Mongolia is believed to be one of the cradles of humanity. Archaeological digs have uncovered remains of early humans spread over Central Asia dating back to nearly 800 000 years ago. Every aimags (province) center has its own museum and there are others in different part of the country, however; the best exhibits in most area of interests are in Ulaanbaatar. Many of the museums have interesting collections and are well worth a visit. Be aware that most of museums charge extra tax for the use of camera both for take picture and make movie.
Bogd Khaan Palace Museum
Timetable: Everyday 9.30am-4.30pm (closed on Wednesday, Thursday)
Ticket: 2500MNT (1$=1300MNT)
The palace construction began to its construction in 1889 and continued for more than a decade, was completed in 1906. The palace comple has 10 Buddhist temples and two storey wooden houses built by blueprints sent by Russian Tzar Nikolai 3. Bogd Khan lived in this house for more than 20 years with his Queen Donodg-Dulam. Since 1926 the palace has been serving as a museum.
Chonjin Lama Monastery Museum
Timetable: Everyday 10am- 4pm (closed on Monday, Tuesday)
Location: Genden Street, north of the National Culture & Recreation Park
This complex of temples was built between 1904 and 1908 for the Choijin Lama (a monastic title) Lubsankhaidav, the State Oracle and younger brother of the 8th Bogd Gegeen, and is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Mongolia. Where kept Buddhist ritual use and includes artworks, original silk icons and dancing masks.
Natural History Museum of Mongolia
Timetable: Everyday 9.30am-4.30pm (closed on Monday, Tuesday)
This museum was established in 1956 as one hall containing exhibits of geography, flora, fauna, and fossils. Since then the museum has constantly enriched its exhibits and in 1992 became The Natural History Museum, consisting of 40 different halls.
Natural Museum of Mongolia
Everyday 10am-4.30pm (closed on Sunday, Monday)
Address: P.O.Box-332. Juulchin Street 1. Ulaanbaatar 46. Mongolia
The museum was established in 1924. Currently it has seven halls with exhibits showing the history of Mongols since the first arrival of humans on Central Asia. There are more than 46,000 exhibits of archaeological, historical, and ethnographical interests.
Once upon a time there was a good man called Cuckoo Namjil. Young Namjil was sent to serve in the army in one of the most remote provinces. There he met a beautiful girl and fell in love with her. When the time came to return home, his beloved lady gave Namjil a horse “Jonon khar” or “Black Prince”, which was:
Not comparable to ordinary ones
Matched by only winged teatures
Peculiar among the horse herds
Having all features of the best
Being a good accompany to man
Making the far distance nearer
The horse could cover the distance that took one year to travel within a month and finish a daylong ride within an hour!
So Namjil would mount his horse at night and meet his beloved lady happily and easily, until one day when a wicked witch killed the “Black Prince”. Overwhelmed with sorrow and grief of losing his beloved lady and beautiful horse, Namjil made a musical instrument. Namjil carved the head of his horse on top of the instrument; covered the body with the skin of his horse and used horse’s tail to make the two strings on the neck. Then he made a bow with the hair of the horse’s mane and started playing poignant songs about his horse, imitating the sounds of gallop and neighs of his horse. This is the story how the Morin Khuur or the horse head fiddle was created, which is the symbol of Mongolian nomadic way of life and expression of their appreciation of horses.
I cannot for the life of me explain why I chose Mongolia. I had never travelled overseas. I grew up in a small country town in Western Australia, and although that does not mean that I did not have adventures here, to choose such an extreme contrast to our way of life is inexplicable.
I am fifty years old, and possibly a wee bit older than most of the volunteers for Projects Abroad, and probably a wee bit older than most people who travel overseas for the first time. I have travelled around Australia, and there’s a lot to see here, but why Mongolia? Curiosity. I did not want to just be a tourist, an observer; I wanted to live it, to taste it, to absorb it through my skin.
About ten years ago, I was cleaning out my spare room and I found a leather wallet. It had a picture of Chinggis Khan on it. I have no idea where it came from or why it was in my spare room. However, I did keep it and take it with me on my journey.
I’ll skip the bits in between. I arrived in Ulaan Bataar, totally bewildered and thinking “What the F*** am I doing? Am I crazy?” Denny was a little late that day, and when he arrived he found me trying to fend off a few of the taxi drivers. I suppose I had better add that I have a phobia about small spaces and being where there are a lot of people. I was very happy to see Denny and Zolboo though, so whether they were late or not was immaterial. I just wanted the adventure to begin. The next two days were a little confusing; I would advise anyone to have a better go at learning the language than I did. My excuse was “I didn’t have time” Not good enough. The guest house (Chinggis Kahn & Golden Gobi) people were extremely hospitable and welcoming. It’s what I found all over Mongolia. People are just so nice.
