12 August 2017

Mongolian boy in front of his family's ger (aka yurt).
Our train from Moscow to Vladivostok (see separate post) took a detour down into Mongolia for two nights and one intensive day in and around Ulan Batar (aka Ulaanbaatar).

In 2005, I traveled around Mongolia for two weeks and it was nice to get a refresher.

Happily, the marathon touring day hit new sites, including:
  • A massive new statue to Genghis Khan
  • A visit to scenic Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
  • A close up all three national sports (wrestling, archery, and horse riding)
  • And the mostly new city center.

Founder of the largest (contiguous) empire in history has to have a really large statue! It's 130 feet (40 meters) tall and looks even taller on top of a 33 foot (10 meter) building on a hill. OK, sure Genghis Khan was brutal but Mongolia ruled the world, dude. (Note: The small dots on the head of the huge horse are people.)

Out in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park (beautiful but packed with tourist camps), we saw the three classic Mongolian sports.

Kids start riding horses early. These 7 and 8 year olds were fierce, competitive riders.

Ringside seats for the wrestling tournament.
At the big Nadam festival in July, I'd seen dozens of matches simultaneously but over 100 meters away on the big stadium field.

With the first and second place winners in the day's matches.

Since my visit 12 years earlier, the center of Ulan Batar now has many new tall buildings. My old smelly, dirty hotel has been demolished and replaced with a 17-story building with a top floor restaurant where we had dinner. The massive Government Palace (shown above) had a total renovation.
Political footnote: I think it is remarkable that while none of the other former communist countries east of the Caucasus escaped becoming dictatorships, Mongolia has had a competitive, multi-party system since the communist regime was overthrown in 1990!