The label on the vodka bottle of "Chinggis Gold" told me that Chinggis Khan was a talented leader. In fact all the information I have gathered about the man of the millennium are either from a tacky German schlager song or from labels of Mongolian vodka bottles. I am a good student. You can learn a lot. There is a lot Chinggis Khan going on in Mongolia. If you don't arrive by train you will most likely touch ground on Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaan Baatar. There are numerous brands of Chinggis Khan vodka (we compared most of them). Chinggis Khan beer. Chinggis Khan crisps. Chinggis Khan you name it.
After two days in UB six of us went on a trip in one of the old Russian minibuses I learned to trust in Siberia. Our first stop was a national park west of the capital where we saw wild horses that were reintroduced to the Mongolian steppe just a few years ago. Also a lot of dead animals were seen everywhere. The cold and long winter killed millions of animals this season. When we took a stop our guide started to sing Mongolian traditionals. Her voice was amazing. When she was done, she asked whether we wanted to buy her CD. I got a signed copy.
All nights were spent with nomad families or in a camp in traditional gers. Most of the population is still living a nomadic lifestyle and is moving the ger 2 - 4 times a year, depending on the conditions for the cattle. Many of the gers are equipped with solar power systems for some basic electricity. some have b/w telly. There's an oven in the middle. No water, toilet is a hole in the ground outside.
The next day we moved on through a small sandstorm to Kharakorum, Mongolia's old capital from where the empire once was ruled. The capital has moved 25 times since then. Nomadic lifestyle. Now it's a very small town with a population of 2000 and one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia. We had some Saturday night entertainment in our ger by an older Mongolian who played the traditional instruments for us and was a master in throat singing. The best part was however, when half-way through his performance his mobile was ringing (funny ringtone, blinking LEDs all over) and he had to answer his call and send a text message thereafter. The show went on and after he was done with his songs he asked whether we wanted to buy some CDs. I started to wonder if every single Mongolian had a record contract. I bought another signed CD.
Later that night we ran out of supplies and embarked on a mission to buy some more vodka Chinggis Khan. Our camp was lit and the roof was green, so it should be easy to find the way back. There was a filling station with a 24 hour store not far from our ger, so the six of us wandered towards the lights. We lost two of us while gazing at the stars. The 24 hour store was closed. We continued to a hotel where our wish for supplies was fulfilled. Now we only had to find our way back. At midnight the lights went out in town. But we new the directions and it couldn't be too hard to find our camp. We had to be very close by now, but just could not find it. The remaining four (and I promise, we were all sobered up by now) had no clue where our ger was. We walked around in circles over and over again passing the same spots but just could not find our way back. It went on for an hour and a half until we saw lights in the distance. It was our guide and our driver. We were found. And how angry was our guide. She started telling us that we must let her know when we were going out at night. "Mongolian people very dangerous! We barbarians! We all relatives of Chinggis Khan!" We were grounded for the next two nights. It's always good to have a talented leader with you...
I am back in the world's coldest capital now and will get on the train to Beijing tomorrow. I am not sure how I will manage to update this blog once I am behind China's great firewall. Anyways, I will be busy eating my way through the best the Chinese cuisine has on offer. And I am much looking forward to it!
Some impressions from Mongolia:
Basketball is very popular with Mongolian cows
Our ger. Solar powered, satellite telly
Mongolian girls love Chinggis Khan vodka. Packages. Filled with candy.
Saturday night entertainment in the ger
Playing farmville, Mongolian stylee.
One steppe beyond
It's advisable to have a talented leader by your side