Archive for the ‘BICYCLING ASIA’ Category
Two years living in Mongolia’s capital city flew by remarkably quickly. My bicycling adventures ground to near total halt in the world’s coldest (and most polluted) capital, but there were other fascinating adventures.
Here’s the flyer for my photography exhibit earlier this year, which was my homage to the wonderful country.
Mongolia: Urban + Rural and spaces in between.
I’ll update this page once I get around to making the full photography exhibit viewable online and provide a link.
This year’s Naadam was a hot one. 90+ degrees. Full sun. After the opening ceremony we went outside to the concession areas surrounding the National Stadium. One shady spot served khuusuur and another airag. Airag (fermented horse milk) is actually super refreshing on hot days like this — and mildly alcoholic!
Spring has sprung in the world’s coldest capital!
It was a beautiful day spent exploring the bicycle road bordering Ulaanbaatar’s new National Park just south of the city. This young Mongolian boy is checking me out while his father tries to unstick his bicycle chain, which had jammed between the rear hub and the dropouts.
In the far background you can see parts of Bogd Khan Uul national park, which is the oldest national park in the world. It predates Yellowstone by over 100 years. The peak is over 7400 feet in elevation.
When you go to a foreign country you often see unusual car models zipping around that don’t exist in the US…well, the same thing is true for unusual models of bicycles.
The bicycle above is a great example of a morphology that I’ve never encountered in the US., but it is fairly typical of what you see on the streets of Kyoto.
What stands out to me about this bike:
- small wheel diameter
- dual front and rear racks and baskets
- rain covers for the seat and rear basket
- large kickstand to support the bike when loaded
- high handlebars allowing for a comfortable, upright riding position
- fenders and chain guard
- an umbrella holder!
In a utilitarian sort of way, I find it quite a beautiful little machine.
What an awesome city to travel by bicycle. I rented a bike from my hotel and had no trouble getting wherever I needed to go — coffee, ramen and sushi shops, Uniqlo, museums, gardens, and the famous Cycles Grand Bois.
More pictures to come.
The massive square in downtown Ulaanbaatar was re-named Chinggis Khaan Square, but like many other people I’m still in the habit of calling it Sukhbaatar Square. One local said to me, “We don’t have to name every place after Chinggis Khaan. There are other important people in Mongolian history“.
The square needs to be broken up and softened with trees and other organic design elements, in my opinion. The Brutalist, Stalinist-style architecture is cold and uninviting. And why, in Mongolia of all places, does the central square so thoroughly seek to obliterate any relationship to the beauty of the natural landscape?
But as with so many things, beauty and ugliness are two-sides of the same coin.
Walking through the space, it is easy to become disconnected from your surroundings and fellow citizens — and maybe this was the goal of communist architecture. The weight of the nation state feels heavy on one’s psyche…and a feeling (bordering on melancholy) arises upon the realization that mankind’s desire to produce something grand and transcendent has fallen short.
Yet there are other times I walk this square and its Cartesian vectors, carved from the dense and chaotic urban environment of Ulaanbaatar (itself carved from the eurasian steppe’s montane grassland and scrubland ecozone), place the human mind, and it’s role in the evolution of the universe, into sharp resolution.
And for that I am grateful.
I found a warm, cozy spot (away from the rain) for some spicy Korean soup in this little maze of small streets and alley ways.
A couple more examples of Seoul’s pedestrian-friendly (and green) urban design:
Dual direction pedestrian crosswalks.
Oversized sidewalk-tree planter boxes (allowing water to soak the soil around the complete drip line of the tree’s canopy).
Seoul is so full of energy and life — it is a fantastic city!
I stayed less than 24 hours, and it rained most of the time, but I really enjoyed it here. I took an early morning walk around the city center, on a long loop that took me from The Plaza Hotel to Gyeongbokgung Palace and back.
In the city center, I didn’t see many bicyclists or much bicycling infrastructure. The one or two cyclists I saw, like the man below, rode on the large pedestrian sidewalks.
Most impressive is how the city center is brimming with greenery and arboriculture. American cities could learn a lot about bringing bits of biodiversity into the city from the urban planners in Seoul.
The photograph at the top of the page and those below are good examples: