Back in Ulaanbaatar!
September 2012. The last time I visited Mongolia was in Autumn of 2009. Back then, the Mongolian economy has been enjoying rapid growth mainly spurred by a boom in mining but was facing serious risks from the global financial crisis. The price of copper plunged, economic growth grounded to a halt, and the huge construction projects that were rapidly changing the Ulaanbaatar skyline stalled.
The Mongolian flag flies proud above the Government Palace
But that was just a brief hiccup. The economy quickly recovered and zoomed to an extraordinary growth in 2010 and 2011, making the country the world’s fastest growing economy. And the Ulaanbaatar skyline was rapidly evolving once again when I got back.
But some things have stayed the same. The Mongolian weather is still cold. Big skies still rule over the Mongolian steppes. And the intrepid nomadic herders still roam the vast countryside.
The Sukhbaatar Square in front of the Government Palace remains as the main strolling ground for tourists and locals alike
Russian era apartments still dominate the residential areas.
Cultural shows reminiscent of ancient days are still the main features of public theaters
The Silk Road, an old favorite, remains as busy as before
Huge projects are underway to upgrade these aging power plants to cope with the rapidly-increasing urban population
The Chinggis Khaan International Airport is also waiting for an upgrade to cope with a rapidly increasing air traffic
The boundaries of the capital city continues to expand
Ger (yurt) communities continue to mushroom around the city
The Tu’ul River, which is considered by many locals as sacred, still faithfully runs through Ulaanbaatar. But how much more strain can it take from the growing populations on its banks? Only time can tell.