OR MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH MONGOLIA AND IT’S PEOPLE
I only spent four days here but I fell in love with it and it’s people. I arrived at six in the morning and got a cab using some euros I had (you can’t get currency outside) The drive to the central square was about three minutes! The cabby was a ruddy faced lovely chap and I was impressed at how helpful he tried to be with very little English! My hotel, the Khuvsgul Lake Hotel was a sheer delight. A tall building overlooking the square, a brand new no frills place that had frills!
I paid extra to book in early and have a breakfast. The staple diet in Mongolia is meat and dairy. When I say meat, I mean serious meat sweats mountains of meat. I was there in the thick of winter and very few veg came my way, if they did it was root veg in a stew. The supermarket I went into hardly had anything and obviously it was imported.
Personally I have no problem in trying these pungent, meaty feasts but I think vegans must have a hard time there. I would imagine in summer there is more variety for the more delicate palate.
Note below on the menu the “Charbroiled lambs backbone pot”, “A bucket of seared lamb” and the delightful “A flock of sheep”
Breakfast of champions….
- Soups- Mutton and beef are favourites with a marrow bone chucked in. (Camel, yak and horse are eaten in the country.)
- Dumpling “buuz”- God knows what’s in them but they’re delicious
- Cheeses- Many and varied from the milk of any animals at hand. Gorgeous and wonderful I recommend to try all.
- Honeys- huge variety from the large amount of flora around in summer
- Eggs- rather low key I found
- Local breads
- Yoghourt and kefir from various animal sources
- Rice and noodles for the more Chinese side of the road.
- Lastly a selection of stuff I never identified which included some meat concoctions and sausages.
My walkabouts and museums in Ulaanbaatar in photos!
I rested the first day due to total exhaustion from the border checks on the train and then getting up at literally the crack of dawn or dawns crack as my grandpa used to say the vulgar man.
Slideshow below of the dinosaur museum,.Famous for its own petite TRex named the Tarbosaurus Bataar, unique by the the percentage of bones found (95%) and the most complete skull of a dinosaur anywhere (so they bragged hmmm)… you’re looking at the real thing not a reconstruction despite its strange purple lighting.
I had to get some Mongolian currency from the ATM by the dinosaur museum the next day as cash is king in all the museums there, and there ensued another ridiculous fall up the steps to the bank. As I stumbled slightly I again trod on my long coat and crashed forward in a most ungainly way (see day 3 on the train) and scrabbled around again much like before, except not laughing this time. Not cool man, not cool! Pride hurt, but nothing else, I went for my first proper coffee in days, it was wonderful.
Take note: Small things become important when travelling alone. Minutiae that one doesn’t really appreciate at home. Yes I would have still enjoyed that coffee, but not in the same exultant way. It’s like you have forgotten the joy of things. Washing my hair properly on many of my trips takes on a new meaning and feeling of lightness as does the proper laundering of clothes. Smells of fresh produce in markets, tomatoes warmed by the sun for example. Spices ground freshly somewhere near you. Sunsets and sunrises. The silence of a snowy night until your boots make a soft crunching noise as you walk. Many of these sort of things make magic when travelling solo. Take a moment to really savour these things, they after all, are what make your experience so magical.
Art and Genghis Everywhere.
I’m sad I missed the wrestling in summer it’s supposed to be brilliant, also going out to watch the horses being broken and herded. Also I only saw the Bactrian camels from the train later.
The four days here passed in a blur of loveliness, that’s why I’m just showing you photos. I think they do a better job of showing that light, and the eccentric but fully comprehensive museums and art galleries explain Mongolia’s history. It brings a tear to my eye seeing these photos again and remembering the beautiful soul of the place and the kindness of it’s people.
Fascinating Mongolian Culture.
BELOW: Life around the yurt
The museums and galleries have a huge amount of detailed pictures of nomadic life. I left them out except for this detail of one, as they are too difficult to see as a whole picture. You will love them though as they have great charm and show the communities dancing, wrestling, riding, eating tending their flock etc. I also have left out the hugely complex history of their religious royalty, you’ll just have to go there and find out!
BELOW:Animals and Art slideshow.
BELOW: Traditional games for the long cold nights.
Restaurants and chill time.
You must remember I was staggering about in temperatures around -40 degrees as in Lake Baikal, so I generally ate at my two very local restaurants. As I have nagged you old birds before, only have a drink or be out at night on your hotel doorstep. This is a safety must.
So my top places were very close and very meaty. You’re never far from a split marrow bone in Ulaanbaatar or a very exotic cocktail. Like most things there you never really find out what goes in them but they are all yummy.
Places I went to:
- 976 Art Gallery
- Zanabazar Museum of FIne Art
- Choijin Lama Temple Museum
- The Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs
- Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery
- National History Museum
- Modern Nomads Restaurant
- Doubleshot coffee and cocktail-2
ALERT: SORRY THIS IS SUCH A LOOOOOONG POST BUT I AM GOING TO BE LEAVING FOR COLOMBIA NEXT WEEK AND I WANTED TO GET YOU TO CHINA BEFORE DRAGGING YOU OFF TO SOUTH AMERICA!