In Changez Land
You can experience Mongolia truly only once you leave the capital city. That’s when the landscape changes and people get warmer
In March I visited Ulan Bator (UB) in Mongolia for an Information and Communication Technology evaluation when the temperatures ranged from -10 degrees in the morning to +20 degrees in the afternoons in the barren Gobi desert. Not exactly everyone’s cup of tea. Located in the Valley of Tuul River and surrounded by beautiful mountains, UB is home to only 30 per cent of the population; the rest are spread across a couple of semi-urban areas, mostly the vast Mongolian countryside. Mongolia is roughly half the size of India!
Large number of Mongolians lead a nomadic life and live in gers (a tent-like dwelling made of wood). People living in the countryside rely on the traditional way of life which consists of pastoral livestock husbandry. Mongolian food is mainly non-vegetarian with almost zero spices. Alcohol is an integral part of the diet since it helps to stay warm.
The Mongols gained fame in the 13th century when under Changez Khan they conquered a huge part of Eurasia. Today, Mongolians are considered to be one of the most hospitable and their hospitality is integrated in their nomadic lifestyle. What was amusing was that even in this nomadic condition one could find gers with solar-powered satellite dish antennas hooked up to TVs -- a stark contrast to the very limited landline phone connectivity and no mobile signals in the desert areas.
Majority of the people follow Buddhism and even in remote desert areas one can find Buddhist temples and monks. Mongolians love their music, which is strongly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism and their nomadic lifestyle.
I was pleasantly surprised to find an Indian restaurant in UB. The food was decent, although the spices were toned down substantially keeping the local palate in mind. You can experience Mongolia truly once you leave the capital city. That’s when the landscape changes, people get warmer, life gets simpler and you experience nature in its raw form.
Due to its location and high altitude, Mongolia gets nearly 300 days of clear skies and is a favourite location for those wanting to watch the skies. The fossil remains of dinosaurs are another major attraction. During the trip, I was not only able to see dinosaur eggs in a showcase, but also touch and feel them! It’s all these combined together that make Mongolia special.