Monday, July 20, 2009

Mongolia

The iconic circular shaped 'ger' that is easily recognisable and associated with the nation of Mongolia.
President Nixon visit to China in 1972 was a watershed in the China-USA relations. While touring the Great Wall of China he was quoted as saying, "I think that you would have to conclude that this is a great wall, and it had to be built by a great people." The use of the wall was to keep out the Mongolians, a group of people living in the north of China.

What then would you think will be the rejoinder from the Mongolian to Pres. Nixon's quote? Batbayar Bat-Erdene the renown Mongolia historian of the modern day has this to say, "The people that forced the building of a wall like this certainly have at least as great a past to be proud of."
Peak hour rush home
I have some friends here and visited with them in March 2008. At that time and for a long time there was a red hot controversy coming from that land making my post untenable for a season.

This is a hauntingly beautiful land. The landscape looks formidable, forbidding and so mysterious. It has nothing yet had everything. The people were pragmatic, physical and direct.

When I stepped off the plane it was late at night. I had put on my woollen long-johns in the plane's lavatory. Then I put on my cashmere sweater and had a snow-boarding jacket in my hand as well as a winter cap and cashmere scarf ready for the blast of cold air when exiting Ulaanbaatar airport. It will be -15 Celsius or lower with the windchill. My prior knowledge and experience were up to -5 in the Rockies in spring was grossly insufficient.

After the times of the great Genghis Khan and subsequently his ruling descendants the Mongols retreated into their land of the steppes, but later were under influence of China for about 300 years but after independence from China fell into the crutches of Soviet Union for the next 70 years until his break-up in 1990 thus freeing the Mongolians. When the Soviet left he took back everything that can be dismantled (even factories and infrastructure) and railroaded them back. Mongolia has 3 mil people and 1.2 mil lived in Ulaanbaatar. Box-shaped Soviet-era apartments and buildings still dominate the city's landscape.

However, the communist influence of other kinds continue to this day. Case in point would be the food. I had great East European food: Ukrainian, Russian and Hungarian. I enjoyed the goulash and other thick and meaty stew. The multi-grained cereals that was so healthy and inviting esp. when compared to Asian's mundane rice and American's boring mashed potatoes.

The Chinese restaurant had fine-tuned the Mongolian staple meat - mutton. I had a rack of roasted mutton ribs that I still remember its taste to this day. Scrumptious. The Hot-Pot was also good and the rich and famous frequent this particular luxurious restaurant. I had horse meat too - a new addition to me but I did not eat that much. This is due to a hang-up I have, a not too pleasant sight of a butchered horse (entire) and left on the wet market floor in a small town outside Guilin.

I had a good time visiting the Russian market. Those who like knick-knacks, gadgets etc will have a fun time and will spend the whole day there. For those who had been to the Phnom Penh's Russian market - it is similar. I remembered giving USD20 and asking a Canadian colleague working in Cambodia to buy a good Russian binocular for me. He is an expert in the market. He got what I wanted, a very good binocular.

Cashmere wool sweaters and garments are half the price that of Malaysia. The quality is very good though the pattern and design is found slightly wanting.
Boxy apartments everywhere. Went up the hill at the background that commands a view of the city.Asashōryū Akinori - top-ranked Mongolian sumo wrestler in Japan.
Soviet-era garbage truckTiger beer godown - on my way out of the capital
On the way out into the country-side, the steppes land.Settlements - very coldFrozen river.Trees and shrubs still hibernating in March. Another river.Dirt tracks to a touristy area.YaksYours truly horse-riding with the horseman. Their skills are legendary from the days of Gengghis Khan. Did not pull my hood over and put on gloves. Almost chilled out and had to dismount and stop my horse-riding.

12 comments:

thenomadGourmand said...

wow! Mongolia..definitely not the norm places to visit!
Looking fwd to more pics and posts!

Sin Tai Lim said...

it's always a nice feeling and wonderful when visiting new places, wish that one day I could visit here...

backStreetGluttons said...

This is one obscure land famous for its dryness, coldness , tough goats & forlongness. So it must be a real rugged place !
...although that tragic lady changed Mongolia & Malaysia's image forever with the staus FNCBH ( file not closed but hanging)

Selba said...

Interesting... I got familiar with Mongolia during my elementary school when I watch those kungfu (silat) series, hehehe...

CUMI & CIKI said...

v cool post. hv u tried the vodka? Gengghis Khan? it rocks.

J2Kfm said...

goulash and muttons .... yummy stuff. is Inner Mongolia in KL the only place that serves Mongol food?
sorry stray from your post.

but very cool. esp the hairy yaks. hahahah ... pet-table?

550ml jar of faith said...

Mongolia is so worth a visit; the history and the resilience of its people has intrigued me ever since my dad regaled me with stories when I was a kid. The food, however, is not something I'm particularly looking forward to.

Big Boys Oven said...

hahhaha a sure joyly good ride you had there, did you? I did mine in Scotland, pure joy but aftre two hours, both of my tights sored! :(

worldwindows said...

TNG... Was there on business so kind of tight on schedule. Layover was 20 hours each way with Korean Air or China Air stay overnight in Beijing. No way....

STL.. Got a friend who took the trans- Siberian train and enter Mongolia through Russia....His travels inspired this post actually:-)

BSG... The people there are tough and persistent.

Selba... Mmm, new to me. Inner Mongolia is still under China and Outer Mongolia was under Soviet Union but is not independent since 1990.

CampC... No vodka for me. Actually lots of liquor here even in sundry shops.... It has been a problem here.

J2Kfm... Yaks really hairy to survive -40 Celsius. I think so but eats a lot and also output alot.... Also have 2 humps Bactrian camel. Inner Mongolia - have not been there but thought it is more Chinese than Mongolian.

Faith... Some can't stand mutton. Over here goat's milk, goat's milk butter tea, mutton3. Smell mutton even in the ger. But the landscape is another thing.

BBO... Merciful I got off earlier otherwise I had to walked bow-legged.

FoOd PaRaDiSe said...

How i wish i can escape to a colder place at this moment. The heat and haze in Penang is soooooooo hot.

foodbin said...

good post.

worldwindows said...

FP... Temperate countries is good for intellectual work:-)

FB... Thanks.