Mongolia: My Erdene Zuu!

Milou ( my camera+tripod) by my side enjoying the Mongolian view
Milou ( my camera+tripod) by my side enjoying the Mongolian view

7th November 2015

It was cold during the night and the morning reminded me that Winter is starting to creep into the landscape.

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All of this land belongs to our host family
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Morning stroll then greeted by cattle

It was a short drive to Erdene Zuu Monastery* from our ger.

Filled with excitement outside the gate which will show me the beauty that the monastery has to offer
Outside the gate and feeling excited since I can’t wait for Erdene Zuu Monastery
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Inside the monastery
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There is something tranquil about the monastery

Maybe it was the white stupas or the grand layout set against the backdrop of blue skies that made me fall in love with it at first sight- Erdene Zuu is a must!

Along with a few local families, we were the only tourists. It was a great feeling- blue skies, monastery and just you. Rectangular in shape, there are a total of 108 white stupas (27 on each side). There are many temples, statues and smaller sites within the monastery.

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We strolled around the complex at our now pace then sat inside the Buddhist temple, watching on as the monks meditate.  Their simple and peaceful nature is something that I need.  Already tainted by modernity, I struggle to find it and fear that it will only be temporary- even if I do.

We bid the monastery farewell and travelled to the outskirts of town, a point which offered us stunning views….yet again

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Sunset will be in an hour so the group decided to hang around Elsen Tasarkhai- also known as Semi-Gobi.  The different landscapes that Mongolia has to offer is perhaps a huge reason why so many people visit the country (more European tourists grace the Mongolian land than Asian tourists- a part of me feels that more promotion must be made to attract more visitors to Mongolia however, if mass tourism will have any negative impacts then we should leave it as it is).

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Although the nap lasted for only ten minutes, the Semi-Gobi was by my side and I was carefree.

You view things differently when you change your altitude. I need to surround my senses not with noisy stress. With my eyes closed, I listened to nothing but the howling wind and allowed an invisible creature to caress my head in reassurance. I held onto that last bit of warmth from the afternoon sun and prayed that time could just stand still.

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Then the sun descended from her glowing throne

The sunset signified the start to our next destination- a truly nomadic Mongolian family “The Bors” who live next to the Khugnu Khan Mountain.

Group photo before leaving Semi Gobi
Group photo before leaving the Semi Gobi

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Our ger is right next to the family’s generous amount of livestocks

I’ll always remember dancing with the young granddaughter and having the ovoo (grandfather) teaching me how to make 100% leather straps. Darkness fell and we hurdled inside the family get for some evening dumplings.Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 1.29.52 PMWe ended the night watching traditional wrestling on the TV and they laughed when I told them I enjoy wrestling and want to try it. They’ll probably flatten me in a second. Baatraa (our driver) laughed and said….”Wrestling huh? Well, first you must eat more! Ger time again so we settled in. I wanted to give Li Chin a big hug but since she is already asleep and I don’t want anyone to catch me staring at her with a stupid smile on myself- I guess I’ll hug her next time.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 12.16.11 PM* Erdene Zuu Monastery is often said to be the earliest surviving Buddhist Monastery in the country. It was ordered to be constructed in 1585 by Abtai Sain Khan (a ruler of the Khalkha Mongols) after declaring Tibetan Buddhism as the state religion of Mongolia. It was damaged in 1688 during internal wars and was rebuilt in the 18th Century. Ordered to be destroyed in 1939, it was later converted into a museum in 1947. Today, it is an active place of worship for all.