Friday, 28 September 2007

The Lands of Mongolia

As I write this I'm sitting in student flat in Wales looking out the window at the rain clouds, the wind, and the multitude of people milling about. A stark contrast if ever there was one to the vast expanse of the Mongolian countryside. It's strange to think back to the endless stretches of grass, and sand reaching to the horizon on all sides, dotted with the sporadic home tents of nomadic locals (called Yurts we learned!). And then to consider the British countryside when one is never more than a stumble away from the nearest settlement, or at least the nearest Pub!

Without much to offer to the casual tourist, the capital city of UlaanBator is a friendly place with a population of merely 800,000. The locals seem to take great pride in the capital as the centre of civilisation and development in a nation traditionally considered to be full of a bunch of wandering country folk. UB (as it is referred to, thankfully, as UlaanBator is both hard to say and spell, I saw 3 different spellings in Mongolia itself!) served for us as a night stopover to get a shower, eat some quality fodder, and join a tour to the rural lands. The shower was required due to being on a train for 2 nights without facilities previously and then heading to live in tents for 5 days without washing facilities either. So in the interest of all mankind we dragged our carcases to the bathroom and spruced up before we headed out for a slap-up meal at one of UB's most highly regarded restaurants (worst travellers ever! Avoided the ever present temptation of McDonalds throughout though... proud of that!).

It's within the fields of Outer Mongolia that the true beauty of this country lies, with it's sprawling landscape forever providing breath-taking views and mind-blowing panoramic visions. Over the 5 days we spent out in the sticks we travelled around by converted military jeep with dubious suspension, lived in Yurts with singing and dancing nomadic families, and ate local food which provided the largest bout of the "squirts" any of us have ever experienced... Mongolia didn't know what had hit it... to say we left our little bit of England in Mongolia would be an understatement! (My apologises to my mother for talking about such subjects publicly, but I felt people should know the truth, and it'd help paint a picture, of which thankfully there are none on this particular subject!) The food was indeed nice however, but we all agreed the Mutton failed to successfully disguise itself as a Lamb, credit was given for effort though.

For the scenery (and the enormous birds!) Mongolia was truly a spectacle only going there yourself could describe, one of those places on the map we all say we'd go back to in a shot if the opportunity arrived. Unfortunately, as in the wise words of Nelly Furtado, "All good things come to an end", and thus we had to pack up our little model Yurts, miniture flags, and warm salty milk before boarding the last and final leg of the trip in the direction of the 2008 Olympic Games, China's capital city, Beijing!

**(This was written as we left UlaanBator in the middle of September, but unfortunately i've not had chance to update the internet until now, sorry!)**


Pops said...

Some enormous birds here in NZ too!

Jimmy Mc said...

When are you going to get around to your thoughts on Beijing!?