Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mongolia part 2 (the BEST part!)

Don't forget to check out my Mongolia: part 1! post. Click here.

Just driving in Mongolia is an adventure - the roads are not well paved and they are extremely bumpy. We also did quite a bit of off-roading! What a blast! On the way, on both our left and our right sides were rolling hills with the occasional ger (yurt - where Mongolian families traditionally live) dotting the landscape. We stopped in a small village to catch of a glimpse of their festival.

Not the best picture because it was taken while we were in the car... we stumbled upon a parade walking to the local village's Nadaam Festival. Although its not the best picture, I love it! The woman looks so beautiful and happy! so proud to be Mongolian!

An hour and a half of bumpy roads later, we arrived in the National Park, did some hiking, ate lunch.

Gorgeous landscape in Terelj!

This is a religious thing.. but, that's all I got.

The highlight of our trip was toward the end of the day. My friend Kimberly was hell-bent on riding a yak in Mongolia. It was her mission. So our guides were completely amazing and found a local family who owns yaks, and spoke to them about letting us ride their yak.

Not only did they let us ride their yak - they invited us into their home! They fed us!
We ate fresh bread, yak milk butter, yak milk yogurt, drank Mongolian vodka - all products they produce themselves, and use to sustain themselves daily. This was an absolutely amazing experience. I can't describe how cool it was to see how these people live their lives - SO drastically different from the way we live our lives in the U.S., hell, in Beijing! About 50% of Mongolia's population is nomadic. They live in gers because they are easy to pack up and move from place to place. They live off the land.

The family we visited was so hospitable towards us, we asked our guides "are these your friends?" ... nope. They had never even met them before, but this sort of friendliness and hospitality is the Mongolian way. You can walk up to any ger and knock on the door and receive this same sort of hospitality.

The inside of a ger/yurt, in case you were wondering what one looked like inside (I was!) Its cool in the summer and stays warm in the winter! You can see the pipe leading out of the ger - they use that coal stove to create warmth, and for cooking, too.

Um, so shortly after we were invited in and sat down, this adorable old shirtless Mongolian man passed his snuff bottle to the husband. These snuff bottles are a cultural thing that dates back hundreds of years - today, politicians use them to indicate respect, power, and welcome. When this man passed his snuff bottle over to my hubby for a snort, how could he say no? The man had just invited us into his home! FED US! Let us ride his yak! You can't say no. Luckily this is a "man thing" and I didn't have to partake. And luckily - snuff is just a form of tobacco.

So here the hubby is, snorting some snuff. Or at least acting like he is. LOL.

Bread, yak butter and yak yogurt.

I'm on a yak and....its going fast and... I've got a Mongolian-themed pashmina afghan.... no, actually, he was really slow, and utterly bored, and if I could have heard his thoughts I am pretty sure he would have been saying "Damn foreigner!"

This was the nicest lady ever. This is some sort of yak cheese curd. It was really tart!

Goat milking time!

She truly got a kick out of us. We were so interested in her just doing her daily chores... so excited to ride a yak... she thought it was hilarious.

Here we are with the entire family - the mom and dad (the guy who gave my husband the snuff!), the daughters and the son. We finished the night by eating dinner inside their yurt, at their own table... what amazing people. OK so I thought I was regaining my Florida tan, until I looked at this picture and see that I am by far the whitest one in the picture. I almost match the ger, ha ha ha!

This goes to show that all women are the same! Our cultures are as different as night and day, but as women, we all worry about how we will look in pictures! We asked for a picture and she was like "oh my gosh! In this old thing?! I'm not picture-ready!" We didn't need to speak Mongolian to understand that! Thats why she grabbed her son and made him stand in front of her.

I was being typical me (lazy), told my husband I didn't want to walk anymore, so he carried me... about 5 steps, acted like he was going to throw me in the river.. then put me down.

I'll never forget some of the things I saw in Mongolia. Horses running free! A herder in traditional Mongolian garb, sitting atop his horse, herding over 50 sheep with the beautiful hills in the background. I didn't get pictures of these sights, and I wish I could share them with you because the stark beauty of them will always remain a memory for me.

Stay tuned for my final post on Mongolia - the reason we went - for the Nadaam Festival!


  1. Wow Steph, what an incredible experience!
    The Gers are so smart and efficient. My husband would love to live off the land and move around like this. What an amazing once in a lifetime trip!

  2. OMG WOW! That is just amazing, SUCh an amazing experience! So jealous!!

  3. wow Mongolia looks amazing! What an incredible opportunity!

    xo, kristin

  4. Your travels have been so educational and fun for me to read! You have been so lucky meeting such nice & warm locals to show you around and welcome you into their homes. This as a whole is definitely an amazing lifetime experience for you & your hubby. Enjoy every moment. BTW, the car rides would seriously give me a heart attack! Someone would have to slip me some chill pills before I got into a taxi again!

  5. JCHokie - the car rides are sometimes scary. I learned to just look out the side window instead of watching what the driver is doing... LOL. On our way back to the airport for our return flight, we had a driver (who spoke Russian so the husband was actually able to communicate with him!) - anyway, the point is, this guy was driving in the opposite lane WHEN A HILL WAS COMING UP. I was seriously convinced we were going to crash head onto someone. Thank God we made it back over into the other lane. There are just an entirely different set of driving rules of there, yowza!

    Thanks guys, Mongolia was truly AWESOME, I HIGHLY recommend it!!! Or Inner Mongolia in China :) While we didn't actually spend the night in the ger/yurt in Mongolia, we will definitely do it in inner mongolia before we leave China. :)

  6. Sorry for all the typos, too lazy to go back and fix ;)


  7. Steph, thank you so much for sharing your amazing experiences. Please tell your husband I say hello and give my best to Kimberly :-) By the way, what is the word with funds for traveling? We heard that you guys were not getting any more money from the gov't to move around. Is this true? If so, is this a temporary thing? Thanks again for such wonderful pictures!


  8. Hey Anna! I will!

    Travel funds were temporarily suspended because apparently they ran out or "lost" them or something? Smrt. BUT the GOOD news is they resolved it quickly! And the funds are BACK! AND EVEN BETTER! They gave us $5,000 more dollars!