Mongolian road trips

Traveling on long, bumpy bus rides across deeply rutted roads, eating kuushuur dumplings on the daily, singing Anyii Shuvuu with the daughters of the Abbot, and stargazing under the most vivid view of the Milky Way I have ever seen; there are some things I will never forget about Mongolia. Saying goodbye to this country was far more difficult than expected.

After 10 days, the warmth and friendliness of the Lamrim Monastery community started to feel like home. Lamrim’s Abbot has worked with PacRim for 18 years and continues to be incredibly generous; in addition to providing housing and planning excursions, this year he gave each student a Mongolian leather passport holder as a farewell gift.

Ulaan Baatar was an excellent home base, but the countryside really holds the beauty of Mongolia. There aren’t many words in this post, mostly because Mongolia is more photogenic than I am eloquent:

Sept. 14 — Quick pit stop on the way to Khara Khorum to grab lunch and ride some camels.
Sept. 14 — Old Man’s Monastery.
Sept 14 — Valley surrounding Old Man’s Monastery. On the left are the ruins of a temple destroyed during the Stalinist repressions against Buddhism, when Soviet forces demolished ten temples in the region and killed 200 monks. The evening was emotional and eye-opening.
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Sept. 15 — This Khara Khorum ger camp simultaneously hosted a 60-year grade school reunion during our stay, so we shared the space with about 20 Mongolians who have been friends since childhood.
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Sept. 16 — The best day in Khara Khorum was unplanned — guests from the previously mentioned grade school class reunion invited us to their school’s anniversary festival the following day, so we extended the trip. In this photo, fellow PacRimmer Sam collected adorable data for a drawing-based research project at the school festival. In exchange, he drew little pictures on their balloons. Within minutes of starting this, large groups of school kids began to flock around our group to get drawings on their own balloons. A good deal of my afternoon consisted of me trying fulfill little girls’ requests to draw Anna and Elsa on their balloons.
Sept. 16 — One of our own (Max) attempts to wrestle a Mongolian in the traditional competition at the Khara Khorum school festival. Not pictured: his painful loss.
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Sept. 19 — A roadside ovoo with cloth and trinket offerings.
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Sept. 19 — The Lamrim Abbot’s retreat temple in Terelj. He originally bought the land with the intent of using it for private meditation, but it soon became a tourist spot. I learned from Oko, our incredible guide and friend, that before the fall of the Soviet Union, only political VIPs from Russia and Mongolia could stay in this region which is now the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. No ordinary Mongolians were allowed — the first time Oko visited this area, despite it being so close to her home in Ulaan Baatar, was in her teenage years.
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Sept. 19 — Sunset from the bus window, on the way back to Lamrim Monastery.

The Abbot left us with a couple tokens of wisdom during the excursion to Terelj, as translated from Mongolian by his daughter Erika:

  1. “Be kind”
  2. “Everything is impermanent.”

I will miss you Mongolia.

Next stop — Seoul


  1. Judy K Ferris

    Liv I am so excited for you and this journey. I have enjoyed reading what you have posted so far and the beautiful pictures. I am looking forward to more posts from you and thus will vicariously enjoy your trip with you..
    Love you and stay safe,
    Aunt Judy

    Liked by 1 person

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