A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: tnichols

Pictures of Mongolia

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this is from our first week in Mongolia- we had class and an overnight at a ger camp about half an hour outside of UB

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this is at Hustai National Park, the fieldtrip we took the first weekend we spent in Mongolia. Lots of hiking and enjoying the scenery.

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Hustai Park is also famous for having the largest wild horse herd in the world.

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this is a rather blurry picture from a show at the Mongolian National Theater, of course it was about the life of Chinggis Khan

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This is a picture from Gandan Monastery, the largest Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. It is located in UB and was one of the very lucky few not to be destroyed during the Communist purges.

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This is part of the mural of the memorial at Zaisan Hill, just on the outskirts of UB.

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This is a picture of the city of Ulaanbaatar

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This is from the weekend trip we took out to Kharakhorum and some areas around there. It's very easy to go horseback riding once you get into the countryside, and some of the group has really taken to it.

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One of the best parts about the countryside are wonderful scenes like this.

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This is a rather typical sight off the "roads" in Mongolia. The particular one shown here is from the long drive to Kharakhorum.

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This is taken on the tall hill right next to Kharakhorum, very close to our ger camp.

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Entrance to Kharakhorum and Erdenezuu

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Inside Erdenezuu

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a really great statue, one of many

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more of the complex

Now: our trip to the Gobi
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some really awesome cliffs

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as you can see by Amanda and Ananya's excellent demonstration, it was incredibly windy

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we went hiking through these mountains/big rocky hills and came upon this huge sheet of ice/glacier. Of course, when you are confronted with a glacier while in the Gobi, the only possible course of action is to take of your shoes and walk around barefoot on the ice until you can no longer physically stand it.

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Then, we rode camels

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hiked around the Flaming Cliffs for a bit (didn't find any dinosaurs though)

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and visited a saxuul forest

As you can see, it's been a lot of fun.

Posted by tnichols 22:10 Archived in Mongolia Tagged photography Comments (0)

Packing Suggestions for Future Students

beyond the list

sunny

Allison and the UHC have come up with a pretty comprehensive list, but here are a few additional suggestions:

First off, does your project require you to go to the countryside or will you be staying in UB? This will determine the amount of nice clothes you'll want to bring (though of course you need at least one nice outfit), if you'll want a water filter and other necessary items, and what types of gifts you'll want to bring (your advisor in UB has slightly different taste than the herdsman you interview for an afternoon).

Second, ziploc bags! You most likely aren't going to eat out every meal of every day, so the grocery store becomes your friend. But wait, you've bought a huge cans of peas (making sure you get all those veggie nutrients, though of course you brought vitamins)! How will you preserve them? Plastic bag and into the fridge. You can get by without them of course, but they don't weigh much and can come in handy.

Third, extra socks!!! They will get dirty and disgusting quickly. You will not want to do laundry that much, yet clean(ish) socks are an important thing to have. Bring more than you think you will need. You'll probably lose some as well.

Fourth, if music is important to you, bring music! Also, make sure you bring things you like and a wide variety. It will be the only noise besides your groupmates talking for a long long time. You know yourself best, so think it over.

Fifth, books! You probably will not have a TV. You will want some down-time. This can be a great opportunity to finally read some of those classics you always meant to. However, make sure there is some coordination. Having repeat books and "the mystery book that everyone thought someone else was bringing but didn't and now everyone really wants to read it" is unfortunate. Variety is also good, every now and then you just want to relax with some mindnumbing action novel or vampire erotica. Again, plan ahead.

Sixth, realize that bathrooms on this trip will 98% of the time not be like bathrooms in the United States. A large percentage of bathrooms will require you to bring your on toilet paper and hand sanitation. If you must have your purell, stock up on it before leaving. It's easy enough to buy wet wipes in Mongolia, but hand sanitizer is not cheap.

Seventh, so you are vegetarian. You are not going to die; fruits and vegetables actually exist here. So do not think you need to bring cans of soup or something. Use that space for something else. Ramen is always available as well. There are two vegetarians on this 2007 trip, so if you have any questions I'm sure they'd be happy to help.

Eighth, mental openess! This trip has a lot of great experiences and a lot of really weird things. Be willing to get out there and push your comfort level. You don't have to like everything, but try it at least with a positive attitude. You'll have a blast, promise.

