Mongolia

September 22, 2015

I have always been intrigued by the vast open landscape and the nomadic way of life in Mongolia. It seemed like such a remote country that I never thought I be able to visit, but I am very fortunate to have an adventurous boyfriend who was willing to make it happen. After looking into the logistics of getting around the country we decided that driving on unpaved roads with no signage for two weeks was not the best idea and decided to book a tour. We went through Selena Travel and were very happy with our choice, especially after seeing how people drive in Ulaanbaatar! Our first day we did a city tour, the highlight was the Gandand Monastery:

Prayer Wheels at Gandan Monastery

The monastery was constructed in 1809.  In the 1930’s Mongolia fell under Communist rule and under the influence of Stalin, many monasteries were destroyed and more than 15,000 lamas were killed.  Gandan  was one of the few monasteries to escaped the mass destruction.

Temple of Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara which houses the the 87 ft statue of Buddha.

 

87 ft high statue of  Buddah is the tallest indoor statue in the world.  It was magestic to walk into the temple and see the feet of the statue, only then realizing how tall it was!

The walls of the temple are lined with hundreds of of images of Ayush, the Buddha of Longevity.

Here is a great shot of the city.  It was much larger than I expected with a population of about 1.5 million people. While most people live in apartments, there is a large Ger district on the outskirts of town. There people live in traditional yurts.

Day 2 of our tour took us down to the Gobi town of Dalanzadgad.  We got our first experience of driving on unpaved roads.  Luckily our driver was very experienced.  We stopped at the Yoliin Am George for a hike before reaching our first Ger Camp:

Yoliin Am George is in the Gurvan Saikhan Mountans and translates to “Valley of the Vultures”

We were fortunate to spot this little Pikas, a relative of the rabbit. 


In the winter ice fills this gorge. Fortunately the ice was melted but that didn’t stop it from raining.

I like this shot of Peter, our tour mate, in the van.  It highlights the comfy blue seats we bumped around on!

We came across this beautiful paved road.  Too bad it was going in the wrong direction. It was the last paved road we would see for over a week.

These are two of my favorite shots from the whole trip. I love the color of the clouds in the setting sun.

Day 3 took us to the Khongor Sand Dunes, it was everything I imagined the Gobi Desert would look like:

 On our way to the sand dunes we stopped in a little town for some tea and choco pies!  There is our driver Dave, and Carol and Peter, our tour mates.  All the way from Naples Florida,  Carol and Peter are avid travelers with Mongolia being their 102nd country visited.  It was great to hear all their adventures.

Here is a sweet shot of some desert daisies I took at a rest stop, which if you are lucky, in Mongolia is just a nice bush on the side of the road…

That is a good looking group of camels!

And our lovely, awesome tour guide Anna.  She took great care of us!

Day 4 we stopped at a nomadic herder’s Ger and were “treated” to camel’s milk and camel cheese.  it is customary to take any food or gift you are offered so we all tried a little taste.  I can’t say it was the worst food I ever ate, but very close to it.  We moved on to the forest of Saxaul trees, they call them Gobi Trees, which only grow in a small area of the desert:

After we went to the famous Flaming cliffs, where in the 1920’s archeologists found the first dinosaur eggs: 

I looked for dinosaur fossils to no avail.

Luckily this guy was waiting to greet us at our Ger camp!

Perhaps the best part of the trip was the view of the stars at night.  Without any light around for miles we could see millions of stars and the milky way.

Day 5 took us to the Ongi River and Monastery Ruins.  It was one of the largest monasteries in Mongolia, Founded in 1660.  It was completely destroyed in 1938 by the communists:

This temple was reconstructed in 2004

The beautiful and serene Ongi River.

Every night we stayed at different Ger camps. Each Ger was unique and beautiful, and pretty comfortable. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner was served at the Ger camps. The food was always very good. For breakfast we had bread and butter and jelly, soup, eggs and sausage and coffee and tea. Lunch always consisted of a salad, then soup, then a main course. For dinner we had salad and a main course which was usually some form of mutton, and always a Mongolian beer, or two…or three…

Day 6 we drove to Karakorum, the ancient capitol of Mongolia established by Chinggis Kahn and his son.  It was one of our longest driving days and we made it just in time for a spectacular sunset:

Day 7 we visited the Erdene Zuu Monastary founded in 1586:

Here I am holding a falcon outside the monastery.  This huge bird was heavy and his talons were digging into my hand even with the serious leather glove on.  I am happy he didn’t eat me.

After the Monastery we headed east towars Hustai National Park and saw plenty of animals along the way:

We arrived at Hustai National Park, home of the Przewalski Horse. The Przewalski’s horse has never been domesticated and remains the only truly wild horse in the world today:

Day 8 we awoke to a beautiful Rainbow as we left Hustai for Gun-Galuut Nature reserve:

We saw a vulture and a falcon outside the Giant Chinggis Kahn Statue.

Sunset at our Ger Camp.


Day 9 the first day of the Nomad Festival was held by the locals outside of Gun-Galuut.  I got to do an early morning horse ride with a fellow traveler, Rosie:

Our handsome drive Dave and his friends put on their traditional Mongolian Deel on the way to the Nomad Festival.  There we learned about the nomadic way of life.

A beautiful nomadic woman in resting in the Ger as women prepare milk tea and distill yogurt vodka.

Two local men sing a traditional drinking song as we passed around bowls of Airag, fermented mare’s milk, and vodka distilled from yogurt.  I was rooting for Bimpe, the gentleman on the left, to win.

David is saddling a horse as part of the competition.

At the end of the day we were treated to a dance performance by locals.

Day 10 was the second day of the nomad festival.  We got to see an archery competition, wrestling and horse racing.  Anna, our tour guide, took me behind the scenes to hang with some locals:

Tour guide Anna in her bright pink Deel, with Joe, the MC for the event.

IMG_1739Lovely ladies making fried meat dumplings in a Ger for the festival.

My friend Bimpe in the blue Deel.

Handsome Mongolian men wrestling.

Day 11 we made it to Terelj National Park.  It’s hard to believe this gem is only 66km away from Ulaanbaatar:

My post wouldn’t be complete without a picture of the van that made it all happen!

Well that is it folks.  It was an amazing adventure!

Comments (1) | More: blog, Mongolia

One Response to “Mongolia”

  1. So glad to see these. You really need to do a self portrait with you on a camel!