Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Momgolia Part 1: Ulaanbaatar and Terelj National Forest

"Welcome" spelled out on the side of a hill on our way to Terelj
It seems like there is a season for PCV parents to visit in Mongolia. It’s now. May and June are the months to come. Luckily, I was one of those PCVs who got a visit! My mom, Caleb, and I have been planning her visit for many months. In the beginning, we christened it “Momgolia.”

Mom and Caleb in Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar next to Chinggis Khan 
On Saturday May 28th, Caleb and I woke up in Chinggis Hot and headed for the bus station. At this time, Mom had already been on the plane from Atlanta to Seoul, Korea for about six hours. Caleb and I took our six hour bus ride to the capitol city and checked into our hostel. At this point, Mom was still in the air. Eventually, she landed in Seoul, had a few hour layover, and flew from Seoul to UB. We picked her up at the Chinggis Khan International Airport around midnight.

The Beatles are popular in Mongolia. This is Mom and I at a monument in UB. 
The first day, we took it easy and explored the city a bit. Mom adjusted to the time change immediately and didn’t feel any jetlag at all during the two weeks she was here.

The other side of the monument
The next day, we had a tour booked to go to Terelj National Forest. This is a popular destination for both tourists and Mongolians. There are many ger camps to stay overnight, but we decided to just do a day trip, especially since it is only about an hour or hour and a half away from UB.

Caleb, Mom, and I at her first "owoo," a sacred place for prayers
Mom and I checking out the yaks on the way to Terelj
 Our driver and guide were really nice. We stopped several times along the way to take pictures, like when we passed a herd of yak and again at a cave high up in a rocky cliff. Terelj was so refreshing after living in the steppe. There were so many trees and mountains and such. We hung out at “Turtle Rock” for a while and ate some delicious American snacks Mom brought with her.

Caleb and I in a cave
Mom posing with a rock in front of Turtle Rock in Terelj
The highlight of the day was camel riding. Yep, we finally did it. These camels didn’t seem as happy as other camels we’ve met, but still. We rode those suckers. The experience is a little difficult to describe. There wasn’t really a saddle; there was just this felt blanket thing thrown between the two humps. We just had to squeeze the camel with our legs for balance and hang on to the hump in front of us. The most exciting part was getting on and off. The camel guy got the camels to sit down. We got on. Then, the camels stood up. Can you imagine a camel going from sitting to standing? It’s a little awkward, and we were on its back when it happened. We rode about 20-30 minutes, which was enough we thought, and then we dismounted just as awkwardly as we got on.

Caleb getting ready to ride

Mom right as her camel was standing up
Caleb riding a camel
Mom and I riding camels
After riding camels, we went to a group of gers not too far away where we had khorkhog (Mongolian barbeque). The family that lived there and ran the khorkhog service had recently been blessed with new puppies! After we ate, our guide asked the family to show us the puppies, and we held some very cute, very little puppies.  

Eating khorkhog in Terelj

Mom with a little puppy
After lunch, we headed to a nearby monastery that was nestled in a mountain with many, many steps. It was pleasant to see, and the views from the mountain monasteries are always incredible.

The Terelj Monastery from a distance 
Mom and I on our way to the top

The view from halfway up the mountain
Then we drove around Terelj a bit longer before heading back to UB. We stopped on the way back to see a few birds of prey. It was a good day.

My trying to have a conversation with an Eagle Owl and being ignored
Mom and a Golden Eagle, checking each other out
Back in the city the next day, we explored more, ate a lot of good food (Mom had Korean food and loved it!), and went to a Buddhist monastery museum in the city, called Choijin Lama Temple.

Caleb and Mom at the Choijin Lama Temple in UB. Behind it is the Blue Sky building, several blocks away.
Mom outside one of the buildings at the Choijin Lama Temple
Indian food in UB at Namaste 
Korean food at Saribol in UB
On June 1st, we booked our neighbor’s taxi to take us to Chinggis Hot. On the way, we stopped at the Chinggis Khan statue and museum. We spent a good hour there, exploring the museum, seeing the statue, and taking pictures.

Caleb and I standing on the observation deck
Mom showing some love to Chinggis's horse from a distance
Mom and I trying on Mongolian deels in the museum at the statue
We also stopped about an hour and a half out of Chinggis to visit Dylan, one of our Khentii PCVs. We wanted Mom to have the opportunity to see several gers during her time here, so she was able to see Dylan’s ger and also meet one of the volunteers we interact with regularly. We were in Dylan’s soum for about an hour.

Dylan, Caleb, and I outside of Dylan's ger
About an hour out of Chinggis, we got a flat tire. Our driver/neighbor expertly and efficiently changed it. It was nice to finally make it back home. Our normal six hour bus ride had turned into a ten hour taxi ride due to all the stops we made. It was a long travel day.

"Chinggis Hot"
Mom, Caleb, and I standing in front of the gateway into our city
This covers the first four days of Mom’s two week visit. There will be more to follow!


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