By Julian Dierkes
I’ve been keeping lists of things that are arriving to/disappearing from central Ulaanbaatar: December 2019 | June 2019 | April 2019 | December 2018 | August 2018 | October 2017 | June 2017 | May 2016 | December 2015 | May 2015 | May 2014 | October 2013 | October 2011 | August 2011. More informal versions of these observations also appear in the /ulaanbaatar/change/ category.
Bulgan added her observations in Spring 2022.
I’ve copied the 2014-19 lists here and am adding to it. New items since previous posts appear in italics. Since this list has been growing, I’m also beginning to delete some items that I’ve had on the list for some time.
Strikethrough means that these items will be off the next list.
This list was cruelly interrupted by something that was new to the world in 2020, a global pandemic and thus restrictions on travel. After not being able to visit for 32 months, I finally made it back in August 2022.
What has arrived?
- bubble tea
yoga pet dogs on and off leashes Sunday morning joggers and bikers the “#замчөлөөл” hastag, a city campaign to shame property owners about their infringement of public space. Seems – quietly – very successful when you look at many photos posted.
- large-scale BBQ extravaganza on the banks of the Tuul river, particularly near the ASEM Road. On summer weekends, so many cars parked right on the riverside, BBQs planted right next to them, families camping out, some literally
- drive-home service for drivers who have been drinking. You call the service, they drop off a driver who drives you home in your car and is then picked up again. Given – fortunately – much stricter enforcement of drunk driving laws, a great service!
bike lanes and bike parking, being shooed off bike lanes by riders (though not in December!) fat tire bikes& fixies
View this post on Instagram
- airport road is getting ever fancier, now there’s a giant overpass just before crossing the Tuul on the way into town. Lots of fancy on/off-ramps popping up everywhere on roads.
While I dread the opening of the new airport, construction of the (real) highway out there is under way
View this post on Instagram
- Canadian cold weather brands, Canada Goose and Arc’teryx are everywhere, fake or not
- fully electric cars, charging stations, Tesla
- electronic payment systems. There is the transit card and a number of apps issued by Mongolian banks. There are some QR-code based payment systems. Often credit card payment is approved via a fingerprint reader.
coffee roasting. Not only is instant coffee being beaten back (it obviously still reigns in the country-side), but beyond mass market chains, small roasters are now appearing in the market. Some Mongolians are speaking of a new coffee addiction.
- surveillance cameras. I recall seeing these first at large intersections, presumably to monitor traffic. Now, every other buildings seems to have haphazardly attached a CCTV camera to its facade. I do wonder how many of these are operational and where the feeds lead and if any of them are monitored.
- street art (several years now, but I hadn’t noted this before) and newly commissioned public art
View this post on Instagram
- many more food and agricultural products from Mongolian sources available now
- in April there had been a lot of concern about the lack of snow in the winter and the likelihood of drought. June brought some heavy rains and Ulaanbaatar turned quite green, almost lush.
convertibles streetlights in the ger/khashaa districts
- audible pedestrian crossing signals
green license plates for electric vehicles, yellow for natural gas vehicles suddenly, there seem to be a whole lot more young people wearing reindeer boots, they seem to have supplanted Uggs as the fashionable choice for winter boots
- awareness of plague of small water bottles in all meetings and in homes
- Prius-based delivery services around downtown for online orders, food, etc. Just like informal taxis, lots of Priuses (?) roaming central Ulaanbaatar to pick up/deliver orders
construction of new road to Nalaikh completed in Nov 2019
- several new parks: North of Winter Palace, Southeast corner of Sukhbaatar Sq, also astroturf on Sukhbaatar Square seemingly quite popular as picnic spot as well
That other version of new Ulaanbaatar verdancy, the Sukhbaatar turf… pic.twitter.com/e4lmVafq1h
— Julian Dierkes (@jdierkes) August 7, 2022
- When I first started visiting Ulaanbaatar in mid-2000s, streets were tree/shrub-lined. Trees disappeared, perhaps for lack of watering, but are definitely back now in the urban centre
Immediately noticeable in Ulaanbaatar: abundant greenery. Kind of throwback to ca. 2005 when there eased much more green in city core.
Not just first of 1b trees, but shrubs planted as well.
Also everyone talking abt how different summers have become with frequent ☔. pic.twitter.com/f94HXkktCd
— Julian Dierkes (@jdierkes) August 6, 2022
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, er, Chinggis Khaan Square street kids (they seem to come and go) packs of dogs
hillside Chinggis visible from the city centre as more tall buildings are constructed stiletto heels outdoor billiards tables Natural History Museum, gone one week after photo below small denomination bills
- supposedly haunted house South of Choijin Lama Temple
- Victims of Political Persecution Memorial Museum
So it happened. Long- threatened demolition of Museum for Victims of Political Persecution (was that the name?), to be replaced by “Minister Tower”. Any irony there? And sure, tower will somehow incorporate the museum…#ulaanbaatar pic.twitter.com/TBIYEH9iSl
— Julian Dierkes (@jdierkes) August 15, 2022
- private fences encroaching on public land/sidewalks
Hard to capture an absence in photo, but campaign against fences in central Ulaanbaatar pretty astonishing when you’re used to mostly fenced-in city. #Mongolia pic.twitter.com/baFtl3msbo
— Julian Dierkes (@jdierkes) August 11, 2022
What will appear in the future
- navigation systems
- mental maps shifting to street names/addresses instead of landmarks
new airport, apparently opening in 2020. I drove by there in summer 2017. Oh my, it is far from the city!
- subway (really, I wish they had selected light rail instead, but who knows whether either will come)
- urban renewal and historical restorations embracing district north of government house (National University of Mongolia, German embassy, etc.)
- road signs in the countryside (and not just the very random, very occasional ones that can be found now)
- network of cross-country riding (bike and horse) trails (though not in central Ulaanbaatar)
- parking (meters), electric charging in parking spots/lots
- Combined Heat and Power Plant #5 (yeah, right!)
- hipsters discovering УАЗ (minivan and jeep)
- giant hole blown into Bogd Khaan mountain to “drain” polluted air out of the valley (that actually is a proposal, but it will not appear! There also seems to be a proposal to blast away mountains on either end of the valley to let bad air escape!)
- some kind of traffic routing system with overhead displays
- Mongolia-themed coffee travel mugs
What will disappear in the medium-term future
I’m going out on a predictive limb here… 2-3 years is what I mean by “near future”.
Actually, since I have been predicting this as “near future” change for some years now, I guess I was wrong with all these predictions, and have changed the listing to medium-term future.
- stretched-out hand to signal for a car ride
- that awkward extra half-step on most stairs
- whitening make-up.
What will disappear in the long-term future
I mean around 7 years or so. None of these seems to be coming true quite yet, so I’ve changed the name of this category from medium-term to long-term.
- 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 [Tough call to make as the MFA building is now dwarfed by its own annex]
- deels in the city [actually, they seem to be making a bit of a fashion comeback among young people]
- some of the downtown university campuses
- buildings of 4 floors or less in the urban core
- Russian minivans (УАЗ452)
- the Winter Palace. It won’t disappear entirely, but it is more-and-more surrounded by a very urban and very tall landscape making it look somewhat forlorn, a fate it shares with many other buildings
- heritage buildings