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Ulaanbaatar Stench

In November 2006, I got off the plane in Ulaanbaatar and wished immediately that I could reboard the Korean Air flight back to South Korea. The smell nearly knocked me over; the Ulaanbaatar stench is something that never goes away. On the streets of the capital city, it is not uncommon to see Mongolians' relieving themselves of fecal or urine material wherever the need arises. At that time, I was told there were 30,000 ghers in the "gher section" of the city (see photo). The way Mongols' heat those small houses is with a small coal stove placed in the center of the house; the smoke is vented out of the hole in the center of the roof much like an old Native American tipi. Mongolian coal has a unique foul odor. There is no toilet inside these homes so traditionally the outdoors is used. The combination of carbon monoxide from an extraordinary population of poorly maintained cars, 30,000 ghers' pumping out plumes of coal smoke and the stench of fecal material combined with urine and vomit (common from too much to drink) with the desert cold air for retention make for a very ripe atmosphere.


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