Among the skyscrapers and shopping malls, there sits a white building and a temple in a small clearing. The mountain stands behind it, protecting the city. Not far behind is the mighty Tuul River. The white building is by todays standards, a modest building. The temple is beautiful, but dwarfed by the 6-story mall nearby. However, if you were a lucky visitor to Ich Khirie, as Ulaanbaatar was known then, you would be standing near the largest building in town, if you could even get close enough. This is the home of the Bogd Khan.
It’s the beginning of the end of Mongolia’s short summer season. Today is a big day for our young monk. Let’s call him Davaa, a good Tibetan name. His name means Monday, and his parents may have chosen his name because he was born on a Monday. The name also honors Tibetan Buddhism, which is practiced in Mongolia. He has only been at the monastery for a year, and he’s going to participate in his first Tsam ceremony. The tsam dances, are morality plays. Their purpose is to remove evil from the area and pass along traditional stories and morals. There can be hundreds of participants, usually monks. Davaa is lucky to participate because he’s still a young monk.
Even if visiting museums is not on your priority during your visit in Mongolia, Zanabazar’s museum of Fine arts is a must see. For just over 2 dollars, you’ll get to experience one of the richest cultures of the Central Asia. Since it has opened with around 300 exhibitions in 1966, the museum has grown to be the biggest museum of art and sculpture in Mongolia. Mongolian art is not exactly worldwide known, so even if you have not heard of it before, I can promise you that every minute you spend there would be worthwhile.
Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg sounds like the kind of guy Mongolian parents can use as a threat for misbehaving children. His deeds are truly the stuff of nightmares – murdering deserting soldiers, keeping wolves in his attic for his enemies, and burning people alive inside of haystacks. Without him, however, there might be no independent Mongolia today.
When walking through the streets of UB if you’re lucky, you can see someone throw a spoonful of milk into the sky as an offering. This ancient practice is a way to give an offering to the gods in Mongolian shamanic practice. People practiced shamanic religions centuries before Mongolia became a Buddhist country, and they had a deep effect on the lives of the people living in this country.
A little bit past the central square of Ulaanbaatar is one of the oldest buildings in this young city. Surrounded by white walls, a painted gate once protected the inhabitants inside. There are several buildings inside the walls, but the most eye-catching is a large white building, crowned with a beautiful deep green curved roof. There are a number of cobblestone paths that lead to Gandan Monastery – “The Great Place of Complete Joy” as the name translates from Tibetan.
You will find no shortage of restaurants to enjoy in Ulaanbaatar. There are some well-established eateries around the city, both local chains and stand alones, but also plenty of new places popping up all the time. I am NOT a food critic nor a master chef; however, I like to eat--and prefer to eat good food--and have visited numerous restaurants in the capital.
Imagine riding a horse over the Eurasian steppe, winter’s cold embrace around you and an eagle on your arm. You feel the bird twitch, and know that it’s got something in its sights. With a flick of your arm, the bird takes off and flies toward an unlucky rabbit. Before you know it, the eagle dives down and in its talons is lunch for your family.
While some people prefer to visit Mongolia in the summer, if you find yourself in Ulaanbaatar for the winter, there are still a ton of great activities to enjoy. One of the coolest Winter activities you can do is take a ride on the frozen Tuul river pulled by a team of excited huskies.
Even though Mongolia might not be popular for its music or entertainment values, there are handfuls of places where you can jazz up your nights. Be it in a small indie club with local youngsters or classy jazz club where professional musicians perform, one thing is for sure- there’s no way you can spend your few nights in Ulaanbaatar hiding out in your hotel room!
11 30, 2010
12 31, 2010
11 20, 2011
03 27, 2012