Posted by Selena Travel / 03 02, 2024
Ulaanbaatar is a cool city. There’s so much to do – nightclubs to go to, museums to see, huushuur to eat, and even more. Sometimes though, you might need a break from the traffic and crowded streets. If you’re looking for a trip outside of UB and are a fan of nature, art, or Buddhism, this monastery is right up your alley. The pine trees, river, and hills that protect the monastery are an easy hour drive from urban Ulaanbaatar, and offers a nice place to recuperate after the bustle of the city.
The grounds of the monastery are packed with local art. It is all related to the Buddhism celebrated at the monastery. The buildings themselves are beautiful; a large and ornate temple dominate the hill. Along the way towards the main temple are brightly painted pagodas and timber structures line the hill. There is even one bright yellow structure with a shiny sphere placed at the top that is pretty mesmerizing. Situated picturesquely on top of the cliffs that surround the monastery are several pagodas, beautifully proportioned. As you climb the giant steps to the largest temple, you can see the carved stone statues decorating the path.
As you ascend the stairs, you can see the large carvings and smaller statues that dot the landscape. The main monastery building is located at the top of a long, gently sloping staircase. The monastery is a working one, and still growing, so you may encounter farm animals on your way up. Sometimes, there is also a vender selling animal food for less than a dollar. It’s well worth it to feed some ducks
Inside the main temple that sits on the top of the hill are dozens of pieces of art. As you enter, passing under large timber beams, you are transported to another world. You are immediately confronted with huge silk paintings showing the fierce protector gods. As these looms over you, you can get closer and view the frightening details carefully sewn into them. The detail and color of the silk is striking. A central figure fills most of the frames, however, there are numerous scenes placed throughout. There are only one or two paintings like this though, happily juxtaposed by the quiet, serene strength of others. The silk-work is impressive, as the hangings that depict goddesses are less intense.
There are a number of small stupas gathered in the center that look like a small city, and small chairs for monks to pray in. Dominating one corner is an enormous carved boulder that the monks brought up from the bottom of the hill, and carved with information about the monastery.
One of the monks has a talent for taxidermy. Downstairs, there is a wildcat and a turtle combined with other animal parts that resembles a dragon. Upstairs there are more statues, dioramas and many more examples of the fantastical creatures composing of many different other animals. They can be a little frightening and are very exotic
After the main temple, there are a number of huge carved statues on a hill that takes you all over the grounds of the monastery. The monk that founded the monastery, Purevbat G., carved the rocks to resemble natural features, Buddhist figures and frightening monsters. As you climb the steep hill, the pine trees protect you from the wind and sun. The sculptures are carved into rocks already in the landscape. One gets the sense that the sculptures were placed there first and then nature was encouraged to grow around them.
As you climb, there are handy maps to help guide you. As often as you will be impressed with the carvings, you’ll be impressed with the view. There are plenty of opportunities for interesting photographs here, especially with the giant dragons and other creatures that you can climb onto. You can easily pose with them. The hike can be a little taxing though, so bring a water bottle and grab at a snack at the café.
The monastery was built in 2014 to host a meditation center. The monastery hosts guests for particular packages that can last from a day to a week. There are a number of monks who live on the property as well. It’s more popular in the summer, where the lines can stretch over the long staircase to the parking lot, but there is a lot of knowledge here about Buddhism. There are also local restaurants nearby, if you visit and the cafeteria is closed.
The monastery has few signs in English and the monks only speak a little English, so it’s best to come with a guide. However, even if you don’t understand everything, the price of admission is pretty low and the site is such a pleasant change from Ulaanbaatar that it’s pleasant enough to just walk around.