I was glad to get out of UB. Like I said, I hate cities anywhere, I am a bush kid. I was very nervous heading out to the Ger camp, I am also very shy. (And yes I can hear you asking, why Mongolia then?) It was late when we arrived so my impressions of that first night are a little hazy.
In the morning I stepped outside and just went “Oh, wow” Pink sunrise, cows, goats, mountains, gers. No cars, trucks, noise, no suburban straight line streets, just steppes and mountains. I was in love. And home.
My daily routine started when the morning star was over the middle window of ger (roof). I would get up and walk to the mountains to wait for the sun to come up, and then I’d walk back down because by then the women were up and tending to the cows. I raked the dung, and entertained the old girl by using the dung rake as an air guitar. I can’t sing by the way. Then it was breakfast which was usually bread, milk tea and jam. After that, it was carting water from the well, taking care of baby, sweeping and cleaning the ger, and what ever else needed to be done. Living in the now, in harmony with the ebb and flow of nature is different for me. I really enjoyed living in the now. I helped (or tried to) where ever I could, whether it was herding the calves, goats and assisting with the slaughtering of animals. I enjoyed the physical work, especially the day we picked potatoes at the winter camp site. I wish there had been more days like that.
Every day was different and we never knew what the day would bring. I loved that too. Nomad people are very social and visit each other often. I struggled with that aspect of life out there because I am basically shy, and basically freak out when there are a lot of people in a small space. It’s even harder when you don’t understand the language. I think they knew. However, we got by.
The days were quite short at that time of year, still warm enough for me to wear singlets and jeans, but when the sun when down, and before the sun came up, it was very cold for this little black duck. I wore a deel most days, which I bought home with me and will treasure always. There is so much work that goes into making them. The lining of the deel is made from the bellies of young sheep and goats, shorn with manual shears, and then worked by washing and using a stone to work the material. I was fascinated by that process and wish I could have just watched the whole thing come together. I watched a woman make a rope out of the mane of one of the horses. There was also a very clever woman who makes shoes, mats, handbags etc out of wool/felt and that is a very labour intensive process. I loved watching the men on their horses catching the goats and sheep, they are exceptional horsemen. And the singing, you would have to be minus a heart if the singing did not resonate on a deeper level.
I always felt safe out there, even when I was walking through the mountains. I trusted the nomads with my life, unquestionably. I do not trust anyone very much back in Australia. It is not safe sometimes.
My journey was more a spiritual journey. I did not come back the same person as I was when I left. There were many “gifts” that I bought home with me, none of them that you could see or touch. I gave them “things”. What they gave was more precious than gold. When ever I need courage to live this life back in “civilisation”, I think of the nomads.
I don’t have a lot to say about Projects Abroad, except that my tickets and insurance were organised, confirmation of my flights was done, and the staff whom I have any dealings with have been helpful and cooperative. No complaints at all, only gratitude. My only frustration was of my own making, and that was I didn’t make a better effort to learn the language. There were so many questions I wanted to ask the nomads and the Mongolians that I met. I lost my back pack on the way into UB one weekend. It had all my money, id, passport, cigarettes etc in it. A nomad found it and hung it on the basketball hoop in the middle of the steppes. Another nomad recognised it and took it back to their ger, where I and Gansa located it the next day. Nothing had been touched. In Australia, depending on who found it, there would have been nothing left. A testimonial to the sincerity of the people. I loved all of them.
The Morin Khuur (horse-head fiddle) is the instrument most associated with Mongolian traditions and culture. Mor(in) means horse. When Mongolians were entirely a nomadic nation, the horse was almost their only means of transport, as well as man's best friend. Many songs and poems were written extolling the horse.
There are a number of legends about how the Morin Khuur was first created, all based on a man's love for a dead horse. So central was (and still is) the horse to Mongolian culture, that the head of the horse was placed on top of the nation's principal musical instrument, and its tail hair is used for the two strings and for the bow.
Much of the canon of Mongolian performance art (song, dance, drama, stories, even blessings) is inseparably entwined with the music of the Morin Khuur. But it is not simply a traditional instrument; its special sound contributes much to the quality of modern music. For hundreds of years the instrument itself changed little until the twentieth century, when there were developments to playing technique and even to the Morin Khuur`s construction.
Mongolia's 1000 km railway line from the Moscow Rusian border to the Beijing Chinese border passes through Ulaanbaatar and sevral other towns. A spur line connects Darkhan to the copper mines of Erdenet; another spur line connects Ulaanbaatar with the coal mines of Baganuur. A separate railway line exists in the east of the country between Choibalsan and the Trans-Sebirian at Borzya; however, that line is closed to passengers beyond the Mongolian town of Chuluunkhoroot. For domestic transport, daily trains run from Ulaanbaatar to Darkhan, Sukhbaatar, and Erdenet, as well as Zamyn-Uud, Choir and Sainshand. Mongolia uses the 1520 mm (4 ft 115-6 in) (Russian gauge) track system. The total length of the system 1810 km. Getting a ticket in Ulaanbaatar can be very difficult during the summer tourist season, so you need to plan ahead.
