After going through others' travel blogs and reading numbers of travel books, it seems like Mongolia has become a popular tourist destination. A lot of people are going there.
To be honest with you, I am jealous.
I have limited time to travel (limited budget too). Therefore, I need to make the best out of the 7 days that I have!
There are two Mongolias in total. One of them is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is also known as Inner Mongolia. Anyway, it is not my travel destination this time!
On the other hand, my destination is "Mongolia as a country" that has Ulaanbatar / Ulan Bator as the capital city. Mongolia is commonly known as a dream destination for tourists from all over the world.
Moreover, people don't speak Chinese here because they have their own language. Their alphabets are slightly modified from Russian alphabets.
If Nepal, Tibet, and India are dream destinations for travelers, "Mongolia" will also be on the wish list where travelers would like to travel to for once in a lifetime.
Why a lot of people would like to travel to Mongolia?
To answer this question, I would say that Mongolia offers
"Nature, History, Culture, and People attractions."
I have limited time to travel in Mongolia, a country that is bigger than Thailand three times but with only three millions populations.
2 days will be spent on the journey to and from Mongolia and other 5 days, I will actually be traveling in Mongolia. And I would like to say that,
"This is Truly a Trip for a Lifetime."
Day 1 - Depart from Bangkok to Hong Kong and stay for 1 night
Day 2 - Depart from Hong Kong to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia
Day 3 - Winter Palace of Bogd Kha - Zaizan Memorial - Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, the largest one in the world - Teralj National Park - Turtle Rock - Aryapala Meditation Center - Horse riding and Staying with Nomadic people
Day 4 - Road trip - Karakorum, the ancient capital of Mongolia
Day 5 - Karakorum - Erdene Zuu Monastery - Great Imperial Map Monument - Bactrian Camel - Ulaanbaatar
Day 6 - Gandantegchinlen Monastery - National Museum (a must to visit) - Chinggis Square - Cafe
Day 7 - Fly back to Bangkok (quick stopover in Hong Kong)
*Tour package for 5 days booked through the guesthouse in Ulaanbaatar *highly recommended* - 255 USD / person (
**Flight tickets Bangkok - Hong Kong - Bangkok with Cathay Pacific Airways = 6,XXX THB / person
***Hotel in Hong Kong for 2 night (to and from) at Conext Hostel, Jordan = 2,XXX THB / person
****Flight tickets Hong Kong - Ulaanbaatar - Hong Kong with MIAT Mongolian Airlines (a national flag carrier of Mongolia) = 21,530 THB / person
*I am ready, let's go!!!*
* - Before I reach Mongolia
1. Believe it or not? You don't need to get a visa to enter Mongolia and you can stay up to 30 days. All you need is Thai passport. So, this is totally convenient.
2. To travel to Mongolia, the most convenient way is by flight. Even though there is no direct flight from Bangkok, there are flights from nice transit cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Beijing. However, I don't recommend you to transit in Beijing because if you want to stop for a quick visit, you need to get a visa. Anyway, it is up to you.
3. For those who have 10 days or more for this trip, you may want to travel to Mongolia by train, "Trans Mongolia" (depart from Beijing and total traveling time is 2 days and 1 night). I won't go into the details since there are many travel blogs available regarding this (I would say it is not a bad choice but the fare is pretty similar to a flight added with the visa fee, anyway; I would pick a flight!).
4. Foods and drinks, you don't have to be worried... because KFC, Pizza Hut, and franchised Korean coffee chains are all over Ulaanbaatar. You won't starve to death. Once you are out of town and stay with Nomadic people, you will be well-fed too. It seems to me that it is better than traveling in India! (I don't eat beef, goat's meat, or lamb personally but they have chicken and delicious vegetables!).
5. Weather, the best time to visit Mongolia is during summer from July - September and please avoid winter because it is freezing cold (November - February). I choose to come during spring (March - May) because it offers a nice weather with clear sky and light snow, the temperature is around 1 - 2 degree Celsius.
6. Cost of living, it is cheaper than Thailand. A meal costs you around 1 - 2 USD (the local currency is Tughrik which 1USD = 2,000 MNT). Foods and drinks in a cafe, fast food restaurant, or a restaurant in a hotel is pretty similar to those in Thailand.
