Published: July 12th 2008July 7th 2008
On the train again
Mongolian Border - 1 Cow town
Hi All, unfortunately we have to leave Mongolia already it's been an amazing country and a nice surprise. We were expecting Mongolia to be quite backward although we held out hope that the people would be friendly, we needed a few smiling faces after Russia. We arrived a day late, due to a cock-up by our tour company, so it was a pity to loose a day, on the otherhand there were huge riots against the newly elected Communist government in Ulaan Baatar on the day we were due to arrive. 5 people were killed, 300 injured and 1,000 arrested. The action was all over by the time we arrived but there was an alcohol ban for 2 days we were there and it was lifted on the last day - which was unfortunate for Ger are he decided to try a Guinness, lets just say it wasn't as nice as home. We stuck to the much nicer and cheaper local beers, which Maeve is really enjoying.
The train trip this time was a bit less hectic, we had 2 nights and 1 day. There were armed guards on the train who I suspect wouldn't have granted Brendan B's a liqour
licence. There was no drinking allowed in the corridors and noise and singing wouldn't have been tollerated. Richard was caught drinking in the corridor and made pour his recently opened can of beer out the window by a quite unreasonable armed guard. The border crossings were quite unpleasant. The A/C doesn't work when the train stops so you're left baking away in your cabin while they check the paperwork. We did have 4 hours off the train in a small one cow town that consisted of a train station, a post office, shop and a cow. Said cow kept trying to break into the local post office much to the annoyance of the post mistress. At one point we could just see a cows arse sticking out of the door of the post office. When she got bored there she walked up the road to graze the flower beds in the train station much to the amusement of fellow bored passengers. We went down to the local shop to get some beers and ice-cream. On offer were tinned beef, mutton and horse. The shopkeeper still uses an abbacus to work out how much is owed. The train ride into mongolia
was great, we could see rolling green hills in every direction and started to see the traditional nomadic Ger tents that the majority of Mongolias population still live in.
We had a great guide called Bat for our stay in Mongolia, he was great. He took us to a really nice hotel at 6 in the morning and got us checked in, we had showers - a really nice experience after baking in a train for hours, a sleep, then breakfast, some more sleep and then a walking tour at about 11 ( the girls from Irkutsk could learn a thing or two here). We went to the central Square with a magnificent new building with a massive statue of Ginngis Kahn. We then went to the most important Buddist temple in Mongolia which also houses the worlds tallest standing Budda statue and a Tantric College. Then we went for a Mongolian BBQ. Basically they have food laid out in buffet style and you pick up a plate and get veg, raw meat (including lamb liver and sheep tail meat), then add sauces and spices and then hand it over to a chef who cooks it on a large grill.
It was delicious we could only manage 2 trips up to the buffet, Richard went 3 times - some man. There wasn't much happening about town that night - due to the alchohol ban and a 10pm curfew. We found a nice restaurant and filled ourelves for about 5 Euros.
The next day we set off for the National Park and our night in Ger tent. I had read on a blog about a guy who stayed in a Ger and was given a shovel everytime he wanted to go to the toilet so this is what I had prepared Maeve for (Well after the trip was paid for and she couldn't back out) but we were plesantly surprised to find a seperate shower/toilet block (with Toilet paper - a bit of an issue on the train). The main Ger tent was a restaurant and had a satelite dish. The scenery was some of the most beautiful I've ever seen it was rolling green hills for hundreds of miles (we speculated) with mountains off in the distance and ger tents dotted around the vista like sheep. The tracks through the park were quite rough but everywhere you looked were roaming
Our Ger Village
No Shovels and Toilet Roll Included, What Luxury!!!
herds of cattle, horses, sheep, goats and yak with some camels, donkeys and loads of Marmoths (like Meercats). There were also plenty of birds of prey flying about.
We went to vist a traditional Nomadic farming family and go horse riding. They had 50 cattle and 200 horses, an average size farm for Mongolia. We were brought into their Ger and sat down to some Horse milk, Yak Butter/Cheesy stuff and Fondu bready stuff. All I can say is thank God we just eaten and had an excuse not to take more than the courtesy sip and nibble. The horse milk was really sour and bitter with bits of dirt floating in it for a measure of authenticity. It was like sour butter milk mixed with generous helpings of balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. The Yak stuff was really nasty shit, it came in little lumps with the fingerprints in it from when it was made. It had a crumbly lumpy consistecy was bitterly bitter and had a strong after taste. The worst part was as we pulled really sour faces and went uuuuugghhh Bat was slurping away and drinking the milk by the cupful. Worth doing it to say
we did it, but it won't catch on. We went for a 1 hour horse ride around the hills and it was a real treat the scenery was so beautiful that I afraid that the pictures won't do it any justice.
We went back to the tent to settle down for the night. They were really nice, Maeve and I had one to ourselves and it had a nice stove in the middle so it was really cosy. We went back to Ulaan Baatar the next day to get the train to Beijing. We had a great time in Mongolia and could easily have stayed longer. The country that we thought would be backward after Russia was really easy to get around and very tourist friendly and the friendliness of the people definitely didn't dissapoint. It's on my definitely go and see list for anyone who's looking for somewhere a bit different and a cool stamp to have on your passport.
Mongolian Men - 5/10
Mongolian Women - 7/10
There are more photos below