Choibalsan city has experienced a bit of a renaissance in foreigners’ eyes. The 2005 Lonely Planet Mongolia describes Choibalsan as a “charmless aimag capital,” a “poor city with a high unemployment rate” which looks like it has “undergone an earthquake.” Our aimag (province) of Dornod suffers no better, merely getting a mention as the “least visited aimag in all Mongolia.”

That sourpuss author, Michael Kohn, must have received some vicious letters. Or, maybe he actually visited this place and realized his error. Now, in Lonely Planet Mongolia 2008, Dornod has become “one of the most beautiful areas of the country and relatively easy to get around.” It’s an “unspoilt ampitheatre of bounding gazelle, scurrying marmots, and jeep tracks that squiggle endlessly into the distance.”

Choibalsan itself gets props as a pleasant, peaceful city — full of delicious food and historical artifacts. We even saw some jinkin (genuine) tourists here last week.

Here’s a glance at my home. I took these photos last August, when I first arrived. The photos come from a leisurely hike to the abandoned Soviet army base.

A gathering storm whips up dust.

Dr. Maarten and Rev. Boldsaikhan inspect one of the French volunteers’ community gardens. Yummy radishes.

Kenny and Cassandra, on the road to the old Soviet army base.

Socialist murals always cast Man as Industry and Woman as Agriculture.

Sarah marching with Mongolian soldiers. The mosaic commemorates Mongolia’s 1939 clash with Japan.

A dramatic monument to Mongolia’s Unknown Soldier.

My beloved creepy history museum; Choibalsan himself, the “Stalin of Mongolia,” stands in front. You can even see Cho’s gargantuan pajamas on display inside.

There is no way to convey the vastness of the Mongolian sky.

The Soviet army dormitory. A construction crane still hovers over one half-complete building.

Cassandra marches toward Lenin.

Lenin’s head is rather tiny.

Choibalsan is this flat all over.

Looking at the ruins of the base’s mess hall. I took this photo from inside the army auditorium. We hunted for treasure in the debris. Cassandra found insignia buttons and I found pretty glass flasks.