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Published: March 21st 2019
R: The next day was our trip out into the Mongolian countryside. The best way to do this is hire a 4x4 and guide so we did just that. First we headed out to the Genghis Khan statue which is about 55km out of town. Its a strange site - really in the middle of nowhere - the intention being that the statue looks over the land of the Mongols. It has a large car park and then a flight of stairs up. The statue was completed in 2008 but the noticeable thing was the decaying steps as you headed up to the building. You go in through a building at the bottom which has a shop and museum filled with slightly unusual exhibits in the basement, before taking the lift up to just below the horses head. There is a great view of the open countryside from the top of the horses head, and you can gaze back at the man himself, holding his famed golden whip. While we were up there, a group of Koreans wanted us to take a photo of them, and in return, gave us a fan that they had brought from home for a conference.
So that was a souvenir that I wasn't expecting on this trip.
Looking around you can see how the site isn't finished - apparently they are waiting for more money and then it is going to be filled with a Mongolian life museum - full of yurts and statues etc. However, there is no expected date for "completion". Meanwhile, the interior of the building is starting to crumble - the passageway out to the view point is very narrow, and there is pretty much nothing left of the corners of the walls already due to the constant traffic of people with backpacks going past it. We lingered a while taking it all in, before it was time to head on into the national park. On the way through, there were herds of yaks, camels and cows grazing by the side of the road.
We headed to Turtle Rock - which looks exactly as it sounds. I think I'll let the pictures do the talking on that one.
Then it was on to a monastery (Ariyabal) that was set in the hills of the Gorkhi-Terelj national park. It was up a fairly steep path, set into the mountains
past numerous stupas with prayer flags. We approached a wooden rope bridge to cross a gorge which was a little vertigo inducing - but we survived! Once at the top, there were more stairs but definitely worth it as we were rewarded with a great view over the national park and the valley. The temple itself had a very bright interior which was quite pretty and a couple of smaller side temples built into the rock. Having climbed all the way up, we took a seat and admired the view for a bit before heading down a different route past paintings, prayer flags and more.
Next it was time for horse riding. Neither of us are big horse riders - and Richard decided to sit this one out. After a quick change into some better trousers, we were off. I went with a guide who smoked the whole way along, which sort of detracted from it a little bit. My horse was extremely reluctant to start with and it did feel like going for a drag. Once we got going it was fine though and the scenery in the national park is stunning. It was great to be out
away from the roads in just the peace and quiet (and cigarette smoke) - the scenery is sort of like granite tours amongst rolling hills and felt like a more beautiful and impressive Dartmoor in some ways.
We were supposed to have lunch in a ger camp (local village of yurts) - a bit of a touristy experience - but there is a big conference on in the area (the same one our friends from the Ghengis Khan statue were attending) and this was taking up all of the lunch spots at the Gers. Oh well. We went to a restaurant in a hotel - which was a little bit fabricated, but the Mongolian food was nice and we had a feast of Mutton, Beef, Stuffed pancakes and dumplings. To wash it down - fermented yak milk in salty tea. We took a bit of a sip - but politely left the rest - I didn't bring any home for the family - lets just say that! We did get to look round a yurt while we were there and they were surprisingly roomy. Sadly, as this trip is the express version - we didn't get to overnight in
the park - but I can only imagine this would have been awesome, especially under the clear skies.
On the way home, we spotted a group of camels by the side of the road, so stopped to say hello. The were being semi-herded by a local but I think they were there to attract people with cameras really. A bit further along we encountered a man with an Eagle (who definitely wanted money for pictures) which we did manage to avoid. To finish the day off perfectly, as we were driving home, a group of men on horseback galloped alongside the car and then broke from the road and headed into the hills.
In summary, it was a bit touristy in places and a whistle stop tour, but it was great to get out into the country and see it. Next time I will come and stay longer!
We convinced the driver to head through the city centre on the way home - as Richard hadn't got to see it yet and then headed back to the hotel. Next morning's train was very early, so we wanted to get an early night. We had a brief stop
in what seemed to be a Mongolian Waitrose to stock up on things for the next leg of the journey and found it surprisingly expensive. (I always love a supermarket stop in every country I visit). The hotel had a restaurant in the ground floor which seemed to be empty but had a great menu. We succumbed to the temptation of not going out and had dinner in the hotel - and Richard wanted to try the Russian Champagne on the menu, having been a bit of a running joke for the last week or so. So we ordered it. I think this was the first time that some one ever had. They brought it out warm, and weren't really sure how to open it. We convinced them to go and get ice, and we got a bucket (literally) of ice to put it in. When Richard finally opened it - it went off with such a bang the cork made a small dent in the roof above the table! We didn't mention this to the hotel... As it turned out, it was German Sekt - not Russian Champagne after all. It was a bit underwhelming but the fun was
in getting there...
So that was our time in Mongolia. The last leg of the train to Beijing was leaving at 7:30am, and PS. We are in Mongolia now - so Moscow time (5 hours behind) would have us leaving at 2:30am!
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