7. The most important thing before deciding to travel to Mongolia is that... you have to be okay with "pit latrine" and "no shower".
*You can try to google to see how a pit latrine in Mongolia is... I am okay with it because I think it is better than India especially in Leh that I have experienced before... I am being honest here.
8. Mongolian people are very kind and helpful. Even though some of them are not good in English, they are more than willing to help. Mongolia is also very safe for tourists.
Day 1- Fly from Bangkok to Hong Kong and stay for 1 night - *I won't go into the details* hahaha
Day 2- Fly from Hong Kong to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia
- My flight has been delayed a bit and the aircraft is quite old actually but acceptable though. On the other hand, the service is great and I would rate it 5 out of 5. In addition, the weather during my flight is not that good but the Captain is very skillful and professional. He delivers such a safety for my flight.
I have finally arrived at Chinggis Khaan International Airport. The name of the airport is very cool, isn't it? Then the transfer from Danista Nomads comes to pick me up. The driver can speaks English a little and he takes me to the city center which is about 40 minutes (the traffic is not busy but there are many traffic lights hahaha).
Why I choose Danista Nomads? http://danistanomadstour.com/
The answer is that it is not expensive and loacted at a good location (even if the hostel is in a small alley, it is not too further in). Furthermore, I can walk around the town easily from here. Danista Nomads is also close to a department store, cafes, and Ramada Ulaanbaatar Citycenter Hotel.
*Photo from official website of the hostel*
I choose a hotel based mainly on Guests' review rate on TripAdvisor and this hostel seems to be a good choice. I also get my email responded in a very good time manner by Mr. Jagga, the owner. He is kind and very easy to deal with as well.
*Tips* Hostel: 20 USD is for a twin room,10 USD is for a single room, and both of them have a heater and come with the private bathroom equipped with hot water. This is good value for money as the breakfast is also included. You will get a complementary city tour as well.
P.S. 1: Elevator is not available, therefore; you should request for a room on the lower floor if you travel with huge luggage or can't walk up the stairs much.
P.S. 2: Wi-Fi connection is not so good but it is not a big problem for me. I like to go to Caffe Benne where the Wi-Fi connection is very good.
Day 3 - Winter Palace of Bogd Kha - Zaizan Memorial - Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, the largest one in the world - Teralj National Park -Turtle Rock - Aryapala Meditation Center - Horse riding and Staying with Nomadic people
We are going to travel all day today!!! I have decided to leave my big luggage at the hostel. I only prepare stuffs for 2-night stay into my backpack. The van with a driver and a cute tour guide are here to pick me up. The tour guide firstly introduces himself as Uzi. He also has a trainee along named Simbatid.
The first stop that Uzi takes me to, is this
Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan. Bogd Khan is the 8th and last king of the Mongol Empire. He was also the spiritual leader of Outer Mongolia's Tibetan Buddhism.
This winter palace was built between 1893 and 1903. Bogd Khan had been living in this palace for 20 years. After he passed away in 1924, the palace has been turned into the National Museum and first welcomed visitors in 1926.
The museum is divided into 2 parts. The first part is used to be a place where Bogd Khan and the Queen live. This part is where you can see his rooms, his clothes, his appliances, and his collection of art. This part is only one building and taking photos is not allowed. Everything has been well-kept and they are all in the good condition. You can find a sign with explanation on everything as well. Even though they are old stuffs, they are very charming.
The second part is a temple within the palace area. It seems to me that this temple is even bigger than the palace with more numbers of rooms and buildings. Each of the room and building is full with antique items such as paintings, thangka paintings (Tibetan Buddhist painting), sculptures, and many ancient Mahayana Buddha images in Tibetan style (over one hundred years old). I would say that those who like history and ancient items would spend at least half a day in this Winter Palace.
I have spent many hours here and my tour guide looks shocked! hahaha
Next stop -- Zaizan Memorial, The Highest Viewpoint in Ulaanbaatar
It is a Mongolian-style monument built by Russia.
