Monthly Archives: July 2013

9 Day Trip to the Gobi Desert, Mongolia

There are a lot of parts of Mongolia that are not easy to get to independently. To reach these, it’s necessary to join an organised tour which is what we did to visit the Gobi Desert area. Our group of 9 was very international: 2 from the UK (that’s us!), a couple from France, a couple from China, an American woman who has been living in Taiwan for 10 years, a Thai Phd student who is studying in the US, and a Korean man. Additionally, of course, our guide was Mongolian, so this made for some interesting conversations about our various countries and different experiences.

20130728-234434.jpgOur group eating dinner (from left to right): Isaac, Rebecca, Jason, Terry, Khun, Julie, Andrew, Jessica (photo credit: Thomas Gil, the 9th member of the group)

Completing our group were our two drivers and their incredibly robust Russian vans (which Andrew first developed a liking for on Olkhon island). On the first day we made a stop as Ogii tried to track down our host family – rural Mongolians are nomadic and so they’re never exactly where they were the last time you stayed there… As our van pulled up alongside the other, we saw everyone jump back as steam started to pour from the bonnet and a big puddle appeared underneath. Burst radiator? Sounds serious, but Ogii suggested we take a hike up a nearby hill and be back in an hour. Miraculously the drivers had managed to fix it by the time we got back (I suspect gaffer tape must have been involved…) and we were on our way. The vans developed several problems over the course of the trip, but the drivers always managed to have them running in just a short time.

20130728-120214.jpgUs with our guide, Ogii (centre), and two drivers, Erkha (left), and Tsogii (right)

Getting to the Gobi

The 550km drive south from Ulaanbaatar to the Gobi desert took 3 days. The roads outside the main cities in Mongolia are essentially dirt tracks and so the going is pretty slow and, at times, VERY bumpy. The drive gave us a real appreciation for the size and emptiness of the country. We drove for miles without seeing anything other than grassland stretching off into the distance. Then every so often, we would pass a ger, or a herd of horses, sheep and goats, or increasingly as we neared the desert, camels.

20130728-234545.jpgOur two vans on the road

We also made a couple of stops at small National Parks on the way. The first, Baga Gazryn Chuluu, contains the ruins of a monastery destroyed in the purges of the 1930s. It’s situated in a naturally sheltered spot between the rocky hills which is still considered sacred by the local people who have built ovoos (cairns of stones, scarves and sticks with offerings) on the surrounding hilltops.

20130728-125940.jpgBaga Gazryn Chuluu – there are ovoos all over the hilltops

Tsagaan Suvraga is an eerie rock formation in a barren looking moonscape. As we arrived a thunderstorm swept overhead. When we got out of the vans we could still see lightning all around on the horizon and the air was charged with static – naturally several minutes of giving each other electric shocks and taking pictures of ourselves with hair stood on end followed!

20130728-185410.jpgOvoo on the cliff with stormy skies on the horizon

The brightly coloured limestone pillars are made of very soft, sandy rock and the whole area used to be under the sea so many marine fossils have been found here.

20130728-221025.jpgTsagaan Suvraga from above

20130728-185608.jpgWalking through the rock formations of Tsagaan Suvraga

Yolyn Am

This narrow canyon was one of the highlights of the trip for us. This national park was originally established to conserve the wildlife of the region and we spent lots of time trying to snap photos of Pikas – the extremely cute hamster-like rodents which live in burrows along the stream side. The gorge itself is so steep sided that ice survives well into the spring and early summer, although there was none left when we visited in the middle of July.

20130728-205619.jpgUs at the valley entrance

20130728-205711.jpgSo cute!

20130728-205730.jpgAndrew in the narrow gorge

Khongoryn Els

Most of the Gobi Desert is sparse, dry grassland and doesn’t actually look like desert as you might imagine it. Khongoryn Els is the exception. Here some of the sand dunes reach 300m high. We were able to trek on camels to the dunes, meaning that we’ve now ridden the two-humped Bactrian camel as well as the one-humped Dromedary camels (in Morocco) – so a full set!

Grassland stretching off to the horizon

20130728-215447.jpgRiding camels

20130728-220113.jpgSpectacular moon rise over sand dunes on our first evening

Ogii offered us the chance to buy a goat from the ger camp and have it barbecued in the traditional Mongolian way for dinner on the second night. We were very keen and clubbed together with another group, paying just 10,000MNT (£4.60) each. Part of the experience was the opportunity to see the owner slaughter and butcher the goat. Not everyone wanted to, but we thought that if we were going to eat it, then we should know how it got to the plate. It was much less gory than we expected but the butchery was not as skilled as we’re used to in the UK.

