Updated: Feb 20, 2020
WHERE TO FLY ?
First Ulaanbaatar and than with domestic flight to Ulgii. Ulaanbaatar is the capital city of Mongolia, during winter one of the coldest capital city in the world and wherever you are coming from thats the city you will land first in Mongolia.
I spent a few days in Ulaanbaatar than flew to Ulgii where the Eagel Hunt Festival takes place. There are not many airlines in Mongolia. So better book your inland plane tickets in advance. Else, Mongolia is huge, as an example, by bus from Ulaanbaatar to Ulgi, it would take 2 days (yes there is a bus, that can also be another amazing experience).
ULAANBAATAR : WHAT TO DO ?
In Ulaanbaatar there are 3 must do's:
visit Gandan Monastry,
visit Genghis Khan Statue which is 1 hour and especially for my Turkish friends, on the way, see earliest known example of Turkic writing found in Tonyukuk's Memorial Complex (Orhon Inscriptions),
visit black market bazaar.
I recommend to rent a car with driver. You can text me if you need contact. Keep in mind that, the worst city traffic I have seen in the world was in Ulananbaatar, so try to avoid rush hours.
1. Gandan Monastry:
Budhism and Shamanism dominates the religious scene in Mongolia, about 60% of population. The rest is not affilated by any religion. Especially young generation are not religious.
Budhism practiced is heavily influenced by Tibetan Budism. Gandan Monastry is a Mongolian Buddhist monastry located in Ulaanbaatur, several hundred monks currently reside there. This statue of Megjid-Janraiseg was made with gold and precious stones with donations from Nepal and Japan.
Inside the monastry there are many prayer wheels. These prayer wheels contain mantras (prayers) inside. Turning them will create a store of merit or positive energy and increase the power of mantras, they believe.
I also searched for a possibility to take part in one of shamanic rituals. Missed that chance with couple of minutes.
This picture is one of the signs of shamanism you would often see in Mongolian landscape. This shamanic monument contains stones, clothes, bottles (even with some