Zaizan Memorial is an extremely enormous monument located at the top of Zaisan Mountain in the southern Ulaanbaatar. It is a memorial that honors Soviet soldiers killed in World War II (I wonder why it is built here in Mongolia).
The memorial features a circular memorial painting that you can tell it is about Soviet once you first see it. The painting depicts scenes of friendship between the people of the USSR and Mongolia such as Soviet support for Mongolia's independence declaration in 1921 (from China), and the help to defeat the Japanese Army in 1939 (Now... I understand more why this memorial was built here!).
The stairway up here is not difficult but it can make me tired!!!
There are more than 300 steps to walk up here from Level 2. For those who are fit and firm may want to walk from Level 1 with more than 600 steps in total. Anyway, it will all be worth it with the stunning view you have got from up here!!
Those who like to take pictures of sunrise and sunset, I recommend you to come here. It is very beautiful (very tired to climb up as well hahaha).
Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, the Largest One in the World
I have arrived at Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue after about 1-hour journey from Ulaanbaatar. Well, Genghis Khan was a warrior who successfully conquered half the world and this statue is the largest Genghis Khan statue in the world.
Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue was built in 2008 by Mongolian Government to honor the Mongol Empire, which was the largest contiguous empire in history. The location of this statue is where according to legend that the golden whip of Genghis Khan was found. The statue is the largest one in Mongolia with its 40 meters tall and wrapped in 250 tons of gleaming stainless steel.
You can take the elevator up to the high about the chest of Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue to see an excellent panoramic view of the surrounding landscape or even take a selfie with him.
Inside the base of the statue is where you can find a museum as well as a photo studio. You can get a photo of you in a variety of Mongolian traditional costumes at the photo studio for "Free"!
*Tips* You can ask the photo studio officer to take a photo of you and print it. It is not expensive, only 5 USD.
I say goodbye to Genghis Khan and continue my journey for another 1 hour into Terelj National Park. I will get a photo shot with the Turtle Rock.
Look! This rock looks just like a turtle from all angles. hahaha
After saying another goodbye to the Turtle Rock... we left for Aryapala Meditation Center which will take about 10 minutes from here. The tour guide will lead me up to the temple.
The trekking path this time is not easy especially if you are not fit enough. It is pretty steep. Anyway, we don't need to hurry. We can read the Buddhist teachings along the way and walk up slowly...
I have just arrived at the foot of the temple's stairway... and I am tired already. hahaha -- following with another 108 steps. hahaha
I highly recommend this place. Even though it is tiring to walk up here, the view you have got is amazing. It is totally worth it but I would also confirm that you would be tired!
It will get dark around 9 PM here in April so we have more hours to travel as well. hahaha
The last program of today and it is the main highlight that attracts people to come to Mongolia is to stay with the real Nomadic people, not those fake one for business purpose.
We have left Aryapala Meditation Center for about 30 minutes, this is when the driver stops the car and parks it by the road. It seems to me that he is asking for direction with this auntie who parks her motorbike by the road....
...I am wrong. He doesn't ask for the direction but this person is actually the owner of ger (a portable, round tent) that we will stay in tonight.
Auntie comes and picks us up because to go to her place is totally difficult. We will get lost if we go there by ourselves. hahaha Our 4WD van follows her for about half an hour through the pine tree jungle, stream, and grass field. The scenery along the way is truly fantastic. I don't know how to put it into words.
*This is a photo taken along the way*
We are going down the hill now... We can spot auntie's gers from far away...
I am going to stay in this ger tonight!
This is inside the ger... There are 4 beds and they come with pillows and blankets. The fireplace is also available (it is very warm but we need to keep refilling the firewood). There is no electricity, tap water, or Wi-Fi. The toilet is in the middle of nowhere. It is about 200 meters from the ger. That's not a problem anyway. I am very well-prepared! hahaha
Uzi has also prepared me a clean sleeping bag in case it is too cold at night.
This is the view right in front of my ger... isn't it beautiful?
After resting for a while, I am invited to the owner's ger. They have prepared warm milk added with some salt to welcome us together with a huge bowl of pastry.