20130728-215813.jpgOur goat, before and after…


Bayanzag, or the ‘Flaming Cliffs’ are famous as the site where many of Mongolia’s dinosaur fossils have been found. The day started off rainy but by the time we reached the cliffs the rain had stopped but the wind was still very strong – no safety barriers meant we had to watch our step! This day was also memorable as we were lucky enough to see wild ibex while we were on the road. We had some free time in the afternoon so Ogii taught us to play some traditional Mongolian games with sheep ankle bones.

20130728-222340.jpgBayanzag cliffs

20130728-222853.jpgTarbosaurus fossil on display back in Ulaanbaatar

20130728-230152.jpgPlaying games with sheep ankle bones (clockwise from left): Ogii explaining the different animals represented by how the bone lies (top to bottom that’ll be horse, sheep, camel, goat), “Horse Racing” essentially a game of chance, Andrew throwing the chain in a game needing a bit more skill

Back to UB

On day 8 we covered a lot of miles to make our way back to Ulaanbaatar. This was hard for us passengers, bouncing up and down in the back of the hot van, but it must have taken a lot of concentration for the drivers as they needed to be on constant alert for bumps and holes in the ‘road’. We managed to stave off the boredom of driving by learning a little Chinese – Isaac and Rebecca are incredibly patient teachers and we’ve got a few phrases under our belt even if our pronunciation might be a bit comical, erm suspect!

Although the first thing that everyone wanted to do was have a shower when we got back, I think that all were agreed that it was a fantastic trip with great new friends.

Kharkhorin, Mongolia

We originally planned to visit Kharkhorin for just 2 nights (1 full day), but fate in the guise of the Naadam Angel had other ideas. Naadam is a festival of Mongolian games (wrestling, archery and horse racing) which is held in the capital Ulaanbaatar on 11th/12th July and around the rest of the country on various dates in July and August. Our hope was to get tickets for the capital’s opening ceremony. All of the tickets reserved for tourists had been snapped up by tour operators, so our only option was to queue with the locals on the 6th. We arrived at about 10am to find a reasonably sized queue although the doors weren’t open. After a short while someone told us that tickets weren’t being sold on the 6th after all, it would be 7th. It seemed a bit strange that there was still a queue but we went off to the bus station to buy our tickets for Kharkhorin on 8th and resolved to get there early for opening ceremony tickets the next day. On arrival at 8am we found a longer and more organised looking queue than the day before and joined the end. It is probably the slowest queue that I have ever encountered. Ticket sales didn’t begin until 10am, meanwhile it was a colder day than usual so first I ducked out to get us coffee and then Andrew dashed back to the guesthouse for jackets (all of the locals were jumping in and out too and there was a reasonably honourable system of place saving). The queue moved very slowly until about 1pm when it seemed to grind to a halt. After a while someone told us that it was lunch break – unbelievable! When we started moving again at 2pm it was slower than ever and with rumours circulating that there were only 300 tickets left (and each person could buy 4 tickets), our stomachs rumbling as we’d only packed apples as a snack and queue shoving getting more frequent we decided at 3pm to give up.

20130714-102751.jpgThe slowest queue ever?

Meanwhile we’d emailed a guesthouse in Kharkhorin for availability and in their reply they mentioned that it would be Naadam there on 8th/9th. With our hopes for the opening ceremony in Ulaanbaatar dashed, we thought that maybe we could stay there for an extra night with one day of Naadam and one day of sightseeing. Sounded like a plan coming together…

We’d heard terrible stories about the roads in Mongolia and when, shortly after leaving the city, our bus pulled off a smooth 6-lane highway onto a very hilly dirt track with the rest of the traffic we thought we were in for a hellish 8 hours. Fortunately this was just a temporary detour where the main road was being resurfaced and we soon got back onto the proper road. We both agreed that we’ve been on much more uncomfortable bus journeys.

20130714-102548.jpgTaking a detour from the main road outside Ulaanbaatar

Kharkhorin is a small town, not very pretty, but in a beautiful location. It is built near to the site of Chinggis (as it is written in Mongolia, not Genghis) Khaan’s capital of the Mongolian Empire, Karakorum. Not much remains of the ancient city’s ruins but a beautiful Buddhist monastery called Erdene Zuu was built on the site in the late 16th century. Its boundary wall is supposed to contain 108 stupas (although we only counted 100), a sacred number for Buddhists. The bus arrived late in the afternoon, so after dropping our bags off we walked the 2km to the monastery to catch the sunset.

