Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Bees of Gorkhi-Terelj Park, Mongolia

Out on a green valley hemmed in by rolling hills, dotted with gers, and watched over by the eternal blue sky, my daughter Ysabelle and I, together with Bruce and Erdene, discovered the fierce bees of Gorkhi-Terelj. 

After a hearty lunch of grilled fish, steamed vegetables, rice and tsuivan at UB2 (Ulaanbaatar Hotel 2), our little band crossed the bridge over the gushing clear waters of the Tuul river. The last time I saw the river was in wintertime, when it was a shimmering white solid block of ice. 

Ysabelle and UB2
Photo credit: Greca Durant

We followed a path in the woods that led to the other river crossing. This time, it was no steel bridge but an interesting compilation of earth, pebbles, logs, branches, twigs, roots and leaves.

Photo credit: Ysabelle Durant

From here, the bee farm was three kilometers away. Thankfully, the bee keeper was on hand with his trusty Russian motorbike. Ysabelle and I became his first passengers. He would come back for Bruce and Erdene. 

We roared our way into the great country, up and down gullies, passing horses and horse riders, cows, goats, dogs, gers, and finally deposited in front of his ger. Ysabelle and I were ushered in and we sat on the bed. The bee keeper hurried back on his 'machine' to pick up Bruce and Erdene.

The Russian-made motorbike: Tops!
Photo credit: Ysabelle Durant

The bee keeper's ger complete with solar panels, dish and Russian army truck (behind)
Photo credit: Greca Durant

The bee keeper's daughter, who was preening in front of the mirror, applying eyeliner and lipstick, took a short break from her activity and poured milk tea into deep bowls. She served these to us accompanied by boortsog, Mongolian butter-fried bread. Mongolians are well-known for their warm hospitality, even to strangers.

When everyone was accounted for, we headed out to the bee farm, on the foot of a hill. Green boxes were laid out on the ground. There was also a covered shed, some kind of shelter, where tools were kept.

Green bee boxes scattered on the green
Photo credit: Ysabelle Durant

We put on our protective gear, actually just a bee-keeper's veil. It was good enough for me.

Photo credit: Ysabelle Durant

But not good enough for the others, even for the bee keeper.

Photo credit: Greca Durant

Ysabelle got stung big time!
Photo credit: Ysabelle Durant

 Photo credit: Ysabelle Durant

Back in the bee keeper's ger, to nurse the pain from the stings, we snacked on bread with fragrant honey and roasted sheep's head. Mmmm...

Photo credit: Greca Durant

Photo credit: Greca Durant

The bee keeper saved us again from a long walk back to UB2 by hauling us, his mates, his children, practically everybody in his village, in his giant of a Russian army truck. The rugged terrain posed no problem. The 'Russian machine' as it was called, forded surging rivers and easily navigated high riverbanks. Our little band was safely deposited in front of Terelj's bar. 

Photo credit: Ysabelle Durant

Photo credit: Ysabelle Durant

Photo credit: Ysabelle Durant

All right, bye for now. Talk to you again later 

about my latest Mongolian explorations. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer Wildflowers, Manzuchir Monastery Ruins by Bogd Khan Mountains, Töv Aimag, Mongolia

HI again! It's the season for wildflowers here in Mongolia. One of the best places to see them is at the Manzuchir Monastery or Mandshir Khiid ruins, just a few kilometers outside of  Zuunmod, the capital of Töv aimag. 

Set on a valley by the majestic Bogd Khan mountain, one of the holy mountains protecting Ulaanbaatar (UB), Mongolia's capital city, Mandshir Khiid is just an hour and a half leisurely drive from UB. 

The road is bumpy some ways, especially with the new airport road construction going on. But it's really worth a trip. It could be a day trip, picnic there, or you can stay in one of the ger camps. For transport, I usually call Sukhee (99652371, to organize my travel needs. 

These photos are just teasers. Prepare for a heart meltdown when you get there.

Bye for now, talk to you soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Naadam Fun - July 9 - 13, 2012 - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Mongolia holds Naadam - Festival of Three Manly Games - each summer. There're wrestling, horse racing, archery and ankle bone shooting competitions. From July 9-13, the country is one giant party place. 

Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, hosts the biggest one, with the President and other government officials attending. The opening ceremony at the National Stadium, at 11 A.M. on July 11, is one very grand affair, with thousands of locals and tourists cheering on the performers. 

Naadam opens with the impressive entrance of handpicked mounted guards bearing the nine white banners. The banners are then placed on a special stand   that's surrounded by guards throughout the duration of the games.  According to the UB Post, "The nine white banners are made up of the tail hair of a thousand stallions from each of the provinces in the country. The white and tawny colours, as well as the horse hair are symbolic of the power and strength of the state." At night, giant fireworks light up the UB skies. 

Heavyweight wrestlers on their way to 'battle' 

Male and female archers warming up by shooting arrows

According to Per Inge Oestmoen, author of the article 'The Mongolian Bow,' "Whereas the English longbow could shoot at distances up to 250 yards or around 228 meters, the Mongol counterpart can hit its target at 350 yards 
or 320 meters and, if the archer is well trained for the task, even beyond that." 

Horse race enthusiasts at Khui Duloon Khudag

A horse race official leading riders and horses to an area where the horses' teeth are checked to determine a horse's age

Children's archery competition

Wrestling is the main attraction

Nighttime wonders - Naadam fireworks

Like diamonds in the UB night sky - Naadam fireworks

Banners and guards during the Naadam opening ceremony 

Part of the immense Naadam crowd

Marching band playing some music to herald the entrance of the nine banners to the field

Some of the brightly-clad performers parading in front of the spectators

(Note: Though my daughter was already back in England when the games were on, I shared photos and videos of activities with her, so she could 'feel' the fun.)