New to Ulaanbaatar in 2015

By Julian Dierkes

I’ve been keeping a list of things that are arriving to/disappearing from central Ulaanbaatar: May 2014October 2013.

I’ve copied the 2014 list here and am adding to it. New items since 2014 that I’m adding in italics.

What has arrived?

  • sadly, Louis Vuitton, KFC, Burberry Kids and Ugg [probably not new, but I noticed these brands]
  • Mini, Bentley
  • child seats
  • sidewalks
  • parks
  • farmers’ markets
  • yoga
  • dogs on leashes
  • Sunday morning joggers and bikers
  • coffee culture
  • river walkway along the Dund River (under construction in May 2015 but looking very promising)

    • pedestrian overpass to avoid street traffic (Chinggis Ave, just south of Peace Bridge)

What’s going on in #Ulaanbaatar? Pedestrian overpasses? A bicyclist? What?   A photo posted by Julian Dierkes (@jbdierkes) on

What has disappeared, or at least nearly?

  • stationary 80s-office-phone-looking old-granny cell phone booth
  • for-pay scales (actually, they seem to be hanging on)
  • free WiFi on Sukhbaatar, er Chinggis Khaan, er, Sukhbaatar Square
  • Sukhbaatar Square, er, Chinggis Khaan Square
  • open gullys/missing manholes
  • street kids
  • packs of dogs
  • smoking
  • the sixth-floor souvenir shop at the State Department Store (though perhaps seasonal)
  • oversized sunglasses for women that were so popular across Asia (?) some years ago
  • Nescafe (see above on coffee culture)

What will appear in the future

  • navigation systems
  • wheelchair accessibility
  • bike lanes
  • city park along the Tuul (see above!)
  • new airport (apparently)
  • subway (really, I wish they had selected light rail instead)
  • sports cars √
  • Harley-Davidson
  • urban renewal and historical restorations embracing district north of government house (National University of Mongolia, German embassy, etc.)
  • road signs in the countryside
  • street names and signs in the city
  • network of cross-country riding trails
  • parking (meters)
  • Combined Heat and Power Plant #5 (yeah, right!)
  • hipsters discovering УАЗ (minivan and jeep)

What will disappear in the near future

I’m going out on a predictive limb here… 2-3 years is what I mean by “near future”.

  • stray dogs
  • stretched-out hand to signal for a car ride
  • that awkward extra half-step on most stairs

What will disappear in the medium-term future

I mean around 7 years or so.

  • new (to Mongolia) cars that are right-hand drive
  • the neo-classical Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, with its Stalinist (if that’s an architectural style) spire
  • deels in the city
  • some of the downtown university campuses
  • buildings of 4 floors or less in the urban core
  • Russian minivans (УАЗ452) but see above.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots
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3 Responses to New to Ulaanbaatar in 2015

  1. Robert Ritz says:

    At the State Department Store they just opened a big food court on the 7th floor. You can only access it via the elevator or a poorly marked staircase. But the view is really great. The VIP room has a massive conference table with floor to ceiling windows and is only 10k tugriks per hour.

    Also did I mention the food is actually pretty good? There is a mixture of Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Mongolian food. The only western food place apparently didn’t make it…

  2. froit says:

    Your lists are nice, but some corrections and critcisms:
    (sit back, have a coffee)
    Why is LV a sad story? the rich have to spend their money somwhere.
    Cars: also Rolls (at least 6) and Morgan, Ferrari. And Official Porsche Dealership.
    Pedestrian overpasses are used to fix flaws in the traffic-plan and street-design; if they would make raised zebras with lights next to the bus-stops, the grannies with purple deels would be spared the climb of 6 mtr up and down. The elevators seldom work. It’s an insult to pedestrians.
    Missing manhole-covers. You obviously visited only very select parts of the city.
    Will appear:
    In general you are very optimistic!
    Bike lanes? please no! Its just not worth the space for only 5 month a year.
    The new National Park park along the Tuul (not Dund Gol) will be bisected by the soon-to-build 6-lane ‘Central Highway’ from 22 to Baynzurkh Tovchoo. 45 km.
    New airport and subway will be finished after our time.
    Last month UB installed 400 bi-lingual street-name signs in the centre. That is about 5% of all the corners. Nobody has seen them since.
    Forget HPP5. Never gonna work. We need sewer-plant more urgently.
    Near Future:
    What do you mean half-steps? The notion that all steps of a flight of stairs should be all equal is an old imperialist idea. We in Mongolia have better solutions.
    Mid-term future:
    RHD is here to stay. A poll was done on that last year, with obvious results, and this January Mongolia signed a new free-trade deal with Japan. Result: more RHD-cars coming for years into the future.
    And I dont think you will see less deels. But you will see more people wearing deluxe deels, Nationalist pride, and less utilitarian ‘every’day’ deel-grannies.
    The 4-floor centre of UB will not be bulldozered, although that is a plan in city-hall. Action-groups are already drawing plans with powerful resident lawyers and real-estate tycoons that actually live in those.
    For the rest, lets hope it kind of right!

  3. jw says:

    The new playgrounds and urban landscaping in central UB are great – our son thoroughly enjoyed one new one last June, and I spotted more this year.

    The half-steps … they won’t disappear! Singapore still has them everywhere.

    Harleys are already there!

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