Tuesday, 11 September 2007


Somehow, I eventually managed to get out of Mongolia, although in the process I've had to leave my wife behind, in the hope that the British Embassy will grant her a visa once I have secured employment in the UK (which, fingers crossed, will be sometime early next week). I find I have no enthusiasm at all to write about the process of applying for a Settlement Visa at this stage in proceedings, so will spare you that particular joy. If the application is refused then it looks like I'll be returning to Mongolia a little sooner than planned.

As far as travelling goes, I'd like to recommend that people avoid having their credit card and driver's license stolen before a long journey - particularly if it's Natwest you bank with. I missed my connection in Moscow (even though the plane from UB landed a full hour before the London plane departed, and even though the arriving and departing gates were only a few hundred yards apart: making a connection in Moscow is not a fun experience) and so arrived in Heathrow at about 10pm. Avis were unable to let me have my car until they could phone the DVLA in the morning to confirm my driver's license details. Their shuttle bus driver kindly drove me to what he figured would be the cheapest hotel by the airport: I found myself reluctant, however, to take a standard room at £250 a night, and so dragged my bags and banjo and made my way over to Heathrow Police Station, happily close by, with the hopes of being allowed to sit out the night on a bench, or at least to report the criminal hotel rates in the vicinity. As with most British police stations, the door turned out to be locked at night, with no bell, phone number nor any other way of rousing the diligent occupants. After sitting on top of my bags beneath a security camera by the door for half an hour, I eventually decided to go find a likely hedge somewhere. Not too far away was what I took to be some kind of circular electricity sub station or something (a sign the next morning revealed it to be the "Customs House Escape Shaft")- its low hedge provided cover from the road and the gravel path made a bed as soft as any I'd slept in these past few weeks. Here I was, after spending nine months in the land of nomads, (and returning to take a job working with the homeless) - my first night back in England, staring up at the moon on this mild night, with Orion and more stars visible than expected so close to the airport's soothing orange glow.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Last days

Playing the waiting game now - hoping to get Mrs Ulaanbanjo's visa sorted next week, but we're at the mercy of the Embassy here. Things haven't been helped by having my credit card nicked, which was my only means of withdrawing cash here. Natwest kindly stepped to the breach and offered me an emergency cash transfer - 48 hours later they tell me that for a $130 fee they can wire me $80 from my account - thanks Natwest!

Had a very nice time staying with inlaws at a mining town between UB and the Terelj park. I finally took an opportunity to ride a camel, although it was a bit of a humiliating let down - being led round a fence by a little girl, I decided not to go round a second time. Managed to fit in a less touristy activity by going to see a comedy variety show at the Culture Palace, which, for the little I could follow, was very entertaining.

Was turfed out of my accommodation a week early by my former employers at the school (thankyou!) - it being the height of the tourist season we've had an interesting search for accommodation in the city - stayed a few nights at a charming fleapit near the black market for $10 a night but have finally fond a very nice, clean, disco-less hotel just by the Embassy (I think it's called 'Hotel Anna' or something) - $20 a night for a spacious double.

This may be my last post from Ulaanbaatar itself depending on when we escape - I'll try and wrap things up with my final profound observations once back in the UK - thankyou for reading!