I try to talk to them through Uzi (red jacket). The driver is in the middle and the uncle owner is on the right-hand side...
However, I talk mostly with Uzi. hahaha I heard that the owner has 3 daughters studying in Ulaanbaatar. They are back here only during the term break. They move their ger to different locations according to the season. Where we are here is usually for winter and they will move to a place near a stream in summer... Moving means to move everything including gers, car, and all animals. I try to imagine along to the time that they are moving and I guess it must be fun (I told the uncle owner that I will come and help him move his house next time hahaha). After filling up my stomach with tea and pastry, the uncle owner and Uzi take me to get a horse ride.
Horse and Mongolian people can barely get separated.
Those Mongolians who can't ride a horse are comparable as eagles without a wing. Mongolian people learn to ride a horse when they are very little, when they are not even in school yet!!
They are truly the great soldiers of Genghis Khan.
I am on a horse and follow the uncle owner to a huge infinity field. The uncle owner rides a horse while singing and the weather is very nice (a bit cold hahaha) with light sunlight (it is already 7 PM!!).
I look to the left and right, and have found that I am in the middle of nowhere... There is nothing but the song sung by the uncle owner, a small talk, and light wind. It has been such a happy time for the last one hour...
It is dinner time... Today, the owner proudly present "Mongolian Barbecue". The way they prepare this meal is truly traditional. They use hot stones to roast the lamb and vegetable in a huge container!
The driver helps the uncle owner to carefully place lamb onto the container.
Uzi and Simbatid told me that I need to wait for about half an hour. Therefore, once the dinner is ready, they will go and get me...
I am thankful that I have Simbatid because he is good at cooking. I don't eat lamb... so he cooks Stir-fried Chicken in Red Sauce for me... I want to cry. It is very delicious!! (can you see that in the small plate, that is my special menu hahaha)
We are all full. The uncle and auntie owners excuse themselves to go and rest. Then we come back to our ger to prepare our beds. We will wait until the sky is full with the stars then we will go out again...
The stars are all dazzling! I am sorry that I don't have any pictures to share with you. It is the way too cold!!!!!! hahaha
I have slept well until 4 - 5 AM when I feel very cold... The fireplace starts to go off so I start to use the sleeping bag. Not long after, the auntie owner comes to put more firewood for us!!!! She saved us!!!!!
Before I end the third day of this trip: I am happy to introduce you "the toilet with the most beautiful view in the world."
Day 4 - Road trip - Karakorum, the ancient capital of Mongolia
I completely woke up when the sky is bright... Uzi and Simbatid come and serve me with the breakfast which is fried eggs, some bread, jams, and some coffee. Then I am out of the ger to take photos capturing the surroundings in the morning. Out here, I see the uncle and auntie owners do some work around the place, play with their dog, and take care of their horses and cows. It is getting late and it is time to say goodbye to the owners and I don't forget to get a group photo to keep as a good memory before telling them that I will see them again next time. Well, it is going to be a long journey today to travel to Kharakhorum.
It takes about 5 - 6 hours to get to Kharakhorum from Teralj National Park. I would say that the condition of the road is 60% good. Anyway, I couldn't sleep well because the views on both sides of the road are just way too amazing (I sleep a little bit though hahaha).
We have made a stop here at a brown grass field. Uzi and Simbatid let me run around... while they are preparing lunch. Our lunch today is Spaghetti with Chicken Sauce and it is delicious as always (thumps up to Simbatid).
We are full now and our journey continues... Our original program today is to get a camel ride at the Sand Dune which is on the way to Kharakhorum. Unfortunately, we have to cancel it due to the bad sand storm.
Therefore, we are going to our accommodation right away... Tonight is another night that I will stay in a ger but it is more like a guesthouse as gers here are built for tourists especially..
It is called "Mönkhsuuri Guesthouse". Inside the ger is clean with comfortable bed and thick warm blanket. There is a stove heater using fuel oil so it lasts longer than the firewood. The toilet is still a pit latrine but in a proper room. It is more private and they even have a toilet seat (but down below is still a pit hahaha).