Chinggis Khaan International Airport outside of Ulaanbaatar is the only airport in Mongolia that offers international flights. Direct flights are available from Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Hohhot, Seoul, Yekaterinburg, and Tokyo. Of the 32 remaining airports with unpaved runways, 2 of them have runways over 3047 m, 3 have runways between 2438 and 3047 m, 24 have runways between 1524 and 2437 m, two have runways between 914 and 1523 m, and one has runways under 914 m. Mongolia also has 1 heliport.
Domestic carries, as of 2007, include MIAT, Aero Mongolia, and Eznis Airways. They offer service between Ulaanbaatar and some of the aimag centers.
The Gandan-tegchilen Khiid Monastery, formerly known as Gandan Monastery, is a Tibetan-style monastery in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar that has been restored and revitalized since 1990. The Tibetan name translates to the "Great Place of Complete Joy". It currnetly has over 400 monks in residence. It features a 26.5-meter-high statue of Migjid Janraisag, a Buddhist bodhisattva also known as Avalokitesvara. It came under state protection in 1994.
The monastery was established in 1835 by the Fifth Jebtsundamba, then Mongolia's highest reincarnated lama. It would become the principal center of Buddhist learning in Mongolia. In the 1930s, the Communist government of Mongolia, under the leadership of Horloogiyn Choybalsan and under strong pressure from Joseph Stalin, destroyed over 700 Mongolian monasteries and massacred over 10,000 Buddhist monks. However, the Gandantegchinlen Khiid monastery escaped this destruction. It was closed in 1938 but reopened in 1944 and allowed to continue as a functioning Buddhist monastery, under a skeleton staff and named Gandan Monastery, as a token homage to traditional Mongolian culture and religion. With the end of communism in Mongolia in 1990, restructions on worship were lifted.
On October 3-4, Hong Kong's famous actor Jackie Chan visited Mongolia for charity. During his first visit to Mongoia, the actor extended a helping hand to orphans and poor children. he visited care centers where he gave assistance to children and the movie "Karate Kid" was screened in which he starred. Jackie Chan also joined a charity banquet and a run against air pollution.
Our two week special Lakes Grammar group volunteer had an opportunity to meet Jackie Chan, during his visit at the State Orphanage. Our volunteer renovated the library at the orphanage and Jackie appreciated their volunteer work very much. Below is the photo of our volunteer and staffs in their renovated library.
Please get more information about his visit on Jackie Chan's blog http:/
The Mongolian flag was officially adopted by the new Constitution of Mongolia in the year 1992. The National flag of Mongolia is comprised of three vertical stripes which are equal in size and shape. The stripe in the middle portion is blue in color and the left and right band are red. 'Soyombo' formed in columns, is a geometrical presentation for water, earth, fire, moon and sun is present on the left hand side of the Mongolia flag . The 'Soyombo' represents the national logo of the flag. The red band stands for freedom, advancement and the blue color presents the sky. The symbol of fire at the top of the flag stands for opulence and rejuvenation. The sun and the moon on the flag symbolize the universe.
We had this month Lakes Grammar 2 week special care volunteers (27th September- 7th October). The group had 9 high school pupils with two teachers. They renovated a sport hall in the state school 79 and a library at the state orphanage.
Mongolian history reached its zenith in the thirteenth century when Chinggis Khaan collected the tribes of the steppes, named them Mongols, and with a nation of the million members and an army of only a hundred thousand horsemen, he conquered the most powerful civilizations of the era and created the greatest empire in world history. Under the leadership of Chinggis Khaan and his descendants, the Mongols created the first truly modern empire. They sought to introduce a universal political and economic system with an international law, complete religious freedom, an international paper money system, and even a universal alphabet.
Mongolia is a treasure awaiting the arrival of travelers from around the world. Today, once again people around the world are rediscovering the richness of Mongolia history and of modern Mongolian culture.
A few fortunate travelers will have the opportunity to discover Mongolia for themselves, to ride where the horses of Chinggis Khaan once trod, yo walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs, to sleep in gers where the Mongol army assembled and to smell the eternally pure wind of the Mongolian steppe.
At first glance, the vast panoramic scenes of the Mongolian countryside may appear empty, but if the traveler bends over to look closely at the ground the whole history of the earth can be revealed in a single rock. it might be a piece of a wall built by the Huns, or part of a tool made by the Turks, or maybe a piece of sediment from the ancient oceans that covered this land, or a fossilized piece of wood or wood or even dinosaur bone form millions of years ago. In the twentieth century, Mongolia was a land frozen in time and beyond the reach of tourists.
Today, the green steppes are again open to visitors from around the world.
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