Struggling to find the words to describe my trip to Mongolia – this has been one of the most incredible trips I have ever gone on. Let’s leave the scenery aside – the pictures will speak for themselves – the culture, the customs, the people made this entire experience such a surreal one that I can unflinchingly say now that travelling does change one’s perspective!
The trip was tough in terms of organization, from the very start when trying to find flights to Ulaanbaatar from Singapore. I ended up making a costly mistake by booking a flight out to Beijing but alas realised that the connecting time would be too short. Had to scramble for the next few days finding alternative flights and made many phone calls to various airlines, ultimately settling on a layover in Hong Kong.
I booked my tour with Golden Gobi. Ogie (the lady boss) was super responsive and it helped that her itinerary looked good and was affordable. It was only after I had remitted the funds to her that I read numerous bad reviews about Golden Gobi on travel forums. I wouldn’t deny that it was unsettling right up to the start of our tour that the trip would turn up to be a nasty scam and nothing short of a disaster. Well, none of those fears materialized and like I said, amazing trip and best organized tour of my life.
Golden Gobi is a hostel and situated in the heart of UB, right beside the State Departmental Store. The thing about UB is that it evoked very strong communism vibes with its uniform and bare buildings and names like said departmental store, “School No. 26” and Power Plant 3.
But nobody wants to see pictures of the city right? Ok quickly moving on to our tour – we were introduced to our hulking 1.86m tall guide/cook/translator, Otgo, and our silent driver, Gambol (who was silent because he didn’t speak English). The rest of our 8 days was spent in the most photogenic army green UAZ, being tossed around like cherry tomatoes in a salad bowl (unbruised and unbattered thankfully).
Forgot to mention that if you tend to get carsick easily, please bring lots of medication because my aunt puked no less than three times during the course of the tour despite being heavily medicated everyday. It is incredible how the suspension system in this vehicle works.
In the same vein (vehicle talk), there was a little trouble with our UAZ shortly after we exited the capital – driver had to pull to the side and do fixes. I wouldn’t deny that it was exhilarating, the prospects that things could go wrong so fast. Thankfully we were back in business after 15 minutes.
Most days when we are on the roads during lunch time, we would go off the roads and drive a couple of hundred meters to a random spot (totally unnecessary, given that we literally saw fewer than 10 vehicles a day) and Otgo and Gambol would pull out all our luggages to access our supplies in the boot. Then Otgo would start preparing our lunches. It was truly fascinating, we are not just talking about sandwich preparation but the full works – pasta with stir fried vegetables, mixed rice. This is Otgo slicing vegetables, bread and sausage with precise evenness:
I think the highlight of any Mongolian trip is the ger stays with the nomadic families. Some are more sociable than others, but all of them were warm and always open to us wandering into their family / kitchen gers, playing with their children, pets and livestock, offering warm milk tea (more than tea milk) and crackers and bread (and cheese and sweets).
This mischievous (not to mention dirt covered) boy brought us to the rocks behind his house, showed us the massive crows and starting throwing rocks at one of them. Can you imagine our fear – we ran for our lives while he chased after us, then throwing rocks at us. The little rascal.