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Jackie Chan in Ulaanbaatar

July 31st, 2010 · No Comments

There will be travelogues of our time in China and our train trip to Mongolia soon, but those take a lot of work and a bunch of photo optimization.

So for the time being, you’ll have to be satisfied with the news that we went to Karate Kid 2 today at the Urgoo Cinema.  English with Mongolian subtitles.

We knew the movie was in town, but we couldn’t remember the name of the theatre (so we obviously didn’t know where it was either).  And we didn’t know the showtimes.

So we texted someone who could tell us the name, and then found the website of the theatre, which had showtimes (thankfully numbers here are the same as our’s, because we couldn’t read much else – see for yourself).  There was a 16:40 showing, so after checking Google Earth and finding the location, we figured we could get there on time.

But first we needed groceries, so Jack & Tommy & I ran down the 5 flights of stairs, past the smoking police officer, and down the hill to the grocery store (dodging traffic and construction equipment), where we bought the following for 13,000 tugruks (just under CAD$10):

  • 10 eggs
  • 4 big potatoes
  • 2 bunches of carrots
  • a 1L box of orange juice
  • 6 yogurts (Cherry & Berry flavour)
  • 1 loaf of bread

Then we ran back up the hill, up the five flights of stairs, past the smoking police officer and the victims of the crime moaning in the stairwell, grabbed our sweaters and womenfolk (Annie & Lynette, and not by the hair) and ran back down the five flights of stairs, past the police (cigarette was done by now) and the victims and the neighbour of the victims who wanted details, and then around the corner and up the hill to the main road.

Dodging cars, we made it alive to the other side, where I stood facing oncoming traffic, raised my outstretched right arm to waist height, and flapped my hand into traffic.  The very first car swung to the curb to pick us up.  (This is how the taxi system works here – there are no taxis because everyone is a taxi.) 

It was a tiny yellow beat up Hyundai Accent, and we all piled in.  I said Urgoo Cinema, the driver nodded, and we took off.  We never reached a very high speed, but after only 10 minutes of dodging potholes, Toyota Land Cruisers, diesel spewing buses, hoards of minibuses, and pedestrians, while paying some, but not much attention, to the rules of the road, we pulled up in front of the theatre.  The guy’s trip odometer said 3.4 km, so I peeled off a 5,000 tugruk note and gave it to him.  The going rate being 500 tugruks per km, he gave me 1,500 back in change, and off we went.

The theatre could have been any modern multiplex theatre back home.  There were 4 theatres, and everything was shiny and computerized.  You could even buy tickets on your Blackberry (see the theatre website for details in Mongolian). The ticket seller spoke enough English that I knew how much to pay her (17,000 tugruks), she handed me the tickets and away we went.  Another 6,000 for popcorn, a can of Miranda Orange (pretty much Orange Fanta, but Jack says Fanta is better), and a can of Mountain Dew (the kind with all the caffeine like in the USA), and we went off to find the theatre.  There was a video arcade, and there were designer-clad young people everywhere, either talking or texting on their mobile phones.

Moments later, a ticket taker opened the theatre, tore her part off our tickets and in we went. The theatre had theatre style seating, really comfortable padded seats that reclined, and arm rests that went up and down between the seats (like on an airplane) with cup holders in the end of them.  A very nice setup.  Obviously new, and obviously professional.

As the on-screen commercials were about to start, a guy showed up and gestured that I was in his seat.  It turned out the funny numbers we couldn’t understand on our tickets were seat numbers – we had assigned seating.  So we moved from Row 8, seats 4-8 to Row 13, seats 3-7, where we should have been.  This was the back row of the theatre – the sight lines were terrific, and the digital surround sound was great.

After the movie, we checked out the bathrooms – busy with lots of people coming and going – just to see what they had done there.  Hands-free sensors on everything, glass tile on the walls, and nice western style toilets to go with it.  I didn’t even see any footprints on the seats or the rims.  (See my Tajikistan blog entries for an explanation – I’ll post the link when I find it.)

Then we went outside and watched some guys thrash around inside clear plastic balls on a large wading pool (they inflated them with a shopvac in reverse and leaf blowers).  Then we crossed the street (6-10 lanes, depending on the mood and volume of traffic at the time) one lane at a time, and made it alive to the other side.  I stepped up to the curb, flapped my hand like a seal flipper, and a guy in a beat up Fiat got to us first. 

I didn’t know how to describe where we were going, so I showed him on the map.  Off we went.  His gas gauge was on empty, but after 3.6 km (he took up right to the door), we were there.  I gave him 4,000 tugruks, got out, climbed five flights of stairs (stopping to observe the quickie repair job on the door that had been done to the door of apartment 115 after the earlier break in (remember those police that were hanging around)), and let ourselves back into our apartment.  We retrieved the boneless chicken breasts (that Lynette bought yesterday from the neighbour’s friend) that we had left thawing in the sun in Annie’s window, and shortly we will eat some fried chicken with potatoes and carrots.  The kids have had enough Chinese food, and it’s time for some comfort food.

So to sum up:

  • Taxi to theatre = 3,500
  • Movie tickets = 17,000
  • Snacks = 6,000
  • Taxi to home = 4,000
  • Total = 30,500 tugruks (CAD$23.99)

And through it all, we never did lose either water or power all day. A fine day in Ulaanbaatar, with Jackie Chan.

Tags: Mongolia · Travel

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