Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Can't Take My Heart Out of Mongolia's Countryside - Manzuchir Khiid Part 2, Tuv Aimag, Mongolia

I know that behind those tall south side Bogd Khan mountains protecting Ulaanbaatar is Manzuchir (Mandchir) Khiid valley, where wildflowers abound, where wild berries await harvest, where wild rhubarb tastes like heaven, where cool springs form into waterfalls that form into rivers that meander through the steppes, quenching thirsts of roaming horses, goats, sheep and cows. 

The longing persists and one beautiful morning, I was off again to Manzuchir Khiid,  with friends who instantly connected with Mother Nature. 

Ulaanbaatar wakes up to a beautiful sunrise - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Photo by Greca Durant

To reach Manzuchir Khiid, we followed the UB airport road up until the left turn, passing the new Sports Palace. With airag-making season in full swing, gers/yurts dotted the scenery, with dozens of mares and foals milling around outside them. Also outside these gers were blue-colored plastic containers holding gallons of airag or fermented horse milk.

We stopped by the Tuv aimag marker and paid our respects to the ovoo.

Bruce sheltering from the scorching sun - Bruce is one of more than 20 artists from around the world handpicked for the 2nd Land Art Biennial Mongolia 360˚  2012, now going on at Ikh Gazriin Chuluu, Dundgobi,
until August 18. Bruce represents the U.S.A.                                                                                
Photo credit: Greca Durant

Marne goes three times around the ovoo or Tibetan prayer mound - Marne Lucas is one of more than twenty artists handpicked for the 2nd Land Art Biennial Mongolia 360˚ 2012, now going on at Ikh Gazriin Chuluu,  Dundgobi, until August 18. Marne represents the U.S.A.                                  
Photo credit: Greca Durant

Erdene telling me about the topography of the aimag and nearby sights - Photo credit: Marne Lucas

In Zuunmod, feeling famished, the sight of Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant, got us all excited. We parked the car and piled inside the restaurant. Our orders were taken and minutes later, tsuivan (Mongolian spaghetti), shepherd's pie, coleslaw, spinach, mushroom and dumpling soup came along with raisin tea, Lipton tea and Sprite. 

Marne and her tsuivan, Loving Hut at Zuunmod, Tuv aimag, Mongolia                                                                                         Photo credit: Greca Durant
Shepherd's Pie vegetarian version - very tasty buckwheat cutlet and creamy mashed potatoes, Loving Hut at Zuunmod, Tuv aimag, Mongolia                                                                
Photo credit: Greca Durant

Julie takes a bite of her khushuur..Mmmmm, while Bruce contemplates which one to eat first -
dumpling soup or shepherd's pie                                                                                                        
Photo credit: Greca Durant

After a hearty lunch, we proceeded to the airag ger station positioned next to Loving Hut. We found the friendly airag maker and chatted with him. Outside his ger, a daughter was preparing milk vodka. The airag tasted fresh and the very mild vodka carried a tiny hint of milkiness. 

The airag master pouring freshly-made airag into a bowl                                  
Photo credit: Greca Durant

Erdene stirring the airag                                             Photo credit: Greca Durant

Erdene enjoying airag while Julie and Marne chat                                               Photo credit: Greca Durant

Bruce gets his turn on the airag bowl while Marne records the action                 Photo credit: Greca Durant

Marne gets her first ever sip of Mongolian airag. Verdict? She likes it.             Photo credit: Greca Durant

If you are not into vegetarian/vegan food, then there's Chansaa Restaurant, near the town square. Excellent Pineapple Chicken! The restaurant offers Mongolian, Korean and European dishes. 

Pineapple Chicken at Chansaa Restaurant, Zuunmod, Tuv Aimag                       Photo credit: Greca Durant

From the airag station, we continued driving to Manzuchir Khiid. It's six kilometers from Zuunmod center. On our way, we passed apartment blocks from the Soviet times. They're called gulag blocks. 

Soviet-era apartment blocks, Zuunmod, Tuv aimag                                               Photo credit: Greca Durant
Old stone grains grinder outside the aimag museum, Zuunmod. Tuv aimag           Photo credit: Greca Durant

The aimag museum shows samples of mineral deposits in the area, huge stuffed animals like moose and deer that once roamed Bogd Khan, old photographs, photographs of Naadam champions, a Buddha statue, models of typewriters, calculators and computers, and other interesting pieces. It's worth a visit. 

Finally, Manzuchir Khiid. 

There were more visitors that day, including ethnic Mongolians from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. The meadow was teeming with more flowers. The rains from two days before caused the spring to burst forth into rushing waterfalls.

Teepee and ger inside the monastery grounds, Manzuchir Khiid                      Photo credit: Greca Durant

Julie and Erdene with a Mongolian from Hohhot who can read the Uighur script
that's written on the bronze cauldron                              Photo credit: Marne Lucas

Erdene showing off a huge mushroom - called Sky Death! Oooopppsss!                            Photo Credit: Greca Durant

Flowing icy cold water, Manzuchir Khiid, Tuv aimag, Mongolia                                                                                                                  Photo credit: Greca Durant

After a pleasant picnic, we headed back to Zuunmod, where we met Justin Bieber.

Justin Bieber was half Przewalski-half domesticated Mongolian horse. He was gorgeous! He had the telltale leg stripes of a Przewalski horse. Marne and I wondered about his eye color.  Blue?                                                                                                            Photo credit: Marne Lucas

We got home to UB safely but we couldn't stop talking about Justin Bieber, the stallion, head of a harem of a dozen equally gorgeous females. 

Bye for now, my friends.