Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Magnificent Mongolia


If stars stretching from horizon to horizon, rainbow sunsets and sunrises, wild horses, noisy herds of camel, and giant sand dunes are your thing, then you should consider Mongolia. Last fall I spent three exciting weeks there. I’d been interested in going for years, and every time I heard the name Mongolia, my skin broke out in goose bumps. I found traveling there to be a beautiful challenge.

My trip started 30 hours earlier on the train from Beijing. Taking the Trans-Mongolian into Ulaan Baatar (or UB as the locals call it) gives you a wonderful perspective of the immensity of this part of the world. It felt like an old time adventure, seeing the land slowly roll by, watching the local people doing daily chores, and getting to know my cabin mates, as opposed to elbow wrestling and playing seat ‘twister’ as you excuse yourself to the restroom on the airplane. We passed through dusty Chinese towns, sipped tea, read books, napped, and chatted as we made our way north. I awoke early after a surprisingly restful night’s sleep, and watched my first Mongolian rainbow colored sunrise nudge the stars from the sky.

My tour of the Gobi and western Mongolia started early the next morning. My fellow adventurers were a delightful couple from Singapore and Malaysia, a wonderful lady from San Francisco, our hilarious driver, and our energetic and spunky guide. Tours can be easily arranged when you arrive through your guesthouse in UB, and prices vary according to how many are in your group. The tour cost around $40 a day for everything- all meals prepared by the English speaking guide, accommodation in ger, all admission to monasteries, transportation and fuel, national parks, exhibits, etc. A real bargain. We felt very spoiled being cooked for and being so well cared for by our driver and guide. But, traveling in the countryside isn’t easy. The first paved road we were on outside of UB was the last day of our trip, day 10! The back roads are extremely bumpy, but our Russian van could maneuver over anything. There is no running water outside of major cities, so you have to spot wash, or just go without showering for a few days. Also, many toilets are three sided huts, so you have the distinct advantage of watching herds of camels plod by as you do your business. They aren’t for the weak of nose or the faint of heart.

Some highlights of the trip were listening to a monk chant blessings for myself and my family at Erdeen Zuu temple in Ghengis Kahn’s capital of Kharkhorum, eating a goat’s milk Popsicle!, teaching a Mongolian driver the Texas two step at an impromptu dance party, the total silence of the countryside, drinking two liters of fermented horse’s milk to help with a bad stomach ache- believe it or not, it worked!- and getting to know my group members whom I still am in contact with today. Mongolia isn’t high on many agendas, but it deserves a serious look if you’re interested in traveling far off the beaten path.

Review Submitted by Genah W.
Photo courtesy of Nicolas Lim who traveled with Genah.

2 Comments:

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Tuesday said...

Genah,

Thanks for the incredible review. Though Mongolia had never been on my list of places to visit after reading this I think it should be!

The picture is absolutely breathtaking!

 
At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Genah,

You have peaked my interest in an unknown and far-off land. Thanks for your insight and for sharing your adventure. I will highly consider Mongolia when I next approach my travel calendar.

Kindest regards,
L.W.

 

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