I miss Mongolia

Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 02:22 PM
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I miss Mongolia

It has been over 2 years since I returned from Mongolia and it will be well over 2 years until I am able to go back.

I'd love to chat with would-be travelers to Mongolia or those who have returned. There don't seem to be too many of us.

I can easily feed my Africa addiction on that forum between trips. Lots of people plan trips to Africa and write reports upon their return. Of course, that's a whole continent, vs. a single country of Mongolia, so it makes sense there'd be more Africa chatter.

Maybe I can encourage some of you to go to Mongolia. Then you can write about your experiences when you get back and I can enjoy reading them.



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Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 05:36 PM
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I've expressed interest in traveling to Mongolia and my family and friends think I'm crazy. I've checked into Boojum Expeditions and they sound good. Are you familiar with them at all? I'm not sure how serious I am about this, but might try to go in 2008.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2007, 10:29 PM
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If you would like to entice others to travel to Mongolia post a trip report about your experience! I would love to know more about it!

Have you seen the movie "The Story of the Weeping Camel?" Stunning picture!!
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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 06:34 AM
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I was in Mongolia back in 2000 with my mom. It was a nice 4 day visit. Unfortunately, she went to the local shops and unbeknownst to her until after the fact, a pickpocket? had slashed her jacket, opened her fanny pack (which was behind her under the jacke and shouldn't have been), took her money, credit cards and zipped it back up. I thought the zipping back up part was very thouhtful!

I picked up a cool long coat..calleda D'al? I think?


Mark-
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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 06:37 AM
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Mark, if only all pick pocketers would be so thoughtful!

Did you do a trip report about your visit? I would love to know more about it. Ever since I saw the movie I referenced above I have been intrigued by Mongolia.
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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 07:25 AM
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Actualy, the trip was in 1999...just a 3 1/2 week trip to CHina, Tibet and Mongolia. My firs trip to the Eastern part of Asia and only my 2nd trip overseas...the first being an archaeological dig in Israel back in my college days in 83.

Horrible guide in Tibet, except the salon, good guides in China except Chengdu, god guide in Mongolia, though we were bait and switched to different lofgings both in Tibet and Mongolia. And, during our brief stay in Chengdu there were demonstrations in the streets. Xian was my favorite part of the trip,,,and not the famous terracotta warriors, but Chengdu itself....great bargains, beautiful architecture, etc. The people were so curious aboutmy laptop, which I brought everywhere.

Yangtze cruise was wonderful also. I have to wonder how different it is now that they are filling the reservoir...

Mark-
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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 08:31 AM
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Thanks for the replies.

travlsolo2,

Just a thought on timing--08 will be the Olympics in Beijing so transportation to China may be tight. There also may be more visitors to Mongolia who decide to venture out after the Olympics.

Here are travel agents that I looked into, starting with Boojum:

The leader in horse trips is Boojum. These trips are quite intense and they advertise you will be wet, cold, and hungry.

Nomads (be sure to get the one in Mongolia as there is one in Tanzania.
They have a very large presence in Mongolia from what I witnessed and have well organized small group trips to great locations. They are a leader in Mongolia.

Asia Trans Pacific in Boulder, CO has a trip that looked pretty good. It's an organized small group.

Absolute Asia had some great itineraries that you could mix and match. They specialize in individual trips, which I really liked. They were just a bit pricey for me and I thought they might be more upscale than my tastes. But I think they’d be a good choice.

Yak and camel travel interested me. Initially I wanted these two forms of transportation to be the basis of my trip. As a result I was drawn to Nomadic Journeys, which has several day to weeklong yak and camel trips in modules. Here is why, after research, I did not pursue the lengthy camel and yak trek (though I did ride both plus lots of horses, while in Mongolia). Mongolia is so vast that to truly experience it, I felt I wanted to see different areas. If I confined my travels to what a camel or yak (pulling a yak cart) could do, I felt I would not see as much as I wanted. I ended up deciding to incorporate these forms of animal transportation into my itinerary but not have them be the focus.

I got the Fodor's, Frommer's, Bradt, Rough guides and looked at operators. I ended up with Mongol Global:

Mongol Global Tour Co.
4141 Ball Rd. #187
Cypress, CA 90630
PH#: 714 220-2579
FAX: 714 - 276-6447
toll free (866) 225-0577
www.mongolglobaltours.com
[email protected]
[email protected]

Here is why I chose Mongol Global. I wanted to have some of the itinerary as a private trip. I was especially interested in the Przewalksi Horses or Takhis, as the Mongolians call them, in Hustai Nuruu, about 2 hours outside Ulaan Bataar and I wanted to spend a few days there.

I also wanted to spend some days with a Mongolian family and wished to do that alone. Mongol Global is very good at individual itineraries and was able to plan those for me.

