Mongolia: Darkhan

Over the past weekend, I visited Darkhan, the second largest city in Mongolia. Darkhan is situated in northern Mongolia, about 230 kilometres north of Ulaanbaatar and less than 130 kilometres south of the Russian border. Despite being Mongolia’s second-largest city, Darkhan’s population of 76,000 is dwarfed by Ulaanbaatar’s 1,372,000, highlighting how Mongolia’s urbanisation has been concentrated in the fast-growing capital.

I visited Darkhan as part of my work with Kiva.org, the crowdfunding microfinance non-profit. Kiva partners with two local microfinance organisations—XacBank and Credit Mongol. Part of my job is to undertake an audit of a random sample of Borrowers each organisation has funded through Kiva, to ensure the partnership is operating within agreed parameters. Continue reading Mongolia: Darkhan

Mongolia: First Impressions

This is the first of many blog posts chronicling my time in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It is also my first ever blog post. Drop a comment below letting me know how I did and what topics you’d like to see in future.

 

It’s a terrible cliché—and an ancient Simpsons joke—to call a country “A Land of Contrasts”, or Extremes, or Superlatives. But there are no better phrases to describe Mongolia and its capital, Ulaanbaatar. By almost any  conceivable measure it is a far-from-average place. This theme of contrasts and extremes will flow through many of my future blog posts, but to avoid making this post too long, here are just my initial observations.

The “Land of Contrasts” notion hit me even before the plane touched down. Flying over the Gobi Desert, I found myself gobsmacked at the scale and emptiness of the countryside. Australia is often described as a wide, brown, empty land, but Mongolia has us beaten. With only 3.1 million people spread across a whopping 1.6 million square kilometres, Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country on Earth. But that sense of space evaporated as the plane approached the capital, Ulaanbaatar. In stark contrast (see, there’s that word) to the emptiness of the countryside, Ulaanbaatar is a sprawling metropolis, home to over 1.3 million people, or almost half the population of the entire country. Continue reading Mongolia: First Impressions