Someone asked me
” Are you travelling to no- man s world for business ?!”
Yes, its definitely not a common man’s world. Blissfully land locked between Russia and china, it still preserves old traditions of nomadic life, horse culture and the citizens lead a simple humble life. And that is the country I recently landed in, which left me completely in awe – Mongolia.
My knowledge about Mongolia, pre visit, was limited only to very few things , such as famous ruler – chenggis Khan, Nomadic life, Equine population more than the human and olympic Mongolian wresting. With this very limited knowledge, I landed in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city on a very pleasant day. It was a tiring journey with multiple hops and long layovers. The fly from Beijing to UB is definitely worth speaking. It crossed many beautiful green Mountains, barren Gobi dessert and some blue waters here and there. It was scenic flying of 2 hrs at low altitudes.
I landed in the small airport of UB, surrounded by greeneries, pleasant Californian weather, and friendly smiles. English is definitely not widely spoken but that is not a major drawback. People have lot of time to listen to and help us and as our taxi vroomed towards the city , my perception about Mongolia started changing completely. Fancy cars , modern high rise buildings, neon lights, wide screen TV ads, (did I board the wrong flight and reached Europe ?? ) The city population is very less of about 2million. People who live there are mostly expats from Russia and Korea. An Indian is a true foreigner in this land though I managed to find a couple of Indian restaurants.
The land uses its famous Ruler to brand everything from airport to chinggis beer! Just got curious and I started reading about chengis khan’s history . Like many notorious personalities he was one heck of an administrator , and ruled biggest geography on earth. Not even romans nor the brits had captured that much land as that of the Mongolian ruler, which was later divided by sons and grandsons ! Typical !! Be it a country ruler or underworld don , or high class business magnet – they are not brought down by a competitor but many a times by their own heirloom. The story is the same from Aurangazeb to Ambani — Dads build and kids divide !
Well, Mongolians have slightly different body build up , short storky and broad shoulders which is very evident in every statues across the city centres. My very friendly local business partner took me for a grand authentic Mongolian dinner. My friends in US went Gaga about the Mongolian food, I have never tried it and had no clue what type of staple food they eat.
As I sat down to order, searching for some vegetarian food in the menu, the standard set of questions I hear – What is vegetarianism ? Why am I a vegetarian? Why my religion does not allow me to eat? Am I too religious 🙂 ? All that questions answered rhetorically. By then we ordered food and the waitress brought huge tray with lamb skull as the base and topped with all organs – brain, liver and what nots! My die hard non vegetarian colleagues, could not say no to the hospitality nor could eat the food! 🙂 But I noticed that cooking was done very traditionally. In fact they had added some local stone, not sure about the name but thats just to enhance the taste – I guess its like south Indian grand mom s stoneware upma s! And I tried the local Mongolian tea which was more like a porridge salty with camels milk. And well, tried a mongolian small good luck game – later came to know that dice is made of bones !
Heard lot of stories from the localite about the yurt, gher, why people still lead nomadic life, the weather, the politics, agriculture etc etc ! Interestingly many nomads have cars, tvs and mobile phones , move for farming and for cattle s to different places in their own vehicle! May be good , may be not ! They sooner or later will move to the city for sure!
Well that short trip to Mongolia, a relaxing 4 day sojourn gave a completely different idea about people from Mongolia!!I will definitely like to visit again and try the country side. As always my retirement plans keeps changing with every travel of mine or the book which makes impact – last time I thought I will settle with Tarahumara tribe and run for life. But now until next interesting set of people and place , I will settle in Mongolia ( only summer) with 10 horses and a small piece of land in a yurt:)