If you traveled a lot and visited most of the popular destinations in the east and west, maybe it is time to visit exotic cities and countries. By that, I don’t mean sun, sand, and fun islands in the Caribbean, although they fit the description of travel fort eh young.
Mongolia, in Central Asia, is a destination that should be on the itinerary of the curious world traveler interested experiencing something ordinary western tourists have never seen. But, you must hurry; the country and people are changing fast.
Ghenghis Khan founded Mongolia in 1206. Hearty Mongolian riders and warriors on their small horses roamed the arid steppes of Central Asia and beyond. Genghis Khan’s successors enlarged the empire from what is today Poland, to the Korean peninsula, from Siberia to the Gulf of Oman and Vietnam in the east covering come 33 million square kilometres.
Mongolian horses are a little larger than ponies, but have very strong hind legs. They can climb high mountains, and run for long periods.
Mongolia’s population converted to Buddhism gradually over two centuries (16 – 17th centuries), and still today most are devout Buddhists despite 75 years (1924 – 1989) of Soviet occupation. 50 per cent are Buddhists, 40 atheists, 6 believe in Shamanism, Bahai faith, and Christianity, and 4 in Islam).
Ulan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia, a sparsely populated country of close to three million people, is home to one million.
The city has a few Buddhist monasteries that escaped demolitions at the hands of Soviet commissars, the most famous of which is Choijin Lama Monastery completed in 1908. It was turned into a museum in 1942.
The other monastery is Gandan Monose built in the 19th century, and famous for its 26.5 metre high golden statue of Migjid Jauransig.
The ruler of Mongolia had four palaces in Ulan Baatar, of which only the Winter Palace(Old Ikh Khuree) remains, but was converted to a museum.
There are several other museums, of which the following are recommended – national Museum of Mongolian History, and the Zanabazaar Museum of Fine Arts.
the Soviet-style opera house is worth a visit.
The Sukhbaatar Square boasts the Zaisan Memorial commemorating the soldiers who perished in World War II
The Gorkhi Terelj Natural Park, a nature preserve with many tourist facilities, 70 Km. from Ulan Baatar, is popular amongst tourists.
Mongols still today are fond of horses, and many children growing up in the country can ride before they can walk.
Wrestling and archery are two sports celebrated annually at different fairs.
Mongolia looks and feels like an unfenced paddock, approximately three times as large as France, it is inhabited by a little less than three million people.
Many in the country live nomadic lives in their gers (circular, modular white felt tents), but enjoy modern amenities like cellular phones, TV sets powered by solar panels, and cocasioanlly own Soviet built motorcycles with sidecars, or Landover type vehicles.
The interior of the ger is cozy, decked out with carpets, and an ornate cast-iron stove and family pictures.
Air China and MIAT (the Mongolian Air Line) fly from Beijing twice weekly to Ulan Baatar, but other international airline including Aeroflot, Lufthansa and others fly from Tokyo, Seoul, Berlin, Moscow, and Irkutsk direct.
For North Americans, flying involves one or two stopovers, but can be embellished by overnight- or short stops in Moscow, or Berlin, or Tokyo, or Beijing.
Those who decide to travel to Mongolia and possibly a few other capitals will not regret and soon forget the adventure.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.