By Julian Dierkes
One of the delights of returning to a city on a regular basis but at somewhat lengthy intervals (I’ve been traveling to Ulaanbaatar once or twice a year for the past seven years) is that gives the observer an opportunity to notice changes in the cityscape.
There was lots to notice on my most recent, August 2011, visit.
To anyone who is familiar with the (East) German Ampelmännchen it might not come as a surprise that the intersection at the SW corner of Sukhbaatar Sq now boasts traffic lights with an archer, wrestler, and horseback rider as the traffic light symbols. Terrific!
Not only have the traffic lights been changed, but some of the one-way rules on the W side of the square have also changed and traffic seems to be flowing a bit smoother now. Hard to tell as it was still summer and thus a lot of Ulaanbaatar residents in the countryside, but traffic seemed marginally lighter than during my last visit in January 2011.
The other most significant traffic and building project is probably the additional bridge over the Tuul which should ease N-S traffic a bit.
I used to think that Mongolia was where Hyundai Accents went to die, but they are not as dominant in traffic as they used to be. Generally, a greater mix of cars around. Some of the city buses are now a mobile WiFi hot spot.
More and more (small) parks seem to be appearing in downtown Ulaanbaatar. The park in front of the Central Tower looks quite manicured, including a water feature, at least in summer. Likewise the centre of the street leading straight North for the State Department Store has received a facelift and now looks quite attractive.
With some small parks springing up, fancy buildings are not far behind. The new MPP headquarters looks bombastic and almost finished. The DP will surely follow suite and construction is already under way on its sight next to the state opera, overlooking Sukhbaatar Sq.