Fun In Mongolia.
Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
402Trip End Dec 31, 2013
We are TOO warm in our Ger (Mongolian tent). It is 6.00am and the slightly built Mongolian fire maker clumps into our Ger with his big army boots on with camouflage fatigues, then proceeds to put more wood and coal on the fire. "Oh No!" I groan. Last night we had to open the door a bit, as the central wood fire in our tent actually made it too hot. I had ingeniously tied a silk prayer shawl, a gift from our Tibet guide, between the door and the wood box, to open it just the right amount without the wind banging it backwards and forwards. Now here it is, the crack of dawn, and our fire is being stoked again. He sees me stir and put my head up from the depths of the warm down quilt, and with a flourish he opens the Ger door, saying something in Mongolian, that must have been like “Get a look out here!”
Out that tiny door he holds open, is a winter wonderland of ice and snow
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday we arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, after 29 hours on the train from Beijing. There had been some small patches of residual ice and some rain, as our train trundled through China, but generally the weather was fine. At 9pm on the first day we started border proceedings to leave China and to enter Mongolia. Five hours later at 2am, we were finally on our way again and could get some sleep. The inordinate length of time includes the changing of all the wheels of the train to suit the Mongolian gauge. Amazingly each carriage gets jacked up, while you are in it, and the changeover wheels of the correct gauge are attached.
We were met on the platform by our guide Larsa, when the train pulled into Ulaanbaatar. Our itinerary said we would be taken to a hotel to “freshen up” before a 70 km drive to the Ger camp, where we would spend the next two nights. The camp would have limited facilities for bathing. Well our “freshen up” was a big surprise. We followed the guide inside the hotel and through to a separate reception desk, where we were given a locker key and towels, then pointed in the direction of the doors marked “ladies” and “mens”. We had imagined we would just get the use of a hotel room for an hour or so, but off we went into our respective doors
I entered through steamed up glass doors clutching my toilet bag, to find around a dozen naked woman and pre-school age children, sitting on little stools in various states of lathering, scrubbing and showering. I hesitatingly stood next to a shower rose and began to get soap and shampoo out of my toilet bag when a helpful lady came up to me, with a little plastic stool and indicated I should sit down. “No no!” she said when she spotted my soap and shampoo. She indicated a massive array of products on shelves in the shower room. “You have paid!” she said, indicating that the price included the shampoos, conditioners, soaps etc.
It felt like I was in the middle of a bizarre Mongolian Mother’s coffee morning, conducted in a shower room! Most women were in their 20’s and chit chatted away to each other and their preschooler children, as they scrubbed themselves, each other, and the children then showered off the lather, with hand held shower roses
On our way to the Ger Camp, we came over a hill and to our amazement we saw a gigantic statue 40 metres high of a warrior on a horse. Built quite recently to celebrate 800 years since the rule of Genghis Khan, it has fantastic detail. We travelled by lift up inside his leg, then stairs, to a view point near his chest, on the horses head, where we had a commanding view out over the countryside.
Within half an hour after the statue, we arrived at our Ger camp in the warm spring evening light. We were to be the only guests for the first night, but our guide advised that more guests would be joining us the next day, so we did not mind a quiet night after dinner in our VERY warm Ger.
A Ger (Russians call them Yurt and Australians tend to emulate this mistake) is a round tent predominantly used by nomadic peoples; however they are also quite evident in the cities and country towns too
We were delighted with the change in weather overnight to snow. It WAS a bit of a drawback that the loo was way down the back, almost just a spec on the horizon and so involved a long plod through the snow to get there, before balancing over the hole in the ground (no western pedestal, but they seem to building some new ones). New arrivals to the Ger meant social interaction and the time passed pleasantly.
Back in Ulaanbaatar the capital city of Mongolia we enjoyed free time and indulged in an excellent affordable Thai massage, ate well and shopped for groceries for the upcoming train ride. We also got interviewed and photographed (again!) for a magazine. (Charlotte Kung reporter, UMagazine.com.hk)
We are excited to be heading off now to catch the train that will take us to our first city in Russia, Irkutsk and meanwhile, back at the Ger camp, a Tibet Prayer Shawl still adorns the woodbox. Maybe the next guests will see the use of propping the door open when the fire maker gets a bit too over zealous and make good use of it!!
Travel Tip:: Once again we are going to recommend a massage establishment. The Lotus Thai Massage at 17 Chinggis Avenue in the Sukhbaatar district, Ulaanbaatar Mongolia is superb. Great value, excellent massage and comfort plus. Do not be fooled by the outside appearance, it is a case of not judging a book by its cover!!.