Posted by tnichols 20:16 Archived in Mongolia Tagged packing Comments (0)

Beijing: First Impressions


View Summer 2007 on tnichols's travel map.

You know China is very different pretty much as soon as you cross the border. The geography and climate between southeastern Russian and northeastern China is obviously very similar, but the use of land and the buildings are very different. The old buildings follow a recognizably Chinese style, and the new buildings contrast sharply with the general disrepair of Russian buildings. The first full day on the train through China you could see the waterfields, with people still carefully planting sprouts at 6 in the evening. If Russia was a contrast of the colorful with the drab, China is a sharp contrast of traditional with modern.
Beijing itself is a perfect example. There's so much construction and so many new buildings that almost gleam through the dust clouds on Wangfujing street. At the same time, you can't go very far without encountering a historical site or older buildings with the traditional stone walls and tile roofs. Another seemingly ubiquitous part of the scenery are the many police. I'm still not sure if that makes me feel more or less safe, and how it affects the local citizens.
One of the nicest things to see is how everyday people enjoy their historical monuments and parks. It's not at all uncommon to go to the Summer Palace on the weekend with your family to take a nice leisurely walk and enjoy an ice cream, or to go the Temple of Heaven and relax in the walkway by singing or playing games with your friends. It's not a history lesson or an obligation, it's their culture and their home environment, and they are very comfortable in it. We have parks in the U.S., but I can't really imagine anyone grabbing a book and sitting on the steps of the Lincoln memorial for an afternoon to relax.
The city retains its color at night as well, which gives it a very lively atmosphere. However, going in search of true Chinese night-life is an interesting enterprise. Without a decent command of the language or a better knowledge of the city, it's easy to get sucked into a rather expensive tourist-heavy bar. It is disappointingly easy to find meccas of western culture, english songs, english captions, and english clothes. The modern style obviously must be Chinese since it occurs here in China, but I can't help feeling sometimes that much of it is a version of Western style not very subtly stretched into a pop culture frame for Asian youth.
The people themselves overall are much more down to earth than the Russians, with easy smiles and sometimes much more casual clothing (especially young childeren lol). You just have to be careful that a few bad experiences in a shopping market or with a dishonest driver don't ruin your perception.
China also has a rich and interesting history that's easier in some ways to access then Russia, but also more difficult. There are many signs in English, but a sign only tells you so much and not often many subtleties about cultural references or more interesting historical stories about individuals.
Overall China is much more colorful, open, and accessible than Russia. But they are both such different countries and cultures that most comparisons are completely unfair and pointless. China in its own right is definitely a sight to see, but to really experience "China" is something not all Westerns are able or even encouraged to do.

Posted by tnichols 22:39 Archived in China Comments (0)

Moscow: First Impressions


View Summer 2007 on tnichols's travel map.

Moscow seems to be a city of both incredible beauty and incredible decay. Even in their own right the huge apartment complexes are rather dingy, but after the fierce colors of St. Basil's or the Kremlin's many gold-topped cathedrals it's even more startling. The billboards also have incredible swathes of color, but the average buildings and people themselves aren't so brightly arrayed. It's an interesting contrast.
Moscow is also more European than I had anticipated, menus in English, the expensive mall, some of the pop culture. The food shows other influences though: sushi, Chinese-like dumplings, and of course the wonderful Georgian cuisine. The metro is lovely but very mechanical. Most stations are marble, and some also have chandeliers or stained glass, but people never look up. I suppose that's universal though, you take beauty for granted. The metro however is really fun to ride, just odd because people are very blank. No smiles.
Outside of the metro though, we've met a lot of very friendly people at Moscow State University. Their english is very good; it makes me feel bad that I know extremely little Russian in return. I know they don't really expect it, but in some ways I wish they did. I feel sometimes that people make too many allowances for Americans or are just too accept our ignorance. Really, I just wish the American education system held us to a higher standard that the rest of the world seems to follow.
Overall, Moscow is an interesting but intimidating palce. So many unfamiliar names and events, particular customs, and the language. However, many parts of it are still so very beautiful to the eye and ear. And in this case at least (and for the amount of time we've spent), that's enough for the mind.

Posted by tnichols 22:29 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

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