XIII Century Mongolia
Trip Start Jun 12, 2010
27Trip End Ongoing
Our two stops were to be a huge statue of Genghis Khan and a recreation of 13th century Mongolia.
We had to buy tickets beforehand and they also tried to sell us a car and driver but the price looked to be much more than a taxi so we did what any local would do (well, a local, Odko, did it for us), we stood on the road and held out a hand and within 30 seconds a car stopped. In fact one almost never sees a normal taxi in Ulaanbaatar; apparently just about every car that goes past is a taxi. The charge? Fifty cents a kilometre.
Anyway, we got super lucky with the first car that stopped as the driver had never been to the places we wanted to go to and he was interested in seeing them. Plus he spoke Russian and a fair bit of English. And on top of that he was a nice bloke with lots of interesting things to say.
Yes, it really is huge, though it probably doesn't have that much competition. There are plans for a huge park around the statue with a lake, accomodation, restaurants etc.
Inside the statue is... no doubt the world's biggest boot. There's also a museum and a restaurant. We had to hurry up our guide otherwise we would have been there all day.
Plus we had stairs to climb to check out Genghis from the top...
And also the view.
We'd thought that the 13th century park was going to be tacky and touristy but it turned out to be really well done. There weren't any souvenirs to be bought, no t-shirts, And amazingly it was so spread out. There were 6 camps and they were kilometres from each other.
Already the entrance was pretty impressive with a horseman in Mongolian armour waiting at the gate. I certainly wouldn't be giving him any lip.
First stop was the camp for the messengers. All very rustic and medieval.
Well, ok, we did get to ham it up a bit with some winter-wear.
Lunch was kilometres away at the khan's palace-yurt.
Being royalty we had some musos play while we ate. The horse-head fiddle, the morin khor, is the Mongolian national instrument. Only two strings but a superb tone. They're geniuses on it. This bloke also accompanied his own throat singing. Absolutely superb.
Next stop the library where we saw calligraphy in the old Mongolian script. In Mongolia proper they no longer use the old script - the Russians did away with that in a modernisation drive no doubt. But they do still learn it at school. It's superbly suited to calligraphy.
After saying good-bye to our hosts at the library/school it was time for some horse-riding.
Here's Sally demonstrating the traditional Tasmanian way of mounting a horse... at least that's what I think she's doing. Well, to be fair, The stirrup was extremely short so she had a lot of trouble even getting her foot that high, then to make matters worse, the saddle was a traditional Mongolian one with very, very high front and back... so if you missed the narrow space between them you were in trouble. Our driver had to help as well and Sally later confirmed what I thought I'd seen... he tried to lift her onto the horse by her breasts (not sure what the appropriate word here is...)... Sally decided that he just meant well and wasn't taking advantage...
The dismount was a lot more orthodox. They wouldn't let Sally trot around by herself... they said they didn't allow it, but a few minutes later our driver was galloping around untethered. Perhaps they just don't want to lose to many tourists... or horses.
They also had a camel that Sally also had a go on... and even the Mongolians all wanted to have a go.
Hey, it's not just me that has a nap now and again. A long day with most of it over non-paved roads really meant only for 4 wheel drives. We were lucky to get through some spots.
We finished off back at a pub.
Where it was my turn for a nap.
A great day... especially for the driver, who not only got paid for it but snuck into every bit of the 13th century attraction including lunch and camel-riding without anyone paying for him.