Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mmmm.. fermented yak's milk.

Everynow and then you get this "right, I need to leave" feeling. It was that time. Enough of the 17 million people and needed to go to some wide open spaces. So what did we do, Mongolia. Outer mongolia - UlaanBaatar. So Thursday late afternoon, I left work a little early to get packed, then off to Beijing. We (Lyndon, Julien and I ) pretty much got there at Midnight. We packed into the hotel and then off to Sambal Bar (Malaysian or Indonesian). Really nice quaint bar set in the Hutong area. The area is filled with houses which are shared by 5 or so families, not exactally Shangrila. The bar was really nice though. Not nice in a everything is new way but nice because it was old, had the chinese style tiled roof, wooden doors and chinese furniture. Old style chinese beds were placed around the bar, the kind you see the emperor with his 3 mistresses in behind a curtain. Sitting in the courtyard we had a few mojitos and nibbled on some springrolls and curry puffs. Great start to the weekend.

Early morning flight, we left Beijing headed for UlaanBaatar the capital of Mongolia. I thought RMB was annoyingly worthless, but Mongolian Togrog is worse. Under Julien's advice and mathematical calculations we each too out 15000 Tugrog and headed for a taxi. After asking what the price was to get to our guest house, he said 10000 Tugrog. Nice... he was either ripping us off big time, or Julien forgot to carry the 1. Turns out Julien is no mathelete.

Julien had organised the trip and basically was our negotiator. He spoke to the guide and got us the entire tour for the 3 days for $120 Aud. Great work I thought. The plan was to leave UlaanBaator later that afternoon and head south west toward the Gobi Dessert. That afternoon we saw a temple.. nice but after Thailand I'm done with temples for a while. We headed for the centre of town. The city is very communist, almost Russian. There isn't really anything in UB. I think I would last a week.

Being IN Mongolia, Lyndon and I found it necessary to have, you guessed it...all-you-can-eat Mongolian BBQ. To me mongolian bbq is always a case of the thought was much better than the actual meal. Because of this BBQ we were later for departure on our wonderful jouney. by at least 1.5 hours.

Food is, as advised by many, is shit is Mongolia. There is nothing to like about it. Mutton is not supposed to be eaten. No its not. Lard is not oil. And yak's milk is not supposed to be fermented. Stuff is not ok to cook eat when its dropped on the floor which has been walked all over by boots covered in crap. Lucky for us we brought a little emergency supply.

Our first day we drove and drove. The less than luxurious russian built van that we were travelling had an average speed of probably 40km/h. It must have weighed a tonne, most likely made of cast iron or something.

That night we drove till maybe 3am and stopped at some a friend of the guide's house. Our guide was pretty useless. Slept on the floor on some rugs. Wasn't comfortable but at least we were no longer sitting in the van and blood was able to flow to my arse again.

We woke up the next morning and our kind host, had prepared a lovely breakfast. Mutton, potatoes, carrots and rice. We were also asked to try some lovely dairy products, which were hard as rock and tasted like dried yogurt. (Its on the big plate in the picture.)

After that we were off to spend some time with the nomad family. For those who don't know, the nomads live in yurts. Tents essentially. It was a family of 4 living in a tent with 2 boys. Total floor space was about 3m radius, around 28m sq. Our whole intention was to spend some time with the nomad family and ride horses.

Most families have some horses. This family had a few.. only thing was they were a bit wild. My horse wouldn't do anything I wanted it to. Lyndons just wanted to eat grass and Julien's wanted him off its back. Mongolian saddles are made of wood. I was in pain after about 5 mins. The horses are so small that my knees were in a painful angle and my groin was screaming.

After our lovely ride around the fringe of the Gobi, we proceeded to get to know the family. Nescafe always helps conversation, but being in Mongolia it wasn't available. Instead we used vodka, a great encourager of bonding. I got rightly jolly, Julien wasn't far behind but Lyndon took lead. This was probably the best part of the trip. I'm sure we were great entertainment for the locals. (I tried to hot wire our russian van cos during this time, cos I really wanted to drive it.)

The next day we made tracks for the national park. Our intention was to ride some horses around the park and see the wildlife too. So after hours of driving at a snail's pace we finally made it to the park. However, it wasn't all good news. Out dodgy guide was trying to get us in and out of the park as quick as possible. We saw some wild horses and that was it. Our guide, tried to tell us that there were no deer because it wasn't the right season. So after driving miles we spent about 10 minutes actually looking at wildlife. In our protest, we decided we were going to get out of the van and hang around the park for a couple of hours, make life a little hard for our guide. After sunset, we headed back for UB. It was getting cold, we needed a shower and a bed. Next morning was the trip back to Shanghai.

Mongolia was a good experience. It wasn't comfortable, but its one of those places where you have to go. One to tick of on the list....

PS, we tried our hardest to get our guide fired after getting back. There is a lot I didn't write about, but she was a biiiiatch.

1 Comments:

Blogger Dr. WhoAmI said...

.

We work like a horse.
We eat like a pig.
We like to play chicken.
You can get someone's goat.
We can be as slippery as a snake.
We get dog tired.
We can be as quiet as a mouse.
We can be as quick as a cat.
Some of us are as strong as an ox.
People try to buffalo others.
Some are as ugly as a toad.
We can be as gentle as a lamb.
Sometimes we are as happy as a lark.
Some of us drink like a fish.
We can be as proud as a peacock.
A few of us are as hairy as a gorilla.
You can get a frog in your throat.
We can be a lone wolf.
But I'm having a whale of a time!

You have a riveting web log
and undoubtedly must have
atypical & quiescent potential
for your intended readership.
May I suggest that you do
everything in your power to
honor your encyclopedic/omniscient
Designer/Architect as well
as your revering audience.
As soon as we acknowledge
this Supreme Designer/Architect,
Who has erected the beauteous
fabric of the universe, our minds
must necessarily be ravished with
wonder at this infinate goodness,
wisdom and power.

Please remember to never
restrict anyone's opportunities
for ascertaining uninterrupted
existence for their quintessence.

There is a time for everything,
a season for every activity
under heaven. A time to be
born and a time to die. A
time to plant and a time to
harvest. A time to kill and
a time to heal. A time to
tear down and a time to
rebuild. A time to cry and
a time to laugh. A time to
grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones
and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a
time to turn away. A time to
search and a time to lose.
A time to keep and a time to
throw away. A time to tear
and a time to mend. A time
to be quiet and a time to
speak up. A time to love
and a time to hate. A time
for war and a time for peace.

Best wishes for continued ascendancy,
Dr. Whoami

P.S. One thing of which I am sure is
that the common culture of my youth
is gone for good. It was hollowed out
by the rise of ethnic "identity politics,"
then splintered beyond hope of repair
by the emergence of the web-based
technologies that so maximized and
facilitated cultural choice as to make
the broad-based offerings of the old
mass media look bland and unchallenging
by comparison."

1:01 pm  

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