Our Mongolia Travel Experience and Lifetime Memories
“Mongolia??” Our friends asked when we said where were traveling to Mongolia, “Why?” “Why not?” was our reply – as I really didn’t have an answer. We’d loved Mongolian music for years, had read about the Kazakh Eagle Hunters in Western Mongolia and had seen the movie, The Eagle Huntress.
Finding our Mongolia Tour operator
When I first started to browse the internet in search of information, I didn’t even know what the aerial routes were, or the name of the capital but gradually it all became clear. I was lucky that, during my research I stumbled across Ayan Travel who specialise in customised tours of all Mongolia.
Our perfectly tailored Mongolia Tour package
My initial contact with them put me in touch with Puggi Tserendendev who not only spoke fabulous English but had also visited New Zealand and the town where I live so a rapport was established immediately. Puggi put together a fantastic itinerary, enabling us to see as much of this beautiful country as possible and meeting many of the local people. We spent the first few days in capital UlaanBaatar, commonly known as UB, getting acclimatised and stocking up on necessary things for our journey, like pillows!
Our travel in Mongolia in 3 weeks
We travelled overland in a 4wd for nearly three weeks, from UB to Bayan-Ulgii in the Altai Mountains and the furthest western city. No tar sealed roads for us, overland was literally that – 150kms didn’t sound like a long trip but at an average of 25kms per hour, took up most of the day.
Our deep connection with Mongolian Nomad Family
Staying mostly with nomad families we met along the way, we never knew where we were going to stay – part of the fun was searching the vast horizon for the sight of two or more gers, in the hope there would be one available for us.
Sometimes, the second ger belonged to a senior family member who happily gave up his/her home for us and moved in with the family for the night.
These were special times – the nomads being so trusting –sharing their personal space with complete strangers – please, future travellers, don’t ever do anything to destroy this trust.
Staying at home of Eagle Hunters
We were so, so lucky, we stayed with an eagle hunter and his family on and off for about a week – who went on to win the main event, The Golden Eagle Festival and his eagle, Khiran, is now Mongolia’s current champion.
52 years old experienced and honoured Eagle Hunter-Chai Murat who became Champion again 2018.
We were privileged to wear the Eagle Hunter’s clothes, hold Khiran-Eagles on our arms, go riding on his horses and honoured to be part of his family.
We attended the smaller, Altai Eagle festival where our host was also a competitor. The festival was amazing – made so much more personal by knowing one of the competitors and being introduced to others – even meeting, Aisholpan, the heroine of ‘The Eagle Huntress’ movie.
The total Mongolian travel experience gave a new meaning to the word “Awesome” – the space, the history, the feeling of peace and the welcome from the local people. One Kazak fellow, on seeing us stop to take a photograph of him riding along on his horse, turned and rode straight up to our vehicle and put his hand through the window, shaking hands and smiling broadly. We did not need words to feel welcomed and privileged to be there.
Some our -Mongolia Travel Tips
Tips for travellers, make sure you have diarrhoea pills (Imopec in Mongolia) – the milk products and fresh yak cream are rich!!
Our Mongolia Travel Tip 1
If you are doing your own cooking, take some basic seasonings with you, even finding pepper wasn’t easy. Try every food shop you can find, they all stock different items! The State Department Store in UB is the perfect ‘one stop shop’ for most of your travel needs and there is also a great little outdoor shop, Seven Summits not far from the State Department Store which has a great selection and a lady from Scotland behind the counter!
Our Mongolia Travel Tip 2
If you can, take a camping mattress, Mongolian beds are hard, even the hotels have mattresses on a rigid base. Make sure you have all the necessary inoculations and take a good stocked first aid kit from home. Pharmacies are hard to find, even in the cities.
Our Mongolia Travel Tip 3
If, like us, you do too much shopping as Mongolian products are of great quality and inexpensive, you will want to post excess home. Mongol post offers a great service, it took just on a week to when we received ours. However, take your parcels to the post office open as they will be searched before posting. Be mindful that postage rates are expensive and per kilo only – in other words, you will pay the same to send a 2.1 kg parcel as a 2.9 so it pays to weigh and fill up the space!
On the way to planning our second time travel to Mongolia
Mongolia won’t appeal to everyone, it can be very basic, especially in the countryside. I loved it, but then, I have a sense of adventure and don’t mind ‘roughing it. We will definitely be making a return trip in 2019 for Mongolia Best Destinations as Khovsgol Lake and Taiga and , of course Western Mongolia, The Golden Eagle Festival 2019 – probably one of several – each time learning a little more about these wonderful people and their nomadic way of life – so free of western perceptions of what we ‘must’ have to live and enjoy life!