Comments from past Travelers
In Mongolia, we were met by our guide Tunga, whom you apparently know. Again, we found her to be excellent - plenty of information and plenty of passion for her country. We loved the ger experience, meeting a nomadic family - and the cheap beer!
The story so far from a land so remote
Arrived Beijing to a mass of human beings unlike anything we have seen before, what an eye opener. Walked most places as the buses were like sardine cans and the lineup sedate until the bus arrives then its all for 1 and 1 for yourself, elbows thrashing, Phillbo swearing at those who dare try to elbow him out of the way and Rae holding on tightly to his belt , in case of being left behind- bloody hell! Saw the sights of the Forbidden City- magic, the Great Wall- rabbits everywhere, and many Buddhist temples and gardens which became a haven in the massive city. Until 10 years ago cars were rare but now 17000 million people drive 17000 M cars. Food and especially beer (50 cents 1/2 pint) exceptionally cheap however so far very few eat houses have translated menus so its trick or treat. Visited Xian by overnight train o see the Terra Cotta Warriors and was left breathless at the immensity of the structures and feat the people achieved some 2000 years ago. The overnight trains are good and as they are 4 berth you may share with anyone from Europeans to locals all sharing food etc. From Beijing we travelled by train to Mongolia - Ulaanbaatar (UB) being the capital as our destination arriving 11th Sept after a 1.5 day journey, great trip, cabin shred with a Finnish lady and a young yank girl who never took a breath from talking. UB has a small population but mad drivers but a city where you can visit the outer Steppes and Gobi desert- we have just returned from 2 days staying in a Ger (Yurt) with a local family in a national park 70k from UB- beautiful mountains good hiking and a monastery to boot. They are nomadic and therefore water is limited which we got from upturned plastic drink bottle nailed to a fence post- just a dribble at a time- no wash- well we are back at UB and here for 2 days and leave for Russia on Sunday night 16th
Sept- will do some local site seeing till then- Phills view Just thought I'd add my slant...I didn't actully hang onto his belt...I couldn't reach that...he was so efficient at the elbowing, that I was left watching him mount the steps (with my passport and ticket) so I then had to learn the manners of the moment!! The Ger trip was fantastic. The scenery was just amazing, really majestic and clean fresh air, We did some great hiking. The ger was great and the traditional food was very interesting.
Lots of dairy products, all home made yoghurt, fermented mares milk, and not a sheep's innards to be seen (except that we watched the guy who owned the ger butcher a sheep this morning...and I thought our story of our butchering episode in Cobargo was out there) ...tasted perhaps, but not seen...amazing what you can eat with your eyes closed...and the fact we've got a cold is OK as we can't taste or smell...Something to be said for sickness of the aged!!
Hope you're all OK
see ya Phillbo and Rae
My ePostcards to friends have already elicited a couple of queries from people wanting to do the same tour. (ePostcards follow - please excuse the typos. I am an ex-journo but never done any travel writing so excuse the quality also).
How many people can you fit into one sleeping compartment on the transMongolian? A few aussies, kiwis, a russian, american, spaniard, austrian and a mongolian or two ....... made 21. The train trip from Ulan Baator to Irkutsk involved a lot of waiting around clutching passports and immigration paperwork on both sides of the Mongolian and Russian borders. The theatre of custom officials and the Mongolian smugglers hiding salamis sausages, clothes, you name it, in every nook and cranny including foreigners luggage, made for great entertainment.
I slept with several strings of salami sausages hung above my upper bunk. A cold russian beer and a couple of passengers doing the macarena, cossack dancing and other steps in the middle of the tracks, also whiled away the time. As do the nonsensical shuffling of carriages and engines.
Words and photographs cannot describe the magnificence of the Mongolian steppes. A five hour bumpy drive to our camp 300 km out of the capital, traversed vast sweeping plains without fences, trees and often any other living thing in sight. At the crest of every hill another stunning vista greets you, a landscape of a thousand roads as the Mongolians 'make their own' road when other tracks get cut up. When sharing the road, it was with herds of wild horses, goats or cows, watched over by Mongolian horsemen mounted on wooden saddles, in their traditional clothes and long boots. Unbelievably beautiful and sexy. At night asleep in the felt tent it was so quiet except for the pounding hooves of Mongolian horses trotting past.
Welcomed into a nomadic family's ger the warmth and hospitality of these stunningly beautiful people was demonstrated by their sharing food and drink with us, dressing me up in a gorgeous hand sewn ceremonial costume, and laughing with us grappling with the wooden saddles when riding their horses. Occassionally the outside world was apparent on the steppes - the young Mongolians chatting away on mobile phones, satellite dishes outside gers and a shopkeeper near an ancient temple in the middle of nowhere reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
In Ulaan Baator I shared a few drinks at a bar with the local Reuters journalist - a Finn - and her dog Mr Wonderful. Irja's stories of being mugged 30 times in the 20 years she'd lived in Mongolia confirmed that the capital was indeed a dangerous place for foreigners at night. However, in the ancient temples and on the steppes of Mongolia, an overwhelming sense of serenity pervaded. What a magical and astounding country.
From: Jane Edwards
Greetings from Kashgar
We just wanted to let you know that we had a fantastic time in Mongolia!
Our tour guide, Soko, was a wealth of knowledge & certainly made the trip more memorable by sharing with us info on Mongolian history, culture etc.
The hosts at the homestay (Madam Galia & Arvii) were friendly & great fun.
And the ger camp we stayed at was top notch - oh and the vegetarian food was excellent!!!
We recommend that you continue to use the Mongolian Outback company so other travellers can enjoy Mongolia as much as we did.
Jane & Andy
Thanks for your email. We've now set ourselves up in the UK and and are trying to see as much of Europe as we can.
Our trip was fantastic. I think that by travelling with the same group but then having the freedom to see the destinations by yourselves you get the best of both worlds.
Thanks also for the vodka at the ger camp. That turned out to be an awesome night! Although waking up at 3am, blind drunk, and trying to work out why I was sleeping in a round tent with felt walls was an experience to remember.
All of the guides we had and homestays we stayed were great, the food was always plentiful, and the locations were always very central.
Once again, thanks very much, and I don't think that there is anything that I would suggest you change for future travellers.
Kurt and Lucy.