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The capital and the largest city of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar was founded in 1639 initially as a nomadic Buddhist monastic center. It is a major manufacturing, industrial, financial hub and the cultural heart of Mongolia with over 40% of Mongolia's population living in the city. Ulaanbaatar is the center of Mongolia's road network and connected by rail to the Trans-Siberian Railway, as well as the Chinese railroad network. The town sits on the Tuul River valley, bordering the Bogd Khan Uul National Park. During the 20th Century there was a religious purge under the Soviets.
Blessed with a pristine countryside, the enormous city of Ulaanbaatar pulsates with life; think untamed traffic, wicked nightlife and a bohemian counter-culture. From Armani-suited businessmen to nomads fresh off the steppes, from dodging Hummer vehicles to chanting monks, the excitement is electric as well as scary. It's chaotic and mystifying with an endless network of lanes and streets to get lost in, despite being quite compact in size. You take your life into your own hands when crossing the roads and you can stay out clubbing until 3 am in the morning if you choose to do so. There is so much to do here, from gazing at historical sites and poking around museums to monasteries, glorious parks and monuments, that your brain will go dizzy just thinking about it all. There are Soviet style relics juxtaposed with modern high-rise buildings. The central square, Chinggis Khan Square, is one of the largest squares in the whole of Asia and is the scene of many rock concerts as well as parades. For a look at the curious you should head to the Narantuul Market (aka Black Market), but be on the watch out for a local pickpocket or two.
When the madness gets too much, head to the Gorkhi Terelj National Park for time out hiking, mountain biking or leisurely strolling beneath a wild canopy of trees.
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