For the group part of the trip, I did the Gobi (and rode camels twice), Naadam, Lake Huvsgul (and did a yak ride on the yak), and the Altai Mountains. There were ample opportunities to ride horses and I probably did so about half a dozen times throughout the whole trip of 26 days. A particularly interesting and scenic ride is in Terelj National Park, about an hour out of UB.

If you are going in summer you will probably want to be in Ulaan Baatar July 11, 12, and maybe 13 for the Naadam Festival of horse racing, archery, and wrestling.

Or you might want to attend a smaller Naadam right around this time. The bigger event was quite spectacular, especially the opening ceremony. Next time, I'll check out a smaller Naadam.

You might also want to take the 30-hour train ride from Beijing to UB that runs a couple times a week. You’ll most likely be traveling Beijing-UB anyway. I wanted to do the train but the schedule changed just a couple weeks before I left home. Consider a night on the Great Wall pre- or post-Mongolia. It was awesome.

Here is a link to the report I posted on the Great Wall and Mongolia, which contains additional links to photos. Feel free to email me too. You will not regret your decision to travel to Mongolia. Good luck.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...=34700041still




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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 09:02 AM
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I was in Mongolia briefly in 2004. My trip report is on my website - www.wilhelmswords.com in the RTW2004 section. You can email me through the website.
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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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Thursdaysd,
Thanks for the link. Glad you enjoyed the hospitality and the gers, except maybe the aruk.

Happy future rail travels.
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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 05:14 PM
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atravelynn - you're welcome! I didn't DISlike the arak, it just wasn't as interesting as I expected.

Mongolia looked like a great place to go riding, if I went back I'd want to get further away from Ulaan Baator, and spend some time on horseback. What are you planning for two years from now?
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Old Feb 4th, 2007, 11:40 PM
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We spent two weeks in Mongolia in July, 2005 during the Naadam Festival. We traveled with Mir and found them to be well organized and thorough. It was not a budget trip but there are not a great many choices of "hotel" options. Except in Ulaan Batar, the tourist facilities are ger camps. I think the Festival is an important part of any visit to Mongolia because it is such an important cultural event. In addition, it is very different from all other activities there. I would definitely NOT plan a trip by camel or yak. The distances in the Gobi are immense with not much to break up the monotony until you get to your destination. Also, you would not want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere.
All in all, Mongolia is not an easy place to visit but it is fascinating and quite lovely.You will definitely be glad you went.
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 07:25 AM
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Mongolia sounds fascinating! My travel style has changed greatly over the years and now I tend to visit places in order to gain a cultural aspect rather than to see sites.

I recently spent 4 nights in a village in NW Laos. Most of the people had never seen a westerner before and didn't speak a word of English. I speak very limited Lao so communicating was interesting and challenging.

This was not done through any kind of organized trip and that was a great way to visit this village.

When visiting Mongolia, is it possible to do it independently, even if it is a challenge?
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 08:02 AM
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Thusdaysd, Maybe it was me that disliked the aruk. The yogurt vodka was better. As you mentioned, it was not very potent. That was good because we drank it by the cup.

A question for you--on the train if you were alone, how did it work when you went to eat? Just leave your stuff? Take it with you? Or did you not have to go somewhere to eat because food was served? Then how about bathroom trips?

Also how did smoking on the train work? I don't care for smoke and would prefer to avoid it if possibe, especially in my neighboring seat or bunk.


The small Mongolian horses were great to ride. The ones for tourists were quite gentle. Some of the horses beloning to nomads were initially afraid of Western people like me because, I was told, "we looked and smelled different."

Mediatorr, I came to the same conclusion about spending the majority of my time on a camel or yak. I did not.

Plans two years from now:
Try to take the train from Beijing to UB. Hopefully the schedule will not change again last minute.

I want to return to Hustai Nuruu, the reserve for takhi horses, which is a couple hours out of UB.

I found the area west of Moron, east of Huvsgul to be particularly attractive--rolling steppes, lots of various herds from goats to yaks. I saw where Moron has own Naadam July 11,12,13 (at least they did in the past.) I'd like to spend a few days driving up there, spend a few days in the area just walking around and looking, and then attend the festivities. I would have a guide and would not do this by myself.

There are also even smaller Naadams made up of families and I'd like to see one of those. Those can take place anytime. The difficulty with trying to see some of these is that can change dates on a moment's notice.

A return trip would be last about 2 weeks.

Eurotraveller,
I know people have done lengthy independent journeys by horse or bicycle. You can do motorcylce trips too. Usually a guide would accompany you unless you spoke the language.

Many of the attractions are right around UB so it can be used as a hub and you can do day trips alone easily with a taxi or hired car. I did not see much public transport other than the train from Beijing to UB.

