Mongolia – The motherland of Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan) is not just about, well, Chinggis Khan or the Great Gobi Desert.
Truth be told, it is not also about the whispering sand dunes, humped camels, endless steppes, yaks, gurgling streams, gers, nomadic culture, Naadam…
Nor is it about the glittering night skies and shooting stars…
What then is Mongolia all about? Why you should visit this beautiful landlocked country at least once in your life time? I suppose, to add to all the above, the real reason should the people! Yes, the people of Mongolia are the friendliest people ever! They are still quite unchanged from 3000 years ago, especially in the desert, relying largely on goats, sheep, horses and yak for their livelihood.
That said, you are not going to spend your days here merely talking to people, right? So what can you do when in Mongolia? Also, be warned that Mongolia is not your luxury holiday destination and your chances of finding yourself a hammock to lie is non existent as would be a spa, Michelin restaurant and night markets.
Mongolia is basic and very connected to nature – however the capital Ulan Baatar will give you those choices, too.
Gobi Desert: Okay, so you cannot just drive in or around or through Gobi in merely a day. This trip should be given at least 2-3 days (and you will merely scratch the sand). This journey will change your outlook of life forever, while also teaching you geography, a little bit of zoology and botany, astronomy (how else did the nomads keep time or judge seasons or distance!) and a lot of patience. You will go through different seasons and regions all in one trip – from singing sand dunes to valleys covered with ice and cliffs and streams…
Naadam Festival: Claimed to be the greatest sporting event in the world, Naadam festival (held just before summer), sees wrestling, archery and horse racing all turning the country into one big sports-field.
Home of the dinosaur
The great Mongolian Gobi has High Mountain, springs, forests, sands, steppes and rich animal kingdom. The Gobi which occupies about thirty percent of the country land area has nearly fifty mammal variety, reptiles and birds and a huge variety of plant species.
Nomadic culture: Did you know that a ger can be set up or broken down in less than an hour? For thousands of years, Mongolians follow the nomadic culture, moving livestock and home depending on the season. The food variety is a constant in the Gobi – buuz, fat-rich meat soups, potatoes and noodles. Well, there is aarul (dried yogurt) and airag (fermented mare’s milk) that adds to the occasional variety. You kind of get used to living off the nature eventually and not find any room to complain.
Mongolians have the tradition of placing a mound of stones called Ovoo at strategic locations in their settlements. Throwing stones at this Ovoo is considered to bring luck, you can bribe the Ovoo with vodka too, if you don’t find a stone handy!
Chinggis Khan statue: Following their independence from Russia, Mongolians installed a 131-foot-tall Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue just outside Ulan Bator. This stainless steel statue looks out of place in the Mongolian steppe but it conveys the emergence of a new Mongolia.