MONGOLIA—Truly a Land of Enchantment



I was writing this on the last days in Mongolia. At the time I was somewhat stressed by an unfortunate disconnect with my guide which slightly colored the time in this incredible land. It was a bit of a love-hate relationship there for awhile. Now with that adventure less than a week past I’m already looking at my time in Mongolia as very special. So given this delay in posting I have had the chance to edit out some of my whining.

Late afternoon, September 3rd, sitting on the bed-like furniture in my second and last ger of this lifetime. Although they are very sweet and gay and cozy but they are also not very king-size bed and bedside lamp and white-noise fans and hey, everyone, give me a break, it’s been four and one-half weeks of new, and it’s not so wimpy if I’ve reached a max level of appreciation is it?

Actually now a few days later, I’m thinking very fondly of the time in the ger camps. I slept so well and they are quite magical-looking (like a little girl’s playhouse kind of magic) from inside and out. Do I wish I were in one this minute instead of my smart tidy little boutique in Seoul? Not exactly. But I don’t like to think I’ll never do it again either.


This has been a hard slog. Although seeing the wild horses day before yesterday and hanging out yesterday in the rain in a monastery of such color and beauty and peace halfway up a mountainside does make it all worthwhile. Really.

I can already tell it’s going to get cold and rainy again tonight so soon it’s off to the shower, on with the flannels and sweatshirts and all blankets on my bed and it’s me in the ger on a mountainside in Mongolia. Damn, I do like the sound of that…addict that I am.

7pm, rain on the soft roof of the ger may be the most enticing, relaxing, pleasant sound in the world.

Last Day, September 4. End of Mongolia. In my former life of Lonely Planet and lonely me just sampling everyplace without human intervention, it was easy. Me the guide, me the consumer. Sometimes we liked each other, sometimes not. Now I am hiring guides here and there to get me to more important sites and sights than I would otherwise have time to visit.

Usually that’s been a good thing. Not so much in Mongolia.

Let me say in both (my guide and me) of our defenses. It was a clash of cultures, ages, education and no shared language to work through the problems. I could go on but how boring would that be… Part of the problem is that I’ve gotten used to ex-professors or broody semi-intellectuals so reverting to someone whose only grasp of English is rote tourist info is not easily possible. Or maybe it is just cranky old me.

This world of steppes and flocks and gers is so out of my frame of reference. I think. But then I remember I live in New Mexico with its important Navajo heritage which includes an animal herding history and living in spaces and structures that are quite Mongol-like.

It also turns out that ger camps made the best bread I tasted on my entire trip. They’re too distant from professional bakers to buy bread often so they seem to have upped the ante on fresh warm morning rolls and pastries considerably. Soft, spongy, substantial like mom used to make. Oh yes, and I sampled real Mongolian tea…which by the way is seriously awful. The reason being it’s not just salty milky tea but there’s a traditional rancid fat that’s thrown in for good measure. Not necessarily yak butter as I always thought, maybe sheep butter if there is such a thing because the drink I took tasted quite … well … sheepish.


Not figuring out how to deal with the guide disconnection did briefly, rightly or wrongly, influence my feelings about the time and place. Shame the way that happens but with such a short time in place it does. However past is past and I already look back with such great pleasure on the visit.

Mongolia is Space. Wyoming is Space. New Mexico is space. All special places.

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