4 July 2016

Nogoon Nuur Community Space - Ulaanbaatar

The ger districts of Ulaanbaatar have few safe community spaces. Nogoon Nuur is bucking this trend

On Saturday, I spent the day exploring the panoramic view points of Ulaanbaatar - Mongolia's capital city. 

Panoramic view of Ulaanbaatar


As with most owners of small businesses, I frequently work a seven-day week. I was determined to have one day away from the computer. Of course, the day was still work related but I replaced the computer screen with a few big views.

The view from Dari Ekh, Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar is located in the Tuul River Basin. It's at an altitude of 1350m and  surrounded by four mountains - the highest being Bogd Khan at 2250m. Bogd Khan Mountain forms a boundary - to the south is open steppe and to the north the forest steppe zone. Obviously, its the hills that provide the views.

Ulaanbaatar is home to roughly 1.3 million people (the country population is just over 3 million - roughly 3,007,000). According to the last census (2010), there are 246 people per square kilometre in Ulaanbaatar. This drops to 1.4 -1.7 people per square kilometre outside of the capital.

A majority of Ulaanbaatar's population live in the ger districts that surround the central downtown - approximately 60% of the population actually. 

Panoramic view of Ulaanbaatar

As part of my 'big views' day out, I went to visit Nogoon Nuur. Located within the heart of the ger district at Denjin Hill. 

View of ger districts, Ulaanbaatar

There are few safe community spaces within the ger districts - especially community spaces where children can play. But, Nogoon Nuur (Green Lake) is bucking this trend.  

Nogoon Nuur was a quarry. Then a waste dump site. It is now a thriving community space made possible by a committed individual, Ulzii.

Ulzii (Ulziitogtokh Sodnomsenge) is a philanthropist (his 2015 TedExUlaanbaatar talk focused on being rewarded someday for for what you have done or are doing).  Between the years of 1993-2002 Ulzii worked as a screen writer. He won an amateur film making contest in Japan with his work “Friendship City Erdenet” as well as the Fisheye Film Festival in 2005. Ulzii also worked in South Korea in 2005-2008. Since 2012 he has been working to restore Nogoon Nuur and develop a public park. 

Nogoon Nuur community space, Ulaanbaatar
In the summer, he offers pedalo boats for children (and their parents) to use. The cost is between 500 MNT to 1000 MNT for 15 minutes. In the winter, it converts to an ice-skating rink. In the spring and autumn, the focus is on developing the site - maintenance, planting trees, construction of the indoor community space.  Long term residents include a pair of ducks, doves and a rabbit. 

What is most noticeable about the whole area is the lack of rubbish. Surprising in Ulaanbaatar. The local children that visit are encouraged to respect the area and to help protect it. 

Pedalos at Nogoon Nuur community space, Ulaanbaatar

I love this community area immensely and like to visit when I can. Community participation is an important ingredient of the development of Nogoon Nuur and twice a year, I cover for the costs for the EL team to volunteer at the site - in spring and autumn when the maintenance work takes place. (Our May visit focused on preparing the area for the planting of trees, landscaping and the building of a composting system).  

A majority of international travellers opt to quickly by-pass Ulaanbaatar - maybe including a quick visit to the National History Museum or the Tumen Ekh Culture Show. However, Ulaanbaatar is so much more than just the central downtown district. 

As a traveller, you will more than likely bring your guidebook but why not ditch the guidebook for a while and discover a new side to this city that is now my home.  The plug (of course!) If you would like to experience the 'big views' or community aspect of Ulaanbaatar with either myself or one of my Eternal Landscapes team, why not try one of our Mongolia one-day experiences?