The main highlight of this guesthouse is that it is only 900-meter far from Erdene Zuu Monastery. That means you can even walk there. The view of Erdene Zuu Monastery from the guesthouse after the sunset is truly fantastic! I don't know how to explain, have a look yourself!
Simbatid cooks Fried Noodle for dinner... Its taste is similar to our Stir-fried Flat Noodle with Soy Sauce. I go to bed directly after the dinner and I finally have electricity tonight so I could charge my phone. hahaha
Our 4WD at special parking spot!
Day 5 - Karakorum - Erdene Zuu Monastery - Great Imperial Map Monument - Bactrian camel - Ulaanbaatar
I woke up late today and the sky is very clear. The temperature is under 10 degree Celsius while it was under 0 degree Celsius at night. Well, the stove heater inside the ger works very well. The cold doesn't bother me much even though I am from a hot country.
I will learn a lot today. Karakorum (Mongolian people pronounce it as "Harahorum") is in Khakhoryn Province of Mongolia. Karakorum was a prosperous city and it is the capital of the Mongol Empire. The city is also known as the center connecting Asia and Europe including the famous Silk Road.
The first program of the day and it is the one that every tourist should do is to go and visit Karakorum Museum. It is one of the best museums I have ever seen in my entire life. The information, explanation, historical evidences, ancient objects exhibition are all very well-organized and they are easy to understand. Those who love the history of Mongolia shouldn't miss for any reasons.
I am honored to have the professor to show me around and explain everything clearly. I highly recommend you to come if you have a chance!
We can say that this is the very first passport in the world!! It belongs to Marco Polo, the greatest traveler.
P.S. You can take photos inside the museum but with a fee
The next stop is this Erdene Zuu Monastery, one of the most important historical sites in Karakorum. Erdene Zuu Monastery is also considered as the earliest surviving Buddhist monastery in Mongolia.
It was built in 1585 by Abtai Sain Khan, the religious leader who introduced Tibetan Buddhism to Mongolia.
There used to be 100 temples in total in Erdene Zuu Monastery.
However, most of them were destroyed by the communist regime during 1937 - 1938. Nowadays, there are only 3 temples left.
You can spot the ruins of the ancient architecture all around including the remaining buildings.
I have been led to walk around the temples while given informative historical information as well as religious one.
There is another archaeological site nearby. It is about 200-meter far from Erdene Zuu Monastery. However, it is not officially opened for tourists yet but soon.... I can only see this Stone Turtle which is many hundreds years old outside.
Great Imperial Map Monument
We drive from Erdene Zuu Monastery out of the town for about 5 minutes and walk up the stair a bit, and here we are at Great Imperial Map Monument. It is an enormous monument built in 2004 in the hill on the southwest of Kharkhoryn. The monument consists of 3 circular walls showing the territory of Mongol Empire in 3 prosperous periods including,
Hunnu period (300–200 BC), the Turkic period (AD 600–800), and the Mongol period (13th century).
There is a huge Ovoo right in the middle of the monument. It is believed that this ovoo is used in worship of the mountains and the sky. In addition, ovoos are often found at the top of mountains and in high places, like mountain passes. They are usually made from holy woods, and rocks and it is very common to see ovoos when traveling in Mongolia.
Mongolian people believe that they can make a wish by walking around an ovoo for 3 times and throw 3 rocks into the ovoo.
Also, one may use sweets, pastries, fruits, or even vodka instead of rocks.
This is also the highest viewpoint in Karakorum. I guess you now know that it is totally worth it to walk up here.
We are back to the guesthouse for lunch. Simbatid has prepared Chicken Soup and it is flavorful. We have filled up our stomach and it is time to say goodbye to Karakorum and head back to Ulaanbaatar.
On the way, we have made a stop to take a selfie with a Bactrian camel. There is no sand storm today and the sky is clear... This tour is actually included a camel ride for 1 hour but I have decided to cancel it because I am afraid that we will arrive back in Ulaanbaatar too late at night.
We have finally arrived back in Ulaanbaatar after a 5-hour journey. The traffic here in the late afternoon is pretty busy. It can be compared to the traffic on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok. I have no more energy after arriving at Danista Nomads. I can't help but lie down right away!!
