfortable, and even took some pictures of the greening of the countryside.ImageImage

I saw a huge raptor that looked mostly pale yellow, at least on its underside. And I caught a glimpse of 2 Hoopoes! They’re back!

But I was eager to get off the bus. For the entire ride, the big TV in the front was blaring. First we listened to traditional Mongolian music, seemingly always about horses (videos included). I like this music, but didn’t look forward to the prospect of listening to it for 6 hours. But after a couple of hours it changed to some rather uninteresting numbers, but with video footage of the countryside. Then, after the lunch break, the driver played a historical Mongolian movie. The acting was terrible, the costumes were colorful, but heavy (did people really live their daily lives in that getup?), there was a lot of fighting and lots of loaded, slow motion, romantic, soul-outpouring eye contact, and it was interminable. I wasn’t watching it, except accidentally here and there, but the airwaves were full of it.


This 6-hour bus ride turned into 7 hours, due to road conditions. Seven hours of sound. I was so grateful to get off that bus! Next time, I’ll take the train.

And then guess what? As I approached my building, pulling my reluctantly rolling suitcase, I found spring flower #3, tiny purple irises blooming right outside the front door of my building! What a lovely ending to my adventure.Image



8 thoughts on “My Bus Ride From UB

  1. I love your ability to count the flowers and notice the birds amid the hardships. You remind me everyday of the small blessings each one of us is afforded everyday, if we only pay attention. Thank you.

  2. HI Kathleen, thank you for sharing your adventures. I remember a 7 hour bus ride from Shigatse towards Lhasa. I had dysentery, was pumped up full of immodium trying to sleep so that I wouldn’t soil myself. then the bus stopped for 2 extra hours while a Tibetan family slowly barged their worldly belongings across a small river and onto the bus. They were moving to Lhasa from some tiny village in the hills. So, there was no choice…I had to find the nearest largest rock on the rocky slope (completely devoid of shrubbery) to relieve myself. Modesty….out the window! I still remember the young boy in that family. He had mesmerizing blue eyes. I have a photo of him somewhere. Keep on having adventures….you will remember the good and bad forever. by the way, I think the yellow wildflower you saw is a Potentilla anserina.

    • Well, Rosana, my adventure pales compared with yours! I count myself very lucky! And I think you’re right about the flower. It sure looks like it’s in the Potentilla family. Thank you!

  3. You are a brave and adventurous woman! That’s all I can say about that bus ride. Oh… And this… A trip you’ll never forget, no doubt!

    ~ Terri

  4. The bus went off road!? That never happened when I took it! I wonder if he was avoiding the toll booth, south of Darkhan?

    Choughs, irises… and hoopoes! Good things to tell people about when they complain about Erdenet and environs ;).

      • Hah thanks for replying to my response to something from so long ago! Yeah, I can see that… I remember them trying to fix some of those potholes… I also drove that road one time!

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