July 5 – Day two. Arrived in Beijing from LAX early in the morning Chinese time. We left for Ulaanbaatar the same morning. Ulaanbaatar is the capital of modern Mongolia and was founded in 1639. It lies on the banks of the Tuul River. The previous capital was an encampment of traditional Mongolian tents called gers that was moved to this location in 1778.
We went out to Gandan Monastery, Mongolia’s largest and most important center for Buddism. Then off to Sukhbataar Square. Sukhbataar was the hero of Mongolia’s revolution against the Chinese that ended in 1921. In 1989 the square was again the site of protests against the Soviet Union.
July 6 We were to go to a shaman today for a visit, but something has come up and the schedule has been changed. He obviously knew that, being a shaman and all.
We flew out to the country side and then drove for over an hour out into the Gobi Desert. It looked like a giant golf course. The rains had come early and it was beautiful. As we were driving to the ger camp, I asked the guide if I could be airlifted out if I became injured or ill. He just laughed at me and continued on our way.
The ger is an amazing thing. These camps are permanent and so have western style bathrooms for the most part. More about that later. The ger is a fold up tent with a wood skeleton, so to speak. The skeleton folds up into a handy pile and can be put on a camel or in a bed truck very easily.
The walls are made of deer felt and covered in cloth or plastic. The roof is conical and held up by small beams made of long, straight, tree limbs. They meet at a hub like device that holds them all together in the center of the ceiling. Our gers had a potbelly stove in the center with a small vent at the top. They are well insulated by the felt and silent inside. The felt walls keep the cold and the sounds out at night.
July 7 We are off to see the Giant Genghis Khan monument. it is a museum and is in the shape of Genghis Khan on a horse. It is made of stainless steel and stands 131 feet high. It must be seen to be believed. It is the worlds largest equestrian statue. There are plans for a large camping facility here. The site of the statues is where Genghis found the Golden Whip that inspired his later conquests. I’m sure you can find a picture of it on the internet.
After lunch we visited a horse breeding family and learned about their nomadic lifestyle. We were given the opportunity to taste horse milk and cheese. Yes, your first thought was correct. But we must not be impolite. The cheese tasted rather salty.
Go to my friends Facebook page at Ray-Andrea Matthews for photos.
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