Saturday, 17 July 2010

Ulaanbaatar is the wild wild west

Last night, whilst enjoying drinks at the British Embassy bar in Ulaanbaatar, I heard something I have always wanted to hear. A wild haired gentleman sporting a robust moustache stood upon the bar. He beckoned the throng hush: "Yee-haw, I struck oil this morning, the drinks are on me!" I half hoped he'd pull out two six-shooters and dance a jig while firing them in the air! There was certainly something of the JR about this fellow. Sharing such a momentous occasion with him was a unique treat. For the past fifteen years his small exploration company has been working through various sites he wholeheartedly believed oil rich in Mongolia. Yesterday his dream came true. Congratulations.The Steppe Inne is something of an institution in Ulaanbaatar. The British Ambassador and his charming wife began the weekly gathering years ago as a means of bringing together the very few British citizens who were in Mongolia at the time. Since then many more have arrived: some working for NGOs; others pursuing copper, gold and oil; others dinosaur hunters etc. Membership to the club has long closed but our contact here has had a word and we are members for the duration of our stay.

The gathered crowd was a very eclectic mix: old-school Brits who have probably moved from country to country since the Empire was at its peak; entrepreneurial business and charity directors explore what is innevitably the next booming Asian economy; a wacky mix of artists and craftspeople; local Mongolians returned from overseas education with a love for the UK (this is a large group - I have met more Mongolians with PhDs than I have any other nationality). After several ales we were invited by friends to join them for a curry. It was a rather different take on the average Friday night out in Britain.

Mongolian of the day:- khookh :: wow