If I had to condense my experiences in Mongolia to a few words, I’d use unpredictable, disorganised, traditional and full of potential. Urban planning within the capital of Ulan Bator is almost non existent, and all the traffic is packed to a few main roads with no agreed upon road laws. The capital is also a real hotpot of different cultures. You can see the western influences in the architecture and imported automobiles, but then around the corner you can bump into a gentleman decked out in full national dress. The national costumes are incredibly colourful and still used in every day wear, and I haven’t been able but to admire their beautiful craftsmanship and detail. To quote a gentleman called Woody whom I met at our hostel, you can find silk here, even finer than in China. Straying out of the capital area, the traditional influences are even more at show. We visited a family in the country, and it was like travelling 20 years back in time. No running water, the heating by coal, an outhouse and interior decor that probably hadn’t changed for years, but man did I love this experience! I witnessed a real piece of life in Mongolia.
One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to visit Mongolia was for its nature. This dream also proved to be our downfall. When we visited the village I described before, our plan was to head out from there to the national park of Gorkhi Terelji come next morning. But during the night, we started experiencing heavy snowfall, almost 5cm in one night and biting cold winds. The roads quickly iced up and no one had changed for their winter tires yet. Foolishly, we didn’t let this change our plans and we headed out for the road. Once we had driven out the village, we experienced the last thing you want to experience in a car. A crash. We collided with a car in front of us and that was it for that trip. I sustained a hairline crack in the neck and missed out on a visit to the national park but at least I’m still here. Two working arms and legs. A few days rest and we’ll continue our journey with a neck brace! Because our trip to the national park was a bust, I’m expecting to make up for it with some other adventures.
We spent the weekend getting to know Ulan Bator, which left me with plenty I still wanted to explore. I’ll definitely be visiting this place again in the future, and dedicate the needed time to get to know the Mongolian country side better as well. Here are some pictures, worth thousands of words.