20130714-103806.jpgStupas in the evening light

20130714-103833.jpgSunset behind Erdene Zuu monastery

After a night disturbed by barking dogs, easily audible through the walls of our shared ger, we rose to glorious sunshine and set off through town to the Naadam fields. The first things we saw when we got there were men and boys milling around on horseback, lots of ger ‘restaurants’, and eagles circling overhead – it felt a bit like stepping back in time!

20130714-113842.jpgThe gers behind Morin Jim cafe where we stayed

20130714-110027.jpgLooks like we’ve ended up in the Wild West…

The day started with some traditional music played by a quartet on horse head fiddles (Morin Khuur), surprisingly to us it sounded quite a lot like Gaelic fiddle music. This was followed by traditional dancing by some local girls in costume, and then the wrestling began!


I don’t know much about wrestling from any other cultures, but Mongolian wrestling is quite a ritualised sport. The combatants enter the field dressed in shorts, a small jacket, Mongolian boots and hat. Their hats are taken by the two referees and they each do a phoenix dance before locking together in combat. The match ends when any part of the upper body, knee or elbow of one of the wrestlers comes into contact with the ground. Sportsmanship dictates that the winner must then help the loser to his feet and the loser passes under his arm to signal the end of the match. At this stage the winner does another phoenix dance around the flags at the end of the field. We got quite into it, some matches were really quick but others went on for 15 or 20 minutes, with 2 or 3 matches going on at the same time.

20130714-120214.jpgLocked in combat

20130714-121208.jpgPhoenix dance

In the middle of the day a mass exodus started away from the ring and across the field, we thought we ought to follow and soon worked out that a horse race was about to end. Apparently the easiest way to get a good view is to ride your horse up to the edge of the track and view from there which meant that we pedestrians had to stand with a horse breathing down our back in order to see what was going on! The race jockeys were all children, riding with an amazing level of skill.


20130714-125616.jpgHorse crossing the finish line

In the afternoon the final wrestling rounds took place and we realised that we had been watching the junior levels in the morning. The men wrestling were much heftier with a physique which might not be considered fit for most sports but undoubtedly proved an advantage to being thrown over.


As we walked back to the guesthouse having thoroughly enjoyed the day, we agreed that we were quite glad that we hadn’t managed to get tickets for the Ulaanbaatar opening ceremony as we surely wouldn’t have been so close to the action in the capital’s stadium. About halfway back it began to rain and didn’t stop all night. This had the advantage of blocking out the barking dogs so we got lots of sleep and woke up much later than we had intended.

Erdene Zuu monastery, along with most other monasteries in Mongolia, was badly damaged by the Stalinist purges in 1937. All but three of its sixty temples were destroyed, and the monks were either killed or sent to gulag camps. Since the fall of communism in Mongolia in 1990, the monastery again functions as a religious site as well as housing a museum, and temples are slowly being rebuilt with the help of donations.

Entry to the museum includes a free guided tour (great value for money as the entry ticket is only about £1.60). Our tour group consisted of us and three hilarious Dutch men who when our guide checked whether we understood (pretty much after everything she said) didn’t just politely nod but would make her explain again if they hadn’t caught what she’d said. Admittedly her English was quite heavily accented and so to their foreign ears it probably wasn’t easy to understand, but when in about the 4th building after another repeat she heaved a huge sigh and everyone burst out laughing she had to join in.

20130714-133330.jpgUs outside the museum entrance

20130714-133423.jpgOur guide, desperately trying to explain…

20130714-134232.jpgClockwise from top left: Inside one of the temples, cymbal, wall painting, temples from outside

There was much more to see inside the monastery walls than we had expected given what we had read about its destruction. A short walk to the north of the monastery is another of the town’s most famous sights; one of the stone turtles which marked the four corners of the ancient city of Karakorum. Having read the first three books of Conn Iggulden’s excellent Conqueror series, we couldn’t pass up the chance to see something that Chinggis himself might have touched.


We ended the afternoon with a visit to the swanky new Karakorum Museum and a long walk to the 2004 map monument which turned out to be not nearly as impressive as the view from the top of the hill.


