Given the difficulties encountered in booking the journey up North, the first thing I did was book my ticket back to China for Sunday night. Since then I have spent a lot of time walking around Ulan Bataar itself, discovering the back streets, and applying for and obtaining my visa for Kazakhstan.
Mongolia is significantly more expensive than China - a taste, I expect, of things to come once I reach Russia.
Prices are surprisingly high, for what is a VERY poor country. Mongolia has limited exports, basically a little copper and some livestock. Surprisingly enough, the main source of income appears to be repatriation of income from family members working overseas - hardly the basis for the future. This doesn't stop the locals from dressing in traditional costume though, whatever the opportunity.
Of course, most of the city is rather run down with broken roads and footpaths, weather beaten buildings and a general dismal air (although this has a lot to do with the fact that winter has just finished, grass is yet to grow and trees are only just starting to bud.
I did see one optimistic element today though. In what appeared to be the Mongolian equivalent of "Keep Australia Beautiful" day, volunteers were working to remove rubbish from the banks and surrounds of the local river (which unlike most rivers in Asia is surprisingly unpolluted).
It was great to see how common and frequent the tradional gers (yurts) are in both the city and country. If nothing else, the Mongols are certainly very strong on their tradition.