When we read the following “Survival Phrases” in Lonely Planet’s guide to Mongolia, we knew we needed to add it to the list of destinations:
- Hold the dog! Nakhoi khorio!
- Exactly what time are we going to leave? (ask while jabbing at your watch, and emphasis the word ‘yag’, or the answer will invariable be ‘now’) Yag, khdeden tsagt yavakh ve?
- Are your sheep fattening up nicely? Mal sureg targan tavtai uu?
- Does your hotel have heating? Ene zochid buudald halaaguur bain uu?
- I would like to ride a calm horse. Bi nomkhon mori unmaar baina.
Rather than staying in Soviet-era dorm-style hostels (boring), we’re interested in participating in community based tourism (CBT), which offers folks like us the opportunity to live with native people in Central Asia and Mongolia. Local accommodation options include B&B’s or with families in their nomadic homes, yurts, otherwise known as gers in Mongolia or bozui or bosuy in Kyrgyzstan.
Along with staying with the locals, we can also go trekking in the Gobi Desert, visit centuries-old Buddhist monasteries, and learn traditional nomadic skills. At last, Mark will be able to put to good use his goat-milking talents learned on the Keating farm in Shapleigh, ME.
Modes of transportation vary greatly in Mongolia too. After arriving at outposts via train, jeep or minivan, options of further travel include trekking (with or without yak cart support) or letting four legs do the walking. CeCe was ecstatic to find that you can rent a camel for $20/day in Kyrgyzstan. She may never leave.
But the real treat in store for us is spending time with the local people. Here’s a highlight of what could be in store for us:
“During your stay with Mr. Munh-Od, you will have a chance to play National Game called ‘Shagai’ that is a lot like a game ‘marble’ that children play but with the ankle bone of sheep.”