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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let’s Go To…Ulaan-bataar!

Ulaan-baatar. Asia’s White Fairy. Crown jewel of the Mongolian Empire. Unofficial capitol of the Coalition. The world’s most populous city.

Hard to believe that a scant few years ago Ulaan-baatar was home to only about a million people, most of them nomadic locals. How did a city of only six universities become the sprawling cosmopolitan heart of the world’s largest empire in just a few years time?

The answer is all over the place. In every park there is a statue, on every wall there is a poster, in every home there is a shrine to the father of the Golden Age of Mongolia: Bleda Khan.

You wouldn’t know it today, but Mabus Bleda was not born of noble blood, was not a mighty warrior, and was not the lovechild of a peasant woman and a mythical garuda. (Yes, that is a real legend the nomads tell.) In spite of what the propaganda will tell you today (and there is a lot of it, so get used to ignoring it or get used to being brainwashed) Mabus Bleda was a fairly ordinary, even nondescript government functionary in the old regime.

Bleda became disillusioned with the Mongolian version of democracy when the People’s Republic of China collapsed and Mongolia was faced with an ever-mounting refugee crisis. The democratic leaders did nothing, and Bleda feared that the influx of Chinese culture would swamp the native Mongols. He led a coup, declared himself emperor or “khan” and the rest is…well, the rest is written in the bricks and streets of Ulaan-bataar.

The city itself is an industrial boomtown. Thousands of factories and trillions of dollars worth of armament output are centered in the industrial district of Baganuur. Baganuur was once separated from the rest of the city proper, but after massive expansion Baganuur is now connected directly to the old city by an endless steppe of streets, suburbs, and smokestacks.

The district of Bagakhangai was also an exclave in the old days. Today, it is the center of the Golden Sky Force, the largest and most powerful air force in the world. Like Baganuur, Bagakhangai is connected to the old city with rows and rows of homes and shops that service the air commanders and their families.

The place to go, though, for a tourist, is Sükhbaatar. Sükhbaatar is the district that houses Mongolia’s government. The center of the district is the sprawling and magnificent Imperial Palace (although many residents claim that the emperor himself always lives in a yurt at the foot of the palace – and who can blame them if they want to believe it?) Surrounding the palace is a circle of gorgeous mansions, the legations of the Mongolian Empire. Each legation is an embassy of sorts from the conquered countries of the Mongolian Empire. There is one for Japan, China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and so on, each appointed in the native style of the conquered country. Even smaller countries like Bhutan are afforded the same rights as their larger delegations. All are equally subservient to Bleda Khan.

To the west of the palace is embassy row. These are the embassies proper, with ambassadors from independent nations like The Eastern Bloc, the Mexican Empire, and so on. Coalition Headquarters is located here, too, a jaw-dropping skyscraper with a floor for each nation in the coalition and a massive, underground assembly area.

As you can guess there are millions of foreign nationals and immigrants living in Ulaan-bataar today, making it a truly metropolitan city. It’s said by the locals that you could walk for an hour through Sükhbaatar and never hear Mongolian uttered once. Still, Mongolian is the lingua franca here in Ulaan-bataar, and is a language and a culture jealously guarded by the Imperial administration. A foreigner had better get used to the beautiful, top-down flowing script of Mongolian before they visit Ulaan-bataar. The administration does not look kindly on ignorant foreigners. (For more on the Mongolian language and dialects, see Appendix C.)

The city is packed to the gills with foreigners from all over the world, but by far the most populous demographic of Ulaan-bataar is the Han Chinese refugees. Millions have been granted full or provisional Mongolian citizenship upon passing a battery of tests and a series of loyalty oaths. These are the so-called “Chigols” – Han Chinese who have fully adopted Mongolian culture. And there are few more rabid supporters of Bleda Khan than the Chigols. Outside the city proper are thousands of shanty towns made up of refugees primarily from China, but increasingly from all over the Empire, who are studying to become Mongolian citizens, too. Crime is rampant in these shantytowns, so stay away if you can, but if you must go through them, keep your tögrögs in your shoe or around your neck.

There’s so much to see and do in Ulaan-bataar, so let’s not waste any more time on history lessons or demographic breakdowns. In the next few chapters of Let’s Go To…Ulaan-bataar! We will discuss the following:

1. Tourist traps and must-see sites
2. What to do if the Golden Police Force arrest you
3. Drink Your Qymyz: What to eat and what not to eat
4. Ulaan-bataar in wartime
5. Finding your way around
6. Nightlcubs and hot spots
7. Yurt or hotel: you decide

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