It is still possible to experience the ‘essence’ of Mongolia, with only 24 hours in the country. Although our guests were travelling on the Trans-Mongolian and could only manage a brief overnight stop in Mongolia, they spent their evening enjoying the hospitality of Turuu and his family on our city homestay.
We collected Aucan and Luli from the train station – the morning had been arranged so they could refresh themselves and explore Ulaanbaatar (UB) using our personal recommendations, guidelines and maps. However, Mongolia is very much a divided country – the division is as simple as Ulaanbaatar and the rest of the country. To give our clients a ‘taste’ of what lies outside of UB, we arranged for them to visit Gorkhi-Terelj National Park.
Gorkhi-Terelj shares a common border with Khan Khentii and the two reserves are a single geography of a diverse and wild landscape comprising of mountains, river valleys, forest, rocky summits and wildflower meadows. The rivers and streams that flow through the region lead to it being known as the ‘museum of natural wealth’ by the locals. During the summer months, the rainfall in this mountainous region brings life to the pastureland – providing grazing for the livestock of the herding families who make this region their home.
Although Gorkhi-Terelj is the closest national park to Ulaanbaatar and well-developed for the tourist industry, it is still a stunning area of magnificent alpine scenery (especially outside of the summer months when the park receives fewer visitors). However, at any time of year, the dramatic Mesozoic rock formations are what make Gorkhi-Terelj famous, and hiking within them provides spectacular views.
As the sunset, so our clients returned to Ulaanbaatar where they spent the night with Turuu and his family. Part of the evening was spent making Mongolian dumplings and it looks to me as if a good job was done by all?!
When Aucan first contacted us and expressed his wish to experience Mongolia but then mentioned the month they would be visiting and how limited their time was, we were a little worried. However, as with all experiences, we started with a blank piece of paper, a pencil and the experiences that the potential guests were looking for during their time in Mongolia. We wanted to provide them with an ‘essence’ or a taste of Mongolia.
We took into account that they would be travelling to Mongolia during the spring, and reminded them that herders and their livestock will be coming out of the long, hard and tiring winter period (although this does not tend to affect the attitude of the Mongolian people as they are used to the conditions and welcoming no matter what). We also mentioned that although dry, arid and wind-blown, the landscapes at this time have a light covering of the first precious shoots of spring grass and there is a sense of awakening and possibility.
We created what was essentially a self-guided itinerary. Why do it this way? It offers greater freedom and works well for a short introduction to Mongolia. But what did the guests think?
‘It was a superb experience. I’m so glad that we got in contact, we were only 24hs there but thanks to your help and the kindness of your team we squeezed every minute and came back with a lot of experiences. At the beginning we thought that the ‘eternal blue skies’ was a metaphor, because it was very cloudy and snowing, but throughout the day it changed for a beautiful blue roof. The best part for us was when we headed to Turuu’s house and met his family. We felt as guests and not as customers, and that makes a big difference. We cooked together Mongolian dumplings, that happened to have some similarities to an Argentinian dish, so we exchanged some Argentinian-Mongolian ways of cooking. The evening ended playing Shagai and, of course, Turuu won but just give us some time to practise and we’ll play again – they gave us some bones to take home so maybe we can become the Argentinian national team! For us, this evening was probably the highest point of our stay in Mongolia and one of the most memorable of our whole trip. Next morning Turuu took us to the train station, we left UB very happy to have decided to take this path, and convinced that meeting you and your team was the best think that could have happened to do it.’