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Legendary Cultures
March 12 to April 1 2011
Day 1 (London)  |  Day 2 (Lille)  |  Day 3 (London)  |  Lapland  |  Armenia  |  Mongolia  |  Lijiang China  |  Papua New Guinea  |  Indonesia  |  Calcutta  |  Bhutan - Day 1  |  Bhutan - Day 2  |  Petra  |  Turkey  |  Reprise

ARMENIA TO MONGOLIA

Six hours in the air. We're kept pretty entertained for the flight (we have two China scholars on board who talked about the Chengis Khan and those who came after him). Unfortunately, all of us are sleep deprived and would not have minded a little sleep time instead of an early departure time.

AcrobatWe arrived in Mongolia around 8 p.m. (6 hour flight plus a 3 hour time loss). The plan was for us to eat dinner and watch an entertainment show at the hotel. The problem was we'd eaten just several hours before on the plane. I suspect no one would have gone to the arrival dinner except for the entertainment, which turned out to be quite impressive. There were local instruments, songs, costumes, and Mongolian throat singing. Since it is very hard to send you a picture of a song, I selected a picture of the acrobat who also entertained us.

The next morning we started at a sane time (8:45). We had a good night's sleep and The Gandan Monasterywere feeling pretty energetic. The first stop was the Gandan Monastery. This visit was to acquaint us with a working Buddist Monastery. The monks were everywhere carrying out one of their duties (chanting prayers). The main temple was alive with monks (and tourists watching them). (CC comment: Peter made a spot-on observation about the tonality of these chants: they bring to mind the absolutely mesmerizing composition Kolyaaniskatsi.) We had seen the monastery life and the prayer wheels in Llasa so the experience here was not brand new. The infrastructure at this particular monastery was horribly run down. The locals and the monks didn't seem to notice, probably grateful that the Soviets didn't tear the place down completely when they were in power in Mongolia.

We went from there to visit the Museum of Natural History. I am not much of a museum man (and I am past my dinosaur stage) so the whole experience is a blur.

We then went to a local restaurant for "real Mongolian" food. After you have eaten in as many smorgasbord setups as we have, it is difficult to differentiate regional from any other food in such layouts. This is particularly true since the tour company has to work with the restaurant to find something that most people will eat. The "typical"Mongolian food had to be the mutton. This restaurant served it as muttonburgerin dumplings and soup, layered between something that looked like phylo dough, served as little medallions, and served in strips as a cold meat salad. Also available were lettuce and pasta salads, cold tofu salad, beet/apple salad, etc. Unless it's greenhouse or hydroponic, I'm pretty sure lettuce doesn't grow in Mongolia.

In the afternoon we went to visit a "typical" Mongolian family who still live life in the nomadic style. The gur (a round tent) was located outside of Ulaanbataarin the Mongolian FamilySteppes. We drove for about an hour out of town and then off-road to their ranch. Or at least that was the plan. The driver got us stuck in the snow. Then his colleagues tried to push him out. When that didn't work, he decided to take another route and drive fast overland. He almost tipped our small bus over. There were no seat belts the passengers were pretty roughed up. He ended his "Mr. Toad's Ride" by getting the bus stuck in a ditch full of snow. Another bus that was already at the gur (we could see it about a quarter mile away) came and got us.

Mongol ponyI normally abhor visits to what's always billed as an "authentic native family". But this was actually a working ranch with the family there for the winter. It was the first time they had had tourists in their home. The little children were adorable. The mother was a gracious hostess and her husband entertained those who wanted to be outside. One of the things you could do was ride on of the famous Mongol ponies. It was freezing, windy, and snowing. So, guess who gets on a Mongol pony in these freezing, windy, snowy conditions?

Winter Palace - last king and queen of MongoliaOur last stop of the day was the Winter Palace, the home of the last king and queen of Mongolia. It is a compound with seven temples and a winter and summer home. It is in wretched shape as there is little money for restoration. The art, regional and largely Buddhist in theme, contains some striking artifacts. The art and the artifacts, in contradistinction to the structures, are well preserved.

Tomorrow we start at 5 in the morning for another all day trip. This time we're traveling on our jet and then a commercial carrier to Leijing, China. Leijing doesn't have an airfield large enough for our 757. The good news is that the weather in Leijing should be about like San Diego in the winter, in contrast to what we've had in UB (the locals' nickname for Ulaanbataar), which has been like International Falls, Minnesota in winter (in other words, around zero degrees F if not colder).



Day 1 (London)  |  Day 2 (Lille)  |  Day 3 (London)  |  Lapland  |  Armenia  |  Mongolia  |  Lijiang China  |  Papua New Guinea  |  Indonesia  |  Calcutta  |  Bhutan - Day 1  |  Bhutan - Day 2  |  Petra  |  Turkey  |  Reprise



HOME  |  AUSTRALIA 2003  |  ACROSS AMERICA  |  IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA  |  VIETNAM  |  AFRICA  |  AROUND THE WORLD 2009  |  SOUTH AMERICA 2009  |  LEGENDARY CULTURES 2011
  |  TURKEY AND GREECE  |  CIRCLE THE ARCTIC