Photo Essay - Mongolia

Mongolian Sunset
Sunset over Mongolian Gers

Last week I couldn't get Mongolia out of my head. Just typing that amuses me. I kept trying to figure it out and I realized that while it was on my mind was the anniversary of when I was there in 2014. Funny how that happens. It also made me realize I've never really shared much about my time there. Though it was some time ago, and a lot of it is lost to time, the photos remain. Here are some of my favorite shots from 3 weeks in Mongolia, (2 weeks of it without internet roaming the countryside). 

My first views as I touched down in Ulaanbaatar.

The entry to my hostel...

My hostel room and lessons on "don't judge a book by it's cover." The entry might have seem a little shady but this place was so clean, comfortable and well thought out. I had a great stay. 

Coming off several weeks in China, I did the most American thing and ate a sandwich shortly after I arrived. This cafe was around the corner from my hostel and it became a mainstay of my first week while I explored the capital city. I wrote there, I skyped there, I ate there, I drank ALL of the coffees there, I people watched there and most interestingly, I watched a movie being filmed inside as I sat just off to the side. 

The capital city Ulaanbaatar in 2014 was a study in contradictions.
Old and new, played side by side, as yet unsure of which would win. New malls sat next to ancient squares, a power plant once far away from the city, now encased by buildings.
Everywhere I looked, paradox. 

Traditional stood next to the new. Gers and high rises. 

Old temple next to modern glass buildings. 

Smog, high rises and gers dotting the hills around the city. 


After a week in the city, it was time to head to the countryside. 

The moment I realized the next two weeks of my life were going to be unlike any other. 

My face here is saying, "I'm so excited," 
my brain was saying, "Am I going to live through this one?"

What roads? So much of the journey through the country was stunning with no discernible landmarks. I often wondered how it was exactly that our guides knew where they were going and then I remembered that Mongolia has been a nomadic society for thousands of years, and still is for the most part. 

Play "find the route we came in on," in this picture.

I spent a lot of time during the trip like this. 
I am so grateful that I bought this purple vest in Ulaanbaatar before heading out to the wilderness. I really ended up needing it. (I am wearing basically my whole backpack worth of clothes in this picture.) Since previous to this I was in steaming hot China and after this I was in Australia, I didn't have warm enough clothes for the Mongolia part of the trip. It was a rarity for me to be unprepared like that, but now I have a lovely warm purple vest that I still wear to this day. 

First night in a ger!

Our first night in the countryside a stunning
 full moon greeted us with this beautiful rise. 

The sunrise was just as beautiful the next morning. 

I got up before dawn that next day and wandered around with a flashlight clipped to my shirt until the sun came up. 

Somehow in the middle of nowhere a ger that was a house of worship would show up or a random ancient temple. You never could tell what was over the next hill or mountain for that matter. 

This guy was so animated and told us informative 
stories on culture and religion. 

Obligatory size for scale picture. 

I'll be honest, when I heard we were going to some dunes, this is not at all what I expected. I mean I knew about the Gobi Desert, but they popped up seemingly out of nowhere as we came around a hill. 

It was a leisurely walk to the top. I took about 9 million pictures. 

I'd found myself in desert sand dunes before, but this time I was barefoot and it was a completely different experience. 

The Khongoryn Els are also known as the singing dunes or singing sands. While I don't think I got the full effect, if you glide down the dune there is a particular sound that happens. 

We would drive for hours and see nothing but landscape, and then randomly on the horizon there would be a building that signified a town. These towns were refueling and supply spots for us. For the kids, it was a chance to play with strangers. 

Our guide watching on and encouraging the kids in their traditional wrestling practice. 

Yolyn Am, a deep narrow gorge where we took a stroll. 

They let us out of the vehicle for the transit. It was only because it was they thought it made a great picture. The other times we just went through actual rivers without getting out. 
These vehicles were beasts. 

This was the fanciest ger we had during through our time. This door brought a smile to my face. 

My natural habitat. 

Miscellaneous somewhere. 

Once we got to the grasslands, we visited a family and partook (or didn't in my case) in some traditional yak's milk. This picture is of both of our drivers and our guide (the younger one). (A note here, I'm being vague here because I don't know if they would want their names on my blog or not.) 

This is the wife in the family we visited. Part way through the visit, she walked over towards the door, reached up into the fabric of ger and pulled down her cellphone to check her messages. Nomadic they may be, but they are in the same century that's for sure. 

Solar panel and a satellite dish. 
Who says being nomadic has to be low tech? 

After we visited the family, we camped nearby protected by the hills. The starts that night were some of the most incredible I have ever seen. There was no light for a thousand miles. 

Dinner at the camp out. 

I've always loved this picture because it looks like you can see the curve of the earth as the second vehicle in our party races by us. 

The "flaming cliffs" (Bayanzag) not so on firey this day. 

This was where we stayed right after we ran into a baby snake while visiting a temple, and our guide mentioned he had been bitten by a snake when he was younger (he was 22 during our adventure). Needless to say, though this spot was beautiful, I didn't sleep at all. 

I was a little concerned about this swirling cloud. The way the weather whipped across the plains was something to behold. 

Mongolia has a long history of shamanism, which every so often you'd catch a glimpse of. 

Karakorum, the old capital from the 1200s.


Look! An actual paved road! Our last stop before going back to the city, Khustai National Park. It amused me when we would "enter" a national park because basically the entire countryside, with its varying landscape looks like one big national park. 

As always, there is so much more to share, remember, and learn about these locations than I can put into one post. 
Thanks for taking this journey down memory lane into the Mongolian countryside! 


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