Mongolian’s have a relaxed attitude to time and are famous for their relaxed timekeeping. They are typically laid back and don’t let their lives be constrained by deadlines. Why would you when you’re surround by all that rolling steppe?
Why wear a watch when you can tell the time by the sun?
As a visitor, consider slowing down and not rushing to try and fit in what are termed the highlights. Consider the middle places – those not listed or celebrated by idealistic images . The power of any of Mongolia’s landscapes (and the horizons that are so expansive that they also become part of the landscape) is an integral part of any journey. 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, their hardiness, endurance, self-sufficiency, tolerance and definitely their spirit of freedom.
You can’t do that from inside a domestic airport, waiting for your flight down to the southern Gobi for a quick tour of the iconic sights.
Don’t be scared off by the thought of mutton
Mongolia might be more famous for people’s negative reaction towards the local cuisine, but try to put it into context. Why do they eat what they eat? Simple base materials are processed with a surprising variety of methods and combined with vegetables and handmade noodles and other flour products such as dumplings and pancakes.
Don’t be scared off by the reputation of Mongolian cuisine and just choose a tour that promises a fusion of modern Asian-Western cuisine cooked up by a private chef. We love drinking suutei tsai (Mongolian milk tea) with our host families. We also love homemade clotted cream (orom) with jam on fresh bread, wild forest berries on homemade yoghurt, or freshly fried mutton pancakes (khuurshuur) at a road side guanz (a cafe – sometimes in a ger). The local smoked fish and ‘hot rock’ goat (khorkhog) are also delicious.
Be brave. Give it a go!
* It is possible to visit Mongolia as a vegetarian and vegan. And for all, when the Mongolian cuisine gets too much, head to UB with its fantastic array of restaurants serving everything from locally-sourced vegetarian meals to Indian, Korean and even Peruvian.
Embrace the rain
Mongolia does actually receive little rain compared to elsewhere in the world. Mongolia is called the Land of the Eternal Blue Sky because of … well, the blue sky. Roughly 250-260 days per year are without cloud. However, if you want to experience those blue sky days it’s best to come in the … winter. Yep, then you only have to contend with the freezing temperatures instead.
Basically, the high central Asian mountain ranges of the Himalayas and the Altai protect Mongolia against the humid air masses. A big block of cold dry air sits on top of the country and prevents the low-pressure rain filled air getting through – keeping things dry – especially in winter.
Rainfall is a fragile commodity. And that’s important in a country with roughly 67 million head of livestock and where 30-40% are still herders.
It’s not all grey depressing skies. The weather systems do (typically) move through quite quickly. When it does rain adjust your thinking and see it from the perspective of a Mongolian herder – rain is a blessing as it helps to rejuvenate the grasslands and bring fresh rich pasture.
So. When you visit Mongolia this summer, don’t get grumpy when it rains. Bring the waterproofs as well as your sunglasses and accept that it might rain. Embrace it when it does.
Spend time in Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar (or UB as it is known to locals) is the capital city of Mongolia. It divides visitors into two strong categories of take it or leave it. It has its origins as a nomadic city and is now home to approximately 45% of Mongolia’s population. Yes, UB can be a difficult city to get to know and sometimes even like. But, don’t dismiss it too quickly, it’s a city worth spending time in.