Three months on the road

It hardly seems possible, but it is now more than 3 months since we embarked on our trip. We thought that we would do a little summary of the story so far.

20130714-002303.jpgClockwise from top left: The frozen sea at Jurmala in Latvia, our first Russian train from St Petersburg to Petrozavodsk, waiting for the ferry to Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal, in front of St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow

Countries visited in the last three and a half months (19th March to 30th June)

Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Russia

Have you managed to stay within your budget (£70 per day)? And what has been the expense breakdown?

Almost within budget, our average daily spend over the three months has been £71.41


  • Accommodation takes up just over a third of our budget – a basic room in a hostel is generally about £30 but we’ve managed to save money by staying with locals using, and travelling on sleeper trains
  • Our next biggest expense has been intercity transportation at 17%. This includes our initial flight from London to Latvia, but is mostly the money we’ve spent on trains in Russia. Still, the trains are great value for money – one journey took 37 hours over 2 nights and 1 day and cost just £57 each – you wouldn’t get far in the UK for that much!
  • Close behind is food at about 16.5%. Usually we cook for ourselves, but every so often we get sick of pasta and have a mini splurge on a meal out – finding accommodation with a kitchen is a big way that we save money.
  • Entertainment and entry fees – 11% includes a few guided tours.
  • Alcohol – just over 7%. Usually we buy beers at the supermarket and drink in our hostel – drinking in bars can eat through the daily budget very quickly, as we found out in Helsinki!
  • Our Russian visas took up quite a chunk of our budget across the three months at 5.4%. They were more expensive as we wanted a 3 month visa and also because we had to pay to register twice (in St Petersburg and in Moscow where we spent 2 weeks each).
  • Other stuff – the remaining 6.5% covers local transportation (generally incredibly cheap in Russia), laundry, toiletries, haircuts, etc

What has surprised you most in the last three months of travel?

How friendly and generous Russian people are.

Apart from family and friends, what are you missing most about life in the UK?

JulieNice wine drunk from wine glasses – compared to beer (or vodka), wine is pretty expensive in Russia and there isn’t too much choice. On the occasions when we’ve treated ourselves to a bottle, it’s been rare for the kitchen in our accommodation to have wine glasses so mostly we’ve been drinking from tumblers.

AndrewDefinitely my bed. I love roughing it as I was brought up hiking the hills of the Lake District, but there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep at home.

What’s the most memorable sight that you’ve seen in the last three months?

JulieChurch on Spilled Blood in St Petersburg. It was stunning from the outside, but then the interior was just breathtaking as well.

AndrewIt’s so hard to choose just one from the so many wonderful things we’ve seen and done so far, but I’m going to choose something that surprised me.. I’m sure you’ve seen images of St Basils Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow, but to my eyes it looked, well, gaudy. However, my mind was changed the moment I saw it in real life, and I now think it’s spectacular.

Tell us a funny story from the last three months of travel.

It may have been the couple of beers (and the vodka chasers) at our local in St. Petersburg, but on the walk home we passed a girl on a horse who said in perfect English “Would you like a ride on a horse?” we said “no thanks”, to which she replied “horse money please?” – we turned to each other and immediately burst into laughter, while she turned away on her horse, doubting that what she’d said had made sense. Since then it’s been a running joke between us that upon seeing a horse, we say “horse money please!”

Who is the person you’ve met that you remember the most from the last three months?

JulieOn our first day in St Petersburg we met a lady who is now fondly named Mrs Pickle. We went to the market, partly because they’re always an interesting place to look around and partly because we needed some provisions for the next few days. We noticed the line of stalls covered in pickled vegetables and initially hurried past, slightly afraid of the ladies calling out from behind them. But we ventured back and our chosen vendor plied us with samples of practically everything she sold while we made appreciative noises (we hadn’t yet learned one of our favourite Russian words, ‘harosho’ which means good). Eventually we bought a couple of things from her and cheekily asked if we could take her picture, she puffed herself up and posed like a pro!


AndrewFor me, it’s Vlad in Vladimir. We’ve been so fortunate to meet so many generous people, and Vlad was really the first. He tried so hard with so little English (which was still much more than our Russian), and we had such a great time with him and his wife Tonya that we’ll remember fondly forever.


Finally, what have you found to be the greatest challenge so far?

