The Mongol Olle

The Mongolian Olle Trail — September 2017

After visiting the Wenzhou Hotel, and being entirely too excited about hiring a driver in Chinese, Alena and I were picked up on the morning we’d arranged. In the end, the driver we’d found at the Wenzhou Hotel spoke no Chinese, a little bit of English, and a fair bit of Russian. (Thus began my endless reliance on Alena/Alyona/Alyonka, the Universal Translator.)

Our first stop with our driver was the giant Ghengis Khan Equestrian Statue. There’s not much going on with the Ghengis Khan statue, beyond an underwhelming museum in the basement and also the fact that it is blindingly bright in the relentless Mongolian sunshine. It’s also 130 feet tall.

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Other UB Shenanigans

(Note: I’m still playing catch-up! Recapping things I did September 2017…)

The Shaman

Back in UB, Jurgen, an older gentleman from Amsterdam, mentioned he was going to go to a shaman ceremony, and invited me along. I met up with him on a Thursday morning in September, and we went to the shaman ceremony together.

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UB & Stepperiders Ger Camp

After Japan, I had a brief stopover in Seoul, South Korea, because flights to Ulan Bator are fairly limited (HK, Seoul, Beijing and Russia are the top/only places with direct flights.

In Seoul, I met up briefly with a friend from Shanghai, who showed me around a neat new Korean-hipster area that is being built in old, traditional Korean-style wooden houses. I ate Great Food (because Korea), including this strange cold glass noodle in a sesame sauce that a college friend, Ji-Eun recommended to me.

Unfortunately that weekend, Ji-Eun was in Jeju (Oh, Jeju!) so we were only able to meet up briefly the morning before my flight to UB. However, in that brief meeting, Ji-Eun managed to be the Best Hostess ever, treating me to lunch and making sure I had food for the plane, and even gifting me with a selfie stick and instructions to Take More Pictures.

Challenge Accepted.

And so, in the beginning of September 2017, I went off I went to Ulaanbaatar.

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The Obligatory (and amazing) Ryokan Stay

I went for a one-night stay at the ryokan Tsurunoyu Onsen, in Nyuto onsen village, which is famous for its natural hotsprings and in particular, its mixed-sex bath. As I’m a last minute traveler with poor planning skills, I’d like to take a brief moment to give a shoutout to Travel Arrange Japan, because while they looked like a semi-sketchy website with very few reviews to verify their legitimacy, the folks there helped me book a stay at the very popular Tsurunoyu! They also contacted the onsen to help me arrange the shuttle from the closest bust stop to the onsen, and were very available on email. So Travel Arrange Japan is a legit business, people!

Now — onto my ryokan stay in Nyuto onsen village.

Nyuto translates into “nipple” because the onsen village is nestled in a part of the mountains by a beautiful lake which apparently looks like a nipple. I don’t know; getting to Tsurunoyu involved taking a train, then a public bus, then a shuttle which picked me up from the bus stop along with three others on their way to Tsurunoyu at the same time as me.

Japanese ryokan are traditional inns where people typically spend a night or so basically just lounging around, but traditionally. The general ryokan schedule involves soaking in hot springs a lot, having a nice meal served in your room, and then pushing aside the room’s sparse furniture to lay your futon out on the tatami mats to go to sleep.

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The Horse Trek

The highlight of mine and Alena’s time in Mongolia together came after our Mongolian Olle adventure: we went on a three day horse trek.

The horse trek began with Alena heading off to Stepperiders camp, to spend Thursday evening in a ger there. I stayed in UB to get some last minute work done, and joined her in the morning.

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