Mörön sits in a swirl of grubby sand, backed by jagged mountains, giving onto plains grazed to a fine yellow stubble. It’s an epic setting for a Wild West town.
Sadly, Siwa this ain’t.
Or, as Zac puts it, “Ooh! Broken vodka bottles. NOW I know what people in Moron do for fun. Can we go back to the hotel now?’
“It’s not Moron,” I say sniffily. “It’s Mörön. MU-roon.”
“Whatevs,” he says. “Is that a dead dog?”
“I think it’s sleeping,” I say. On closer inspection, it appears unlikely to wake up.
Mörön feels rather like a town in the Old West much have felt. Which is to say, fascinating. Especially in small doses.
It would be unfair to say that there’s nothing to do in Mörön.
There are deer stones, the epic carved monoliths created by early Mongolians, about 20k out of town – a trip that carries a concomitant risk of missing our ride out of Mörön.
There is a provincial museum (shut). There’s a welter of food stores, majoring in candy, pasta, pickled vegetables and sausage that tastes like cat food. There’s a ger camp, several hotels, a bunch of eating places and a stack of pubs, plus a ger set up as election campaign headquarters (with flags and some leaflets).
What with the out-of-towners bringing their flocks in on pickups and the cowboys in traditional robes patrolling the main street, Mörön feels rather like a town in the Old West much have felt.
Which is to say, fascinating. Especially in small doses.
“It’s fine,” I say. “He’s not had a heart attack. He’s just drunk.” The drunk’s hand moves slowly, but deliberately, towards the tie of his jogging bottoms.
“Can we go back to the hotel now?” Zac asks, as we wander down a fine sand street lined with hand-crafted log cabins and jerry-built fences.
“NO!” I say. “We’re going to the building with the blue roof, to see what it is, because it looks interesting.”
Mörön is our second Mongolian provincial capital in two days, and my concept of ‘interesting’ has expanded dramatically.
A middle-aged Mongolian chap clad in grubby jogging bottoms and a dirty green T-shirt is staggering towards us. Then in terribly slow motion, he stops, rocks backwards, and, with a look of surprise inching across his face, rocks forwards, before toppling ever-so-slowly backwards and hitting the sand with an audible crack.
It is 11am on a Sunday morning.
Zac’s eyes are like saucers. “It’s fine,” I say. “He’s not had a heart attack. He’s just drunk.”
The drunk’s hand moves slowly, but deliberately, towards the tie of his jogging bottoms.
“See?” I say, moving my son swiftly on. “He’s fine!”
“It’s not a LARGE town,” I say. “And anyway, all we need to do is to turn right at the drunk and left at the dead dog.”
We never quite work out what the building with the blue dome is, but we do find a rather charming painted wooden monastery and see a whole bunch of eagles.
“How are we going to know how to get back?” asks Zac.
“It’s not a LARGE town,” I say. The population of Mörön is 40,000, absolute tops. “And anyway, all we need to do is to turn right at the drunk and left at the dead dog.”
I feel a sense of quiet satisfaction that I can utter these lines, fo’ real.
“But what if the drunk’s moved?” says Zac, adopting his Inspector Cleuso face. “What THEN? What THEN, I ask you, what THEN?!”
In fact, the drunk has moved about three inches. He has also acquired an audience of bored-looking Mongolian coppers debating (I imagine) whether to load him into their minivan or leave him to sleep it off in situ.
A minivan pulls up. It’s our ride! With our bags!
He’s managed to scrape together enough passengers to make our ride to Khatgal economically viable. Result!