Time, surprisingly! Before we set off, we thought we’d have plenty of time as we weren’t working anymore – time to do a little yoga in the morning, see the odd sunrise and sunset, and spend the day visiting sights, museums, culture and nature. Instead we’ve discovered it takes longer to do things when we don’t know where to look, and when we get there and we don’t speak the language. For example, imagine you’re you’ve just arrived in a foreign city – where’s the supermarket? The bus station? How do you get there from where you’re staying? Researching the sights and activities, and how to actually get there and back is taking longer than we thought it would.

Mongolian Visa – Registration and Extension

Getting our 30-day Mongolian Visas in Irkutsk was straightforward, but extending our stay once we’d crossed the border wasn’t. Here’s a quick guide to pay forward the help we received.

If you wish to stay in Mongolia longer than 30 days, you have to register within 7 days of arrival. Registration and visa extension can be done at the same time with the same registration form in the Office of Immigration, Naturalisation and Foreign Citizens (INFC). Note that you can only extend your visa once.

What you need

You must bring the following with you:

  • Passport
  • Passport photo – there isn’t a photo booth in the building, so bring one with you
  • Money to pay for your registration form and extension: 1000 MNT (Tughriks) per form (required for registration and extension), ~$2.60 USD per day for extension, payable by cash or credit card
  • Full address and phone number of your current accommodation in Mongolia – If your accommodation is in Ulaanbaatar, you’ll need the District and Sub-district too

It’ll be faster if you can also bring the following with you:

  • Photocopy of Passport and Current Mongolian Visa – these can be on the same piece of paper, and on the reverse of your explanation letter (see below). The front desk does photocopies for 100 MNT
  • Explanation Letter (sample below) – a simple letter from you explaining the reason for your visa extension request
  • A pen

Getting there

20130706-222748.jpgThe right-most blue and white building is the The Office of Immigration, Naturalisation and Foreign Citizens (INFC) in Ulaanbaatar. You can just see the Ulaanbaatar welcome arch to the left, look out for the big red and white building with the circular roof which is next door and clearly visible from the main road

  • If you’ve arrived by aeroplane, the office is en-route to the centre of Ulaanbaatar, 1.8km from the airport. Head west along the busy main road (turn right out of the airport), and the INFC office is on your right before you pass under the Ulaanbaatar welcome arch, about 1.8km from the airport. It’s easily walkable, but there isn’t a footpath.
  • If you’ve arrived by train, bus, or are already in the centre of Ulaanbaatar, take bus #11 heading south from outside the Bayangol Hotel. Get off at the Ulaanbaatar welcome arch, about 30 to 40 minutes later. The bus costs 400 MNT (Tughriks)

Mongolian Visa Registration and Extension

When you enter the building, the front desk is on your left, and before the stairs in front of you are doors to your left and right. To your left is a branch of the Golomt Bank, and your first stop if you are extending your visa. To your right is the visa registration hall.

  1. Pay for your visa extension. (skip this step if you’re just registering)I know, it sounds absurd to pay upfront, but you need your receipt of payment to get your application form! Go the Golomt Bank in the left hall. There are 3 cashier windows, and you’re unlikely to get an English speaking clerk. If you’re told you need the form first, try a different window. We hit lucky on our first attempt, but a fellow tourist from Holland was knocked back, tried a different window and paid successfully! All you need to tell them is the number of days you want to extend by (minimum 7, maximum 30) – write it down if necessary.
  2. Collect an application form. In the visa registration hall (the hall on the right), you’ll find numbered windows facing you as you enter, and down the right-hand side. On this right-hand side is a lowered information window with chairs in front of it, and the first standing-height window to the left of this is where you show your bank receipt and collect a registration and extension form, paying the clerk 1000 MNT in cash.
  3. Fill out the form. There are plenty of tables to rest on, and there are glue-pens for affixing your photo.
  4. Write out a simple Explanation letter, if you haven’t already (see sample below). You can ask for blank paper from the front desk.
  5. Go to window number 4 “Tourist”, and hand over your Passport, copy of your passport, copy of your visa, completed application form with photo attached, explanation letter and payment receipt to the clerk. It’s likely there will be a queue, don’t take a number, just queue (the numbers are for the regular windows)

The clerk will check over your registration form, passport, visa, copies and receipt, and likely won’t read your explanation letter. After a few minutes on their computer, they’ll stamp your passport and return it to you with your payment receipt.


Sample Visa Explanation Letter

20130707-175649.jpgThe Visa Explanation Letter I submitted

[Home Address – same as on the Registration Form]

[Todays Date]

To whom it may concern,

I would like to request visa registration and extension of [# Days] days for the purpose of tourism in Mongolia.

