We had several housekeeping things to do on our last day; posting letters and parcels and the task of drawing out enough money to pay the hostel for our trip. This proved to be the most difficult, as we were unable to draw out all the money from an ATM, so we had to go to a bank. Mongolian money is all bank notes, and the conversion is such that a moderate amount of English cash translates to a huge wad of notes in Tugrik. We needed to draw out over a million Tugrik. We showed the bank the figure we wanted to get out, and they seemed surprised, but happy to help and told us it would have to be done in three transactions over their card machine and we would be charged for each transaction. We didn’t really have a choice, so started the process. After the second transaction I realised the currency was in US dollars, not Tugrik, and alarm bells started to ring. We had already drawn out more than we needed, but thankfully they hadn’t read the quantity by the million, they had added a decimal point! The upshot was that we got the money we needed in Tugrik, and the surplus in Chinese Yuan, which we needed anyway. We left with two thick wadges of bank notes in a plastic bag, feeling a bit shady and suspicious as if we had just robbed the bank.
My next errand was to get my hair cut, and where better then ‘DESTROY HAIR AND BEAUTY HAIR SALON’?! Daniel had spotted it the previous day, and I couldn’t resist taking the risk. It had been over two years since my last haircut in France, so I was definitely overdue for a spot of foreign language hair cutting. I find it adds a frisson of excitement to the salon experience – you never know quite what you’re going to get, and you can avoid all the awkward small talk conversations and simply stare benignly in front of you as you play the dumb tourist. I walked into DESTROY and pointed at my hair and made scissor gestures with my fingers. The lady took my coat and marched me to a sink and quite militantly began to wash my hair. She then bundled my hair up in a tight towel and sat me down in a chair. She placed a ring of tissue paper dog collar style around my neck and then a leopard print wide plastic shoulder covering (a nice touch, I felt). I was then draped in a voluminous white papery shroud, ready for my imminent destruction. She combed through my hair with difficulty (slightly embarrassing as I hadn’t brushed it for a couple of days), then made length gestures with her hands at intervals from mid bust upwards to eyebrow level, with a questioning expression. I indicated that just below shoulder length would be fine. She drew an imaginary straight line, and then an imaginary curved line, which I presumed meant, did I want a straight across cut or some layers. I shrugged, to indicate, do what you like, I trust you! She then proceeded to cut my hair. At one point she stopped, and peered at my scalp as if she had found something disgusting and looked questioningly at me. I have no idea what she might have found; possibly camel dung, but it didn’t hold her back for long! After it was cut she mimed, did I want curls or straight, and I replied in mime, why not have curls, it’s not every day you get to have curls, eh? (I am great at mime). So my hair was blow dried and waved and I came out looking like a Disney princess, but in more scrubbery clothes. So, if you’re ever in UB in need of a haircut, visit DESTROY HAIR AND BEAUTY, and be pleasantly surprised!
The rest of the day was frittered away at the hostel trying to organise things for our China trip, and despite thinking we had plenty of time to do this, we still ended up going to bed really late. We made our goodbyes to Sally, Jeff and Daniel, who were planning to head north together on a trip to visit the reindeer. As always, it was sad to part company, but I’m sure we’ll stay in touch. Perhaps we will visit Daniel’s restaurant in The Hague one day!