However, I can't sleep, not just yet!!! This is the first time within more than 50 hours that I have got a chance to
"take a shower"!! Yeah!!
(But I think I can actually live without a shower for some more days hahaha)
Day 6 - Travel on my own at Gandantegchinlen Monastery - National Museum (a must to visit) - Chinggis Square - Cafe
Today I will travel on my own and show you around!!
It is not difficult at all to travel to main tourist attractions here from my hostel. The weather is cold a bit right now though. hahaha
Open the map! (I recommend you to study the map in advance because the sign in Ulaanbaatar can't help much!!!)
However, you can try to use the taxi service. There are two types of taxis here from what I can see. There are the professional taxis and the taxi-like ones. The taxi-like ones are those cars that run as a taxi temporary, the drivers just want to earn some extra money. hahaha
The taxi fare needs to be agreed before taken. I haven't tried any taxi services though but I see the taxi-like ones everywhere and the drivers are all trying to offer me a ride (I may look lost).
I plan to go to 3 places today as my legs can take me to.
1. Gandantegchinlen Monastery
The first stop is at this one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Mongolia. The admission fee is about 2 USD (4,000 MNT). Gandantegchinlen Monastery is huge and it has many interesting religious ceremonies. Even though I am here very early in the morning, locals are here even earlier. It is full with Buddhists who come to make merit.
Some religious ceremonies are pretty similar to those done in Thailand such as lamp lighting, lamp offering, and exorcising (similar to the one in Wat Panancheong by offering cloth to Luang Phor Toh Buddha image). There are so many Buddhist ceremonies available here, no wonder why this place is a center for Buddhists in Mongolia.
The Buddhism in Mongolia is Mahayana or known as a yellow hat where it was originated in Tibet. Here you can see monks and lamas dressed in yellow robes and red robes everywhere. Gandantegchinlen Monastery currently has around 150 monks in residence.
There is the tallest standing Buddha image (inside the building) in the main ordination hall. It is an Avalokiteśvara image built in 1996 and standing at 26.5-meter tall.
*Tips* You can take photos inside the ordination hall with the fee of 5 USD.
2. National Museum of Mongolia
If you like the history, you shouldn't miss the National Museum of Mongolia for any reasons!
The admission fee is 5,000 MNT (2.5 USD)
There is an exhibition covering from prehistory, first dinosaur in the world in Mongolia, prosperous Mongol Empire ruled by Genghis Khan, Mongolia under China and Russia, to twentieth-century history. The entire history of Mongolia has been collected here. I would say that the exhibition, information, and presenting technology are "world class". I don't feel like spending time here for half a day is enough. hahaha
I personally like the exhibition that displays the traditional dress of various Mongolian ethnic groups from different period of time a lot (it is a pity that I didn't take any photos inside the museum, I am pretty sure that there is a fee for doing this).
3. Sukhbaatar or Chingghis Khan Square
"Grand Public Square" of Ulaanbaatar! It is a hang out venue for locals in the late afternoon.
Local teenagers, adults, and children commonly gather here to chill out. There are also numbers of interesting activities available around the square such as bicycling, skateboarding, and rollerblading. What are more interesting are those babies having fun riding their colorful car toys.
...Well, I don't think I can join you hahaha... I am tired from walking around and trust me, there are so many interesting things you need to see here.
Moreover, there are many franchised Korean coffee chains around the town such as Caffe Benne', CODE, and Coffee Beans. The price is pretty similar to those ones in Thailand. I personally like CODE a lot. I visited one of them on the way to the National Museum earlier and I am telling you that the atmosphere is as if I was in Europe.
More importantly, the Wi-Fi is free and the connection is so good!!!
Day 7 - Fly back to Bangkok (via Hong Kong and travel in Hong Kong a bit) - Arrive in Bangkok on Day 8 -
Trip of a Lifetime ends here. I can only hope that one day I would have a chance to go back to Mongolia again. And if that happens, I will make sure to go to Gobi Desert and Lake Baikal. Anyway, I have got to work and save more money first. Then I will see you again "Mongolia".
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