Mongolia is GREAT!! Who’da thunk it? – Part 2

We were in Mongolia for four days total. The third day was really magical. We started the day, leaving our “Ger” and drove out of the Terelj National Park. On the way out, we passed the “Praying Monk” rock formation.

We drove first to the Chinggis Khaan statue. This is one of the newer attractions, completed in 2008. I thought, OK, a 40 meter tall, stainless steel statue of Chinggis Khaan, a little touristy, but actually it’s kind of neat and there are some really interesting museum quality exhibits in the visitor’s center.

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The statue is located at the spot, where according to legend, Chinggis Khaan found a horse whip (believed to portend great luck). Chinggis is pointed east towards his birthplace. The statue was built by the Genco Tour Company – a Mongolian company for reportedly $4.1MM (that’s dollars not Tughriks). By the way, it was interesting using Mongolian Tughriks with an exchange rate of about 1,700 Tughriks to the U.S. Dollar. When I settled my beer tab at the hotel, it was 53,000 Tughriks – which seemed like a lot until I converted it to a little over 31 U.S. Dollars.

Like the Statue of Liberty, you can climb inside the Chinggis Khaan statue and walk out over the horse’s neck to gain a view of the Mongolian countryside. Here are Holly and I on the horse’s neck underneath Chinggis himself.

Here’s the view from the horse’s neck looking out over the valley.

In the statue’s visitor’s center, they have period costumes available for a fairly low price to tourists who want pictures. A day late for Halloween, we decided to don these costumes and try to look as fierce as we could. Holly did a better job looking menacing. (Notice how nice the visitor’s center is.)

My second attempt at looking fierce, I thought a sword would help, but I couldn’t lose the goofy grin.

The first day we drove around Ulaanbaatar in a Mercedes station wagon. We were told that the next day we would have a different driver and a different car. It turned out to be a Nissan 4X4. On this day we found out why we needed a 4X4 when they took us down a very long dirt (really mud) road and over open terrain to reach a re-creation of 13th Century Ger Camps. The same tour company that owns the Chinggis statue has recreated different Ger camps way out in the middle of nowhere – literally. The first Ger camp we went to is a re-creation of a Guard Camp. These Guard Camps were originally set up 20 miles apart and like the old pony express, they were designed so that messengers could ride from one to another, get something to eat, get a fresh horse, and keep going.

It just happened that inside this particular Ger Camp, they were filming a historical movie. Below are two of the movies actors working out their scene (one of the actors back is towards the camera).

Now you would think that all these various Ger Camps would be set up next to each other and you would walk from one to another like an amusement park, but you would be wrong. They are all well apart from each other, over hills, down the road and out of sight from one another, so after each Ger Camp, we’d get back in the 4X4 and drive to the next camp.

At one of the camps, we were served the meal we enjoyed the most while in Mongolia. It was fun, but it was also really tasty. Here is our driver Mr. Bald along with Holly and me enjoying our lunch. In the golden kettle is suutei tsai (salty, milky tea)… we did not run across airag (a clear spirit made with fermented mare’s milk).

The lunch consisted of a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers; a lamb soup; fried lamb dumplings (the ones that look like flatbread) and tea with mare’s milk. Here you see our guide Damidaa and our driver Mr. Bald enjoying the meal with us.

Mr. Bald (who speaks virtually no English) and I then participated in “Who wore it better” – ripped off from People Magazine. First Mr. Bald tried on a very heavy fur coat.

Then I tried on the same coat and thought I’d accessorize with the bow. Even with my accessory, I think this contest goes to Mr. Bald, he looks better in the coat than I do.

Then the woman who prepared and served our lunch, offered to write our names in ancient Mongolian script.

No lunch is really complete without the post-lunch camel ride, so when our guide Damidaa almost apologetically mentioned they had camels available if we wanted to take a short ride and gets some pictures, I think he fully expected us to pass. He hadn’t quite figured out who he was dealing with, because I responded immediately: “Yes, DEFINITELY WE WANT TO RIDE A CAMEL!! They had this two-hump model, which Holly and I decided is much easier and safer to ride than a 1 hump camel. Particularly when the camel is kneeling down to allow people to get on and off and then getting to its feet, there’s a lot of rocking and it’s nice to have a hump behind to lean against and one in front to hold-on to, to avoid being thrown to the ground.

Here’s a view of Mongolian landscape from one of the Gers.

Mongolian Fun Facts:

Human Population of Mongolia: 2,869,500 (population of Ulaanbaatar – 1,227,000)

Livestock Herder Population: 289,646

Livestock: 40,920,800 – Sheep: 18,141,400 – Goats: 17,558,700

Here’s a photo of one of the many sheep and goat mixed herds we saw while in Mongolia:

At another of the Ger Camps, this one for metal working, there was a Grandmother with her Grandchild minding the camp. They provided us one more opportunity to put on traditional clothing and we took a picture with this little charmer.

At that same Ger Camp there were these two wagons which made I thought a nice picture.

Our final day in Mongolia, we checked out of the Ger Hotel and not too far down the road is this famous rock formation, not surprisingly called “Turtle Rock”. In China, they would point to rocks with names, but it often took a lot of imagination to see what the Chinese were seeing. That wasn’t a problem in Mongolia. When they name a rock, it looks like the name.

Just up the road from Turtle Rock is the Arayabal Meditation Temple. Looked at from the front it resembles an elephant’s head with the stairway resembling the elephant’s trunk.

As you ascend the path towards the meditation temple, there are signs with sayings every few feet. The signs are numbered and there is large wheel that one spins. Whatever number the pointer lands on corresponds with the saying that has special meaning to that person.

Here is my saying:

This is the view from the top of the mediation temple.

We had a wonderful time in Mongolia and Holly would like to return to do a week long adventure (luxury) camp in the Gobi desert in September with Nomad adventures and our guide Damidaa, then attend the Eagle Hunters festival the first week in October. Is anyone interested in joining us?

To close out my posting on Mongolia, here a picture I took through the windshield of our 4X4 near sunset. This is just one of many beautiful photos I took of Mongolia. I could easily have filled out 5 or 6 postings with the pictures I took in Mongolia.

Mongolia was glorious!!

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