Fascinating Tales from Mongolia

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May 20th 2013
Published: June 6th 2013
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Never Too Old To Goof AroundNever Too Old To Goof AroundNever Too Old To Goof Around

Attila the Hun with his aging harem? Lol.
Mongolia wasn't in my (immediate) plan. But as it turned out, me and my 3 other friends found ourselves here in late May, and happy we made the trip. It would have been more adventurous to take the Trans Siberian Train from Moscow to Ulaan Bataar on the way to Beijing, but such is one plan we have long dropped. If we were younger, perhaps. At our age and disposition, we'd rather fly.

So much is happening here especially in Ulaan Bataar with quite a number of high-rise buildings under construction. With 70%!o(MISSING)f the 2.7 million Mongolians still living in "gers" (circular tents for nomadic Mongolians) and nearly half of that in the city, I wonder who's buying up these condominium units in UB. And if they so move to these modern housing units, who'd take care of the 15 million livestock who formed part of their nomadic families for many centuries? Would the horses be put in stables? Cattle and goat farms emerging in the suburbs? My take is anyone visiting 5 years from now (maybe sooner) would find a different Mongolia. With more, sturdier, permanent housing, do we now expect a fading nomadic race? Perhaps.
The Herdsman and His Mobile PhoneThe Herdsman and His Mobile PhoneThe Herdsman and His Mobile Phone

The whole time we were there, this herdsman got busy on his mobile phone.
Or maybe not. It's a lifestyle change. A drastic one. And who knows how these Mongolian nomads feel?

Out of Ulaan Bataar's Mad Traffic and Off To The Park

There's a lot to be said about the chaotic traffic jams in Ulaan Bataar. We arrived nearly midnight and braved the traffic from the international airport to our hotel. Just a lone airport road. The same one we took on our way back to catch our homeward flight. But with a driver from hell. I remember riding the same van with this hilarious man from Fiji who punctuated every sentence with expletives and at one point begged the ladies to please pray. We did. That driver from hell must have been driving out in the plains for some days with no competition and had no tolerance for any unmoving motor vehicle. But that's another story.

Traffic out; sandy winds in. Out of the city heading southwards. We stopped whenever we fancied taking photographs until every treeless hill looked like the last one. We took care not to open our mouths whenever the wind blows. Sands on your tongue?
World's Largest Equestrian StatueWorld's Largest Equestrian StatueWorld's Largest Equestrian Statue

All in stainless steel! Built on the site where Chinggis Khan's golden whip was supposedly found.
Plenty! And just as many were the grazing cattle, horses, sheep, goats, lambs, yaks, etc. We saw a lone herdsman busy talking to someone on his mobile and wondered about the communication facilities here in Mongolia. Same with the power lines. They are out there, crossing vast plains, with gers constructed beside a satellite dish. We even passed many tourist ger camps where the wooden structures (toilets) are "western", so unlike the real deal where nomad families live.

The World's Largest Equestrian Statue

The Chinggis Khaan Statue is some 50 kilometers south of the capital, a good stopover on your way to Terelj National Park which is another 30 kilometers away. Gleaming bright under the sun, this stainless steel giant monument is the world's largest equestrian statue. Built in a spot where Chinggis Khaan's "golden whip" was allegedly found. That's the tale. Quite impressive if you ask me. We climbed the steps, checked out the 2 museums inside , and took the elevator up through the horse's tail to the 3rd floor. Then walked towards the horse's head to come up looking straight up to the fierce warrior leader's stainless steel beard! The
Turtle Rock in Terelj ParkTurtle Rock in Terelj ParkTurtle Rock in Terelj Park

Wind and Water responsible for all these natural rock formations.
spot gives the visitor a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape -- sacred mountains, steppes, treeless slopes, more tourist gers and grazing animals.

Terelj National Park

In Terelj National Park, we asked to be taken to Turtle Rock. So much has been said and written about it. Nature left on its own. Wind and water responsible for such natural rock formations. We learned there are MANY turtle rocks. As there are Monkey Rocks and Monks Caves. Found a 2 humped camel near the Rock and several horses. We chickened out on the horseback rides. Too many DON'TS! You can't scream, you can't stroke the horse? What do i do when this wild horse scampers away with me on the saddle?

