Last weekend our program had an official excursion to the world’s largest Chinggis Khan Statue, an attraction of which Mongolians are very proud. I had very few expectations, as is usually best in Mongolia to avoid being too surprised or disappointed.
Our drivers picked us up at promptly nine am, which is very unusual in a country where the nomadic conception of time heavily influences time management. Traditionally, morning, afternoon, or evening would suffice for arranging get togethers. As the pictures hopefully illustrate, it was a fun-filled day!
The way there!
Leaving Ulaanbaatar, we saw several notable sites probably worth revisiting:
Military monument on the way out of Ulaanbaatar.
The outskirts of UB. The sprawl in the valley is largely made up of gers – traditional portable dwellings that most Americans would recognize as yurts. Bringing their homes with them from the countryside, each year more and more nomads settle in these “ger districts.” With little or no access to electricity, running water, or plumbing, these neighborhoods are plagued by many obvious health and sanitation issues.
A bit farther out of town the new rich build their mansions with the help of workers who stay in traditional gers nearby. Today’s wealthy are among the first to build western style homes.
A ger along the highway advertises huushuur for sale, a very popular dish that is essentially a battered and fried mutton or beef patty.
Basketball is very popular here! It’s normal to see basketball hoops without any court surface whatsoever. Must make dribbling a bit difficult!
Recently erected power lines stand in stark contrast against the beautiful backdrop of the countryside.
Two hours of bumpy driving later…
As we approach the gigantic statue, we see a combination of three different types of architecture: the minimalist soviet-style concrete block house, the traditional ger, and a modern building under construction.
We’ve made it!
After an hour and a half of racing along dirt roads paralleling the highway still under construction or in dire need of repair, we reach the statue!
A Kazakh falconer dances to techno with his golden eagle, trying to lure customers into paying for a photo with the massive bird! The tourist in the background is not convinced!
Introducing the world’s largest shoe! Japanese tourists dressed as Mongolians really made the photo though… I guess they don’t take it personally that the Mongols attempted to invade their country by boat in the 13th century! (Clearly the Mongols were out of their element on the high seas.) No hard feelings!
Take me to the top!
In case you forget how to use stairs up to the top, they even have a little demonstration, or is a warning sign?
Chinggis Khan, from the top of his horse’s head!
Anyone see the resemblance?
View of the countryside from the horse’s head!
View of the entrance.
An archery range was among the fun side activities available to tourists.
Basketball and volleyball courts for visitors.
You could even ride horses lined up by the main entrance!
Back down on the ground…
This bathroom is for “Man” only, and apparently that means you have to wear a v-neck too.
Inspired by Chinggis, I convince my fellow Fulbrighter to crown me as new head of the mongol hordes. The gift shop owner was less than pleased, but this was a pivotal moment for me.
Stir-fried horse meat! Delicious!
The way back!
English gibberish on the back of a business vehicle.
To avoid the backup on the main thoroughfare, our driver decided to try out his own route through a few back alleys.
Traffic on the back road too!
This was taken out of the front windshield. We somehow managed to snake our way through all these vehicles with nothing more than patience, maneuvering and plenty of honking!
Beautiful scenery while stuck in the horrible bumper to bumper congestion.
A very drunk Mongolian stumbled by at 3 in the afternoon and got stuck between our stopped car and the van next to it. Fail! I have no idea what sort of conversation ensued here, but thankfully if didn’t last long and this poor fellow found his way out of this jam!
Standing on a roof while disassembling it? No problem!
Don’t fall in!
Eventually we were able to get through this huge mess and back home, although it certainly would have been easier to walk!
Clearly, UB is in need of a good traffic cop to keep things moving.
Ya know, they have them but a fair amount of the time they are completely ignored!