Yours faithfully,


Passport # [Passport Number]

Ulan Ude, Russia

Ulan Ude is the capital of the Russian oblast (state) of Buryatia. It was our last stop in Russia before crossing the border into Mongolia and we found it to be a friendly and interesting small city.

Ulan Ude has the somewhat dubious honour of having the world’s largest Lenin head on display in the main square. It is 7.7m tall and weighs a massive 42 tonnes. Our hostel had a collage of comedy photos of the statue which inspired us to try a couple of our own!

20130629-165300.jpgSee if you can spot Andrew in the first picture to get an idea of the scale! Also, there’s a caption competition for what he’s whispering to Lenin – post yours in the comments


We treated ourselves to a pub lunch on our first day in the city. We had to contend with a menu written only in Russian, but by this stage we knew enough words to work out what each section was (soups, salads, main courses, grill…) and so we took pot luck. Andrew chose from the main courses something that we thought was chicken, and contained a word that was something like ‘Mexican’, and I chose a random soup (chanakhi). Andrew’s was indeed a kind of Mexican chicken (well done us!) and mine was a fabulous, very savoury broth with huge chunks of meat (mutton or lamb I think).

The local specialty of Buryatia is a dish called ‘Buuza‘. We tried these twice, the second time they were delicious homemade ones at Nadya’s birthday party – we even got the recipe: mix beef and pork mince, diced onion and a little bit of water, form into balls roughly 3cm in diameter, wrap in a simple dough of flour and water, pinching up the edges to seal them. They are cooked by steaming, and should be eaten by hand using the dough to catch the juices.

20130703-001928.jpgSoup and Mexican chicken at the Bochka pub, a single Buuz

Buryat History Museum

On our first afternoon we had a wander around the town and then visited the Buryat History Museum. The local people (Buryats) are mainly Buddhist and the top floor of the museum was a display of devotional paintings (thangkas), statues, and costumes used in Buddhist mystery plays, which had been collected during the closing of the monasteries after the Revolution. It was especially interesting to read the description of the meaning behind some of the images as we’re likely to be visiting quite a few Buddhist sites over the coming months in Mongolia, China and beyond! The rest of the museum was devoted to the history of the region from ancient times, through Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire, to the nomadic cultures and railway building in modern times.

20130629-173327.jpgBuddhist artefacts at the Buryat History Museum

20130703-002732.jpgA copy of the ‘Ostrog bible’, the first complete publication of the bible in the Church Slavonic language printed in 1580

Ivolginsky Datsan

Having learnt a little bit about Buddhism at the History Museum, the next day we set off on the 1 hour bus journey to the Datsan, or Buddhist monastery, at Ivolginsky. As instructed by our guidebook, we followed the path clockwise around the site, turning the prayer wheels as we went – the big ones took quite a bit of effort! The temples themselves were beautiful, very colourful and different to anything else that we’ve seen in Russia.

The Datsan is also home to the body of the 12th Khambo Lama who ‘died’ in 1927. He stipulated that he should be buried in the lotus position and exhumed after 30 years. When he was dug up in 1955 the monks found his body to be miraculously preserved. In 2002 he was exhumed again and still found to be looking as if he’d only recently died. The body is now kept in the monastery, but we didn’t see it as it is only brought out a few times a year. The faithful believe that he didn’t actually die but reached the state of nirvana while he was meditating, so it is just that his spirit has left his body behind.

20130703-194456.jpgIvolginsky Datsan (clockwise from left): Temple roof decoration, prayer wheels and temple, stupas

20130703-191758.jpgUs outside the colourful main temple

Ethnographic Museum

In Ulan Ude, we spent yet another day at an open air ethnographic museum (see also Riga and Suzdal). But this one was a little bit different as it contained examples of wigwams (called chooms in Siberia) and gers as well as wooden houses and churches similar to those in the other museums. It also has a rather sad zoo section of Siberian wildlife. The animals seemed to be well fed and their enclosures kept clean, but it was heart wrenching to watch the majestic Siberian tigers and brown bears pacing up and down in their small cages.

20130703-202007.jpgAndrew with a birch bark choom – bark was used as a covering in the summer and reindeer furs in the winter

20130703-203412.jpgA wooden ger (I’m not sure that the green roof is strictly traditional…), reconstruction of the inside of a felt ger