Focus On Mongolia – May News
June 5, 2015
Our Mongolia Research Trips – Take A Walk On The Wild Side!
July 25, 2015

Why do we travel? Isn’t it to encounter a different way of life and a culture unique to ours? Don’t we travel to take time out from our own world and to experience someone else’e for a while?

Coffee break!

As visitors to a country, shouldn’t it be us who are prepared to be flexible and adaptable? To embrace (!) and enjoy any differences that we come across during our visit? After all, we’ve chosen to visit that country and it’s only for a short space of time.

In relation to Mongolia, give it a week after your return and you won’t remember what you missed from your everyday life or the small discomforts you encountered. What you will remember are the essential ingredients of Mongolia – the vast landscapes, the way the locals make their life in this harsh terrain, the solitude, the impromptu friendships and the impact they have made on your daily life.

As Jack Weatherford writes in Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (those that read my blog frequently know this is a favourite quote of mine):

‘Compared to the difficulty of daily life for the herders, living permanently in those areas, ours were only the smallest of irritations.’

The mighty Furgon!

For a majority of visitors, making contact with the local people is an important element of their trip to Mongolia – for a moment or two, crossing the cultural divide. But here in Mongolia, the power of the landscapes must remain an integral part of any journey. 

Waking up to a wilderness landscape  – en-route to Tsagaannuur in the Darkhad Depression.

Taken by our guest Hui Li, 2013

Storm clouds gathering – southern Gobi
By our guest Aiko Michot, Untamed Mongolia, 2015

The Khangai Mountains
By our guest Kriti Kapoor, 2009
Surely the travelling is part of the discovery? Image by Turuu!

Zorgol Khairkhan in Dundgobi Aimag
Image by our guest Hui Li, 2012

Khoridol Saridag and The Darkhad Depression

Image by our guest Lee Hayes, Wilderness Trails, 2012

Khovsgol Nuur – Image by me!

Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park

Image by our guest Helen Long, 2013

The people of Mongolia are well-matched to the land they inhabit and by travelling through the diversity of Mongolia’s landscapes, you can start to understand how the landscapes have helped to form the Mongolian personality  – the sturdy individualism, the hardiness, endurance, self-sufficiency, tolerance, and their spirit of freedom. 

Time spent exploring and ‘just being’ in the landscapes is uplifting and enlightening. Travelling through the vast landscapes of Mongolia allows you to witness the local way of life but without being too intrusive. It’s a chance to remove your watch, take a break from the modern world and let each day and each journey unfold. Travelling in this way gives you time to think and gain a fresh perspective. As Tiziano Terrazani wrote in A Fortune Teller Told Me:

‘…the rhythm of my days changed completely. Distances became read again, and I reacquired the taste of discovery and adventure.’

Khoridol Saridag Strictly Protected Area
Image by our guest Zeynep Ozbek, Wilderness Trails, 2012

Keep an open mind. Mongolian culture is unique among Asian cultures and a large percentage of what you may believe about life in an Asian country does not apply here. There’s a hunger for knowledge, understanding, and excellence that drives Mongolian society, and things are changing quickly, but remember that a lot of major changes have happened within just a couple generations. Be patient with Mongolia. While it works through the changes that are going to make it better place, savour the gifts it offers and try to spend less time worrying about small issues  that aren’t being met – such as hot showers or lack of western toilets. Remember, Mongolians are living this life everyday not just for a few weeks. 

Respect that the local people of Mongolia wish to develop economically and gain access to material possessions that we take for granted. It’s the 21st century and nomadic herders have Smartphones. It doesn’t mean the nomadic way of life is dying out – it just means that the herders are adapting their lifestyle to suit the modern age. 

Mongolians are not just divided between those who live in Ulaanbaatar and herders. It’s not just about the minority groups of the Kazakhs or the Buriats or the Tsaatan either. Mongolians live in the cities of Darkhan and Erdenet. They also live in the other provincial centres as well as the smaller town and rural communities. To just want to experience the life of a herder is to ignore a majority of the population. There are teachers and Christians and those with disabilities and policemen and musicians and military personnel and accountants and miners and geologists and drivers and shop owners and construction workers and street cleaners – they are all Mongolians. 

Retail Therapy
Image by our guest, photographer Nick Rains, 2013
Young and female in Mongolia – Enkhee and Oyuha

At Baga Gazriin Chuluu – a local musician filming for a music video

Image by our guest Susan Touchton, Wild Family Explorer, 2013

A cobbler in northern Mongolia mending Hui Li’s shoes

Taiga Landscapes, 2013

When you travel in Mongolia, be prepared to encounter Mongolian tourists – the summer is season is short and families make the most of the school summer holidays to travel together and explore their homeland. Yes they can come in big groups, leave a lot of litter and be loud. But, these are still Mongolians. Take time out to meet them. 

A majority of Mongolians are not tourism professionals. Mongolians can be warm and welcoming and they can also be  taciturn, reserved and indifferent.  For sure you will want to experience the life of a herder but remember their lives are busy and their family life and livestock work comes first. In the summer months, the livestock are out grazing and this can take the herders away from their ger and from communicating with you. 

Sunrise att Khar Nuur, Zavkhan Aimag

Wild Treks Research 2013

Risk it. Come to Mongolia but be prepared to experience it all – the good and the bad and the ups and the downs and the mutton. Come and travel in Mongolia – not in a  ‘tick-it-off-the-list –job-done’ kind of way and not necessarily in a climb or ride or kayak or trek  to the furthest, highest, remotest, most off the beaten track location kind of way either. Just come and immerse yourself in this glorious country with its rich diversity of landscapes, people and culture.

As Jack Weatherford (yes, him again!) writes in the Mongol Queens:

‘In the mongol perspective, challenges choose us, but we choose how to respond. Destiny brings the opportunity and the misfortunes, and the merit of our lives derives in those unplanned moments.’

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