I haven’t posted much about Mongolia in a while, and I want to get back to it. I have a lot of ideas to write about, but this fall got so wrapped up in health issues that I didn’t have much time to think about other things. But during the past few weeks, Devin and I have had a couple of days to just noodle around downtown Ulaanbaatar, which we both love doing. It’s such a fun city, with so many nooks and crannies to explore, and we’ve barely seen any of it.
One of the things that we’ve noticed is that there seem to be more specialty shops than there were four years ago. These are small, independently owned shops that carry specialized items like candles, organic food and soaps, clothing, books, art, and little tchotchkes. They’re a sign that there are young people (mostly) with disposable income and young families looking for healthier products for their children. These shops also have a particular aesthetic that seems to be inspired by a global trend towards small, artsy businesses to counterbalance the standardizing effect of global chains. They make for a fun Saturday afternoon of wandering around, as well.
One shop we went to is called Little Heaven. It’s on a small street just down from the international NGO Save the Children (which I’ve been meaning to visit for another project). It has a bright blue wall separating its front courtyard from the street, with an archway for an entrance. The courtyard is bright, with designs in the same blue on bright white walls. We went in mid-October, so the trees and plants in the courtyard were already bare, which means we’ll have to come back in the summer to see what it looks like when they are fully leafed out.
The courtyard also contains a lot of extra touches like mosaics and a blue bicycle, which set it apart from a lot of other stores you see even on the same street. With the bright blue, they give it a Mediterranean feel. The store entrance is up some tiled steps. The two rooms contain shelves of art, jewelry, and household decorations, with a few racks of clothing. There is also a small café, which we didn’t try that day. It was a fun and relaxing place, appropriately named.
When we went back to the street, we saw a sign for Esgiit Socks. We both love a good sock shop, so we decided to check it out. We didn’t find a sock shop, but up a painted staircase we found Retro Radio, a funky little thrift store. (I’ll do another post on thrift stores of UB, which seem to be a recent youth-driven development.) Devin went to work going through the racks of clothes and tried a few things on, settling for a couple of T-shirts and a necklace in the end. Nothing there would have fit me, but I found a couple of hand-painted bookmarks with edgy sayings on them to take home.
Another shop we went to just yesterday was G.E.R. Organic Shop, which I’ve been wanting to check out for a while. It was about a block away from Dochko’s café and bakery, where we were going for my birthday celebration because of their gluten-free cheesecake. The shop is on Ikh Surguuli Street (University Street), one of the main streets running north from Sukhbaatar Square, up from the National University. Its two rooms are full of imported “eco” and organic products, as well as books, handmade crafts, baby items, and jewelry. One wall is covered by plants, which freshen the air and give the place a soothing feel. We bought some gluten-free pasta from Italy, as well as some herbal teas and an assortment of protein bars for Devin to try as snacks at school.
On the way home, we decided that we need more “noodling around” days, especially while Devin is feeling well enough to walk around in the cold. There are a lot of parts of the city that we haven’t explored yet, especially away from our neighborhood and the central downtown area. Last year, we didn’t go out much in the fall because it was when COVID-19 was peaking here, and then in January I broke my shoulder, which also hampered our activity. But, for now at least, COVID-19 cases are much lower, we feel more relaxed about it, we’re both reasonably mobile, and we want to take more advantage of being here in Ulaanbaatar.
2 thoughts on “Noodling around town”
Wow, none of those shops would look out of place in the city in eastern France where we’re housesitting now, Annecy near Geneva.
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And Devin and I think they have an Encinitas (CA) vibe. This aesthetic seems to be widespread. I’m still thinking about this. I’d like to talk to some of the shop owners to find out what their inspiration was.