Friday, May 27, 2005

Since you're asking...

We got back from Mongolia not long ago to visit our family. The memories are still fresh, so we thought we'd put them down to give people a bit of a window into the country. In fact, I did just that when corresponding with Andrew Stuttaford of NRO, who is soon to be in Mongolia (if he isn't there already). Any non sequiters here are probably references to his own blog entry linked here:

"Mongolia is amazing. It’s perhaps the last truly wild place on earth. No fences, and eternal sky and steppe. They say that the only difference between Mongolia and Siberia is that Siberia is warmer. Having said that, we survived quite well without all the pricey high-tech gear (the Mongolians do, too), and we went in the deadest of winter (January). We did bundle up, though.

"Culture tip: the people are racially Asian but don’t think or act anything like the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, or anyone else in that part of the world (although Asian culture is on the rise there what with foreign investment). They’re nomads at heart—fiercely independent and non communal (except within the family). If anything, the place reminded me more of eastern Europe than of the far east. The Soviet fingerprints are still very evident. In fact, one of Mongolia’s biggest problems right now is struggling back onto their feet after 70 years of forced dependence on Russia. Nomads living in Russian-constructed cities without the Russian infrastructure to keep them going like it once did—the Mongolians are still learning how to do it and are trying to get as much foreign help as possible.

"You’ll love the Mongolian people, and they’ll love you if you let it happen. They’re by far the most hospitable people I’ve ever met in my life, and I’ve done a fair bit of traveling. I’ve never received so many gifts from people who were so poor (by American standards). I felt like a thief they were so generous. Everywhere we went, we were showered with gifts as guests are always given gifts, hospitality, food. In fact, I doubt you’ll ever visit a place without being given a meal.

"If you’re going for the out-of-doors—which is one of the main reasons folks go, unless they're trying to invest there (please do—they need it!)—there’s plenty to do. Hunting (wolves, game, etc.) , fishing, as well as wandering through the tundra, taiga, and Gobi are what lots of westerners do.

"As far as food and amenities are concerned, they were sorely lacking (again from an American perspective). We didn’t, for example, find real coffee until our third week there, and that at a German bakery in Ulaan Baator. Food consists mainly of two things: red meat and some kind of bread. The four most popular dishes there are some variation on a bland beef dumpling which is either fried (khoorshor), boiled (baanch), steamed (boodz), or chopped (tsuuven). Once you get used to the food, it’s great. But until then, get used to uneventful cuisine. But then you’re English, so you’ve had decades to get used to it ;)"


Blogger samraat said...

4/04/2010 10:13 PM  

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