I've heard some people get an apartment in UB for several weeks and do different things each day. Going with just you and a guide would not be hard to arrange. I did not encounter others travelling all alone outside of UB and the nearby areas.

Air schedules were challenging and changed by 12 hours to a full day, seemingly without reason. I had a guide to help me with that.

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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 09:20 AM
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Luggage on the train - basically, you have to trust the other people in your compartment to some extent. I travel with a backpack and a day pack. The backpack goes in the metal box under the lower bunk, in the open space next to the box, or in a cubbyhole over the door. If you're in 1st or 2nd class the attendants see to it that only ticketed passengers board.

Everything I really can't stand to lose is either in my money belt or my day pack. I slept with the belt on, or under my pillow, depending on who I was sharing with, and the daypack mostly went with me, even to the loo. The only times I really felt concerned were when we stopped at a station and everyone got off to check what the vendors had - and I think that was mostly in Russia, not Mongolia and China. You can get the attendant to lock the compartment then, but it's a hassle.

The Ulaan-Baator to Beijing Trans-Mongolian had two-person deluxe compartments, if you're really worried & really well-off, I suppose you could reserve one just for you.

There's no smoking in the compartments, and I think there was none in the corridor either. The food on the Chinese train is supposed to be better than on the Russian, but most people took their own supplies anyway, and ate in the compartment - the restaurant car was more for hanging out. There are hot water boilers in each carriage, take a tin cup and plan to make your own tea, coffee, soup, noodles, etc.

If you have trouble getting a reservation on the Trans-Mongolian, you could take a bus to the border and catch a more frequent train there - that's what Amazing Race did last season.
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 05:13 PM
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Thanks for all the train info, Thursdaysd. I am saving it in my Mongolia file. I would not get a whole compartment for me but it's nice to know an attendant could lock it.

What did you do about food? Bring your own? If so, what did you bring? Thanks.
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 06:22 PM
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I boarded in Moscow with instant coffee and soup, orange juice, bread, cheese, salami and apples, and that's mostly what I bought along the way. Some travelers were more into noodles and chocolate. At one point some Russians boarded with a whole roast chicken (Irkutsk, I think). I did try the restaurant car the first day out of Moscow, but after that I fed myself.

Note - the compartment lock is very easy to defeat. If you're locking it from the inside you may want to take extra precautions - I think I've seen a suggestion that there is a hole you can stuff something into, but I didn't bother & don't exactly remember. I kept everything I really cared about with me, which meant my money belt & my camera & journal.
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Old Feb 5th, 2007, 06:31 PM
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Thanks again!
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Old Feb 17th, 2007, 11:28 PM
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I'm actually planning a trip for September! Heading out to Ulgii in the far west.

I found Canat (http://www.mongoliaaltaiexpeditions.com/) who has been fantastic... I really don't like organized tours, like to just go to a place and hang... meet people and see what happens. In one of his scheduled itineraries he listed seeing a shaman one day and I wrote him back saying that sounded fun. He wrote back, "then you can stay with shaman for one week, and with an eaglehunter's family the second week." And it was done. That easy.

I'll post more when I get back, but this has been incredibly easy. And if you're looking for personalized travel/service - I'd say check out Canat. And if you do a search you'll find him listed on a few websites, and in a book called "Eagle Dreams"... and I have no affiliation with him... he's just making things VERY easy for me. )

Anyway, I can't wait!!! Atravelynn, did you get to Ulgii by any chance, or the Altai mountains?


Take care,

Michael
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Old Feb 18th, 2007, 06:54 AM
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Michael, Blue Wolf looks fantastic! I am also not a tour person but I would definitely consider one of their itineraries!

The Eagle Festival appeals to me although I don't think I would be thrilled to watch them kill. It would be an interesting cultural experience.

We have an international film fest going on in Portland, OR right now. One of the movies is "The Great Match". About a third of it is filmed in Mongolia and includes beautiful footage of eagle hunting and horse riding. I highly recommend it if you can find it. Maybe it will be available on NetFlix?

I know my boyfriend has no interest in visiting Mongolia and I enjoy traveling solo so this would have to be a solo trip for me.

Cheers!
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Old Feb 18th, 2007, 08:05 AM
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Michael31,

I did fly to Ulgii and spent several days in the Altai Mountains. It was a beautiful area.

The eagle hunters were too far away to reach in the time I had because the flight schedules had been changed to different days and times from what I booked. It chopped off a couple of days in that area. Normally the eagle hunters would have been in the vicinity of Ulgii, but it was unusually hot and they headed high into the mountains. Between the heat and the flight changes, I was disappointed to miss them, but those things happen when traveling in places like Mongolia.

In October there is an eagle hunter festival or gathering and I'd like to go to that some day.

Please post or email me about your trip when you return.
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