After four and a half days on the Trans-Mongolian train, my dad and I arrived at the train station in, Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator), Mongolia. Why? Well since we were riding the Trans-Siberian train across Russia and Mongolia was a short (24 hour) hop away, I figured this would be the best and easiest way to get into and see this country, which is considered the last truly nomadic country in the world.
As soon as we got off the train we were greeted by Ogie from Golden Gobi. As many of you can tell I usually shy away from using an organized tour group. Opting to explore on my own instead. Well here in Mongolia that is not very practical outside of the capital due to the lack of roads (I will talk about that tomorrow),
hotels, and the different culture. I was lucky to find Golden Gobi who organized to have Sainka drive us and Alma be our English guide. We even shared the tour with a Brit by the name of Steve, which turned out to be a fantastic addition to our group and saved us money. Let me make it very clear that I cannot say enough good things about Ogie (her communication before the trip will put your mind at ease), Golden Gobi (fantastic hostel with showers, wifi, breakfast, and a welcoming atmosphere), Sainka (great sense of humor even with limited English and one bad ass off-road driver), and of course Alma (her knowledge of the history of her country and sense of humor, not to mention her perfect English with zero accent (I could swear she was taught in the USA and not self-taught in Mongolia), made the six days as varied, interesting, fun, and knowledgeable as possible)!!!!!!!
After getting checked in, showered, feed, and provisioned we all headed north towards Amarbayasgalant Monastery. As Dad and I got to know Steve, we drove 3 hours north on a paved road which was fast and smooth. I was thinking this is going to be a breeze all week. Haha the joke was on me as the last hour was 40 km on a dirt path that made each us feel like a James Bond martini…..shaken not stirred! And this was to one of the three most important monasteries in a mostly Buddhist country.
I found Amarbayasgalant Monastery to be a wonderful place and even if the entire compound looks like it needs some restoration the colors inside and out will leave you speechless as you try and come up with names for each color. This is the least visited monastery in the country and it gave you a sense of quietness and solitude. It was built in 1727 by Tibetan monks. Legend has it that they arrived on site they found a delightful plain in a mountain valley and wanted to build a monastery. Nearby there were two boys playing, but the monks and the boys spoke different languages. When the name of the valley was asked, the boys thought they were asked what their names were, so the monastery’s name is a combination of those two boys names.
This use to be a huge and organized complex as can be seen in various pictures and paintings, but in the Soviet purge of 1937 the monastery has been reduced to 27 buildings along with monks being executed and artifacts looted. Please know that it is still well worth the effort to see this religious site and this monastery survived much better than many others.
I have already posted a couple photos from here as “Photos of the Day”. On Wednesday there was a night time photo with a shrine and the Big Dipper overhead and on Friday I posted a picture of the eves on the monastery’s roofs. Tomorrow I will continue our adventure as we quite literally drove to the middle of nowhere and stayed with a random family. So stay tuned in each day to join us in this adventure or you can LIKE me on Facebook, FOLLOW me on Instagram, or SUBSCRIBE to me on YouTube so you do not miss any part of the adventure in the future.
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