Some Cooking Lessons and Then Lunch

When it was time to meet our nomadic family and share lunch inside a ger, we were famished. We brought some candies but we found no kids. Just Gerde or Kirde or whatever she's called. I stopped asking as I kept forgetting her name. Gerde welcomed us with warm milk tea served in bowls. There were also biscuits and freshly-baked breads. The
Gerde's GerGerde's GerGerde's Ger

The real deal!
latter we liked so much that she packed it for us to bring back to the hotel. (And it was good till the next day!) There was also some vegetable dish, much like cole slaw, eaten with meat dumplings. They made their own pasta, used firelog stoves to steam the dumplings, baked the cookies on the roof of the tents under the sun, and used the same water for steaming dumplings for our after-lunch coffee and tea. The last one took us by surprise. Gerde so matter-of-factly took the water under the tray where the dumplings were being steamed and poured some on our mugs to make coffee. When lunch was over, they used the remaining hot water to clean the bowls and mugs sans any soap. Not a drop of water wasted. I watched the pet cat slurping on his milk tea on a dish and wondered if the same dish was used to serve our cole slaw.

What's In A Ger?

The ger was a simple 1 round room affair. Living, sleeping and cooking quarters in one space. The firelog stove is used to cook meals as well as to warm cold
Camel with 2 humps! Camel with 2 humps! Camel with 2 humps!

Only in China and Mongolia?
nights. There's a hole in the middle to let a plume of smoke out. Beds, hard beds, placed around the ger. When we entered, we were told to have the men on the left side and the ladies on the right. Straight up or on top was reserved for elders. Inside, we found a small shrine, hemmed in by framed photos presumably of Gerde's family. There's the fire log stove, a small, battered refrigerator (it must have had some falls with all that moving around) and a small cooler or freezer to store some meat? If you need to pee, there's a wooden structure outside the ger housing the toilet. One of us went, described the dug-out "facility" and that shut our bladders locked till we got back to our hotel. And no washing provisions, I hear.

Of course one may choose to sleep in a "tourist ger" instead. Hot water, plumbing, better appointments inside the tent. But the toilet facilities are still outside the modern ger. I can't imagine myself walking out of the ger just for my midnight or early morning pee. Not just the cold, but I'd be frozen scared just thinking
Milk Tea and Some bread and cookiesMilk Tea and Some bread and cookiesMilk Tea and Some bread and cookies

The bread is good. The cookies are hard as stone. The milk tea was err.... Warm.
there's a wild animal out there. Sure, the tourist ger camp is "fenced in" but I hear animals can jump over the fence! Enough adventures for old hags like us. We trooped back to our hotel after a day with the nomadic family. There, we soaked ourselves clean of the dust and dirt in a hot tub. Different folks, different strokes!

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Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


Gerde's cooking lunch for us. Gerde's cooking lunch for us.
Gerde's cooking lunch for us.

Lunch was cole slaw with meat dumplings.
Meat DumplingsMeat Dumplings
Meat Dumplings

Steamed. Same water used for our coffee and tea. Then remaining hot water used to clean the dishes, sans soap.
One of 3 beds around this small ger.One of 3 beds around this small ger.
One of 3 beds around this small ger.

Women on the right, men on the left, this bed in between for elders.
Lunch in a GerLunch in a Ger
Lunch in a Ger

Cole slaw, dumplings, milk tea, bread and cookies.
Me with Gerde. (Or Kirde? )Me with Gerde. (Or Kirde? )
Me with Gerde. (Or Kirde? )

I gave her my necklace as souvenir and was rewarded with a tight hug.
A REAL Ger always has a nearby livestock penA REAL Ger always has a nearby livestock pen
A REAL Ger always has a nearby livestock pen

Of course, to house their cattle, goats, sheep, and lambs.
Chinggis Khan, up closeChinggis Khan, up close
Chinggis Khan, up close

Elevator through the horse's tail, a short wall towards the horse's head. Then voila!
Mother & ChildMother & Child
Mother & Child

Herds and herds of sheep, lambs, goats, cattle, horses, yaks.....
Wild horses.Wild horses.
Wild horses.

But not the endangered takhi horses.
Some of the 15 millionSome of the 15 million
Some of the 15 million

Yes, 15 million livestock vs 2.7 million humans.
Supermarket out of nowhereSupermarket out of nowhere
Supermarket out of nowhere

Some candies for the nomadic family
Tourist Ger CampsTourist Ger Camps
Tourist Ger Camps

They're everywhere!
A Tourist GerA Tourist Ger
A Tourist Ger

As compared with the Real deal. Better toilet facilities, plumbing, hot water and a diing area in the hotel up front.
Chinggis Khan International AirportChinggis Khan International Airport
Chinggis Khan International Airport

Just a 2 stores affair. And just a SINGLE road leading to and from the capital's airport.

6th June 2013
Never Too Old To Goof Around

What a fantastic pic...the four of you look incredible. What an adventure...Mongolia...great blog & pics.
6th June 2013
Never Too Old To Goof Around

Hi Dave
Thanks for dropping by. Obviously, we enjoyed donning those costumes and role-playing. It took awhile before we were able to leave. Many of the other tourists wanted to have their pictures taken with us. For a while there, I wanted to charge them $5 per photo. [:)]
6th June 2013

Hot tubs and squat toilets
How great to have three fun travel friends to pop around beach resorts and venture into the deserts of Mongolia! I love how you combine hot tubs and luxurious travel with tastes of the wild life in a real ger. Glad your bladder made it back to your hotel!
7th June 2013

I was surprised myself!
Made it back to the hotel.... Yes. We slept off the "need to go" in the 2 hour trip [:)]
6th June 2013

Fascinating indeed!
I'm adding this to my immediate wishlist. Thanks for sharing!
7th June 2013

Go, jay!
And I'm sure you'd stay in a ger, ride a horse and try your hand in archery. Can't wait to read your account!
6th June 2013
A Tourist Ger

I liked the sound of the 'tourist ger' until I saw this photo - seems to completely defeat the purpose of the ger experience. But still, the plumbing aspect could sway me :)
7th June 2013
A Tourist Ger

Why not?
Go! I have issues about midnight trips to the loo. For one, I'm an owl. I dare not step out even if there's a lighted path at that unholy hour. A day spent in one will do for me. [:)] but YOU go. Then tell us about it.
8th June 2013

Nothing holds you back
Mongolia has been on my short list for some time but Dave is not as excited. I'm sure he will be after reading this. Thanks! You are out there doing it. So great to enjoy the experience with your friends. Those dumplings look great.
10th June 2013

Mixed feelings about Mongolia....
I'm glad we went, yet at the same I wonder if it were better to have waited.... when they're more ready for visitors. Then again, I think it's good we went before things would have changed. I'm telling ya.... I'm confused.
8th June 2013

Just checked back in
3 and a half months back home so I checked back in to see what's happening and up pops your blog on Mongolia. We are thinking of heading over that way next year so I will keep my eyes on your blog. Enjoy.
10th June 2013

Have more adventure....
They say we should have tried living in a ger, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't feel comfortable in one. I'm too old with set ways and that was a problem. In your case, go have that adventure!
9th June 2013
Never Too Old To Goof Around

I love the mans costume!
This is in my list of places to go before I die and after Ive paid off my credit cards. Probably wont be able to visit a ger though coz I dont want to offend the owners when I tell them I'm vegetarian.
9th June 2013
Never Too Old To Goof Around

Advance notice
For vegetarians, you can tell your guide so they'd prepare more bread and cole slaw! But frankly, so much meat in Mongolia!
10th June 2013

11th June 2013
Never Too Old To Goof Around

love the robes! and I love the photos you got here Tita...interesting place.
11th June 2013
Never Too Old To Goof Around

Mongolian Belles
Love them too! It was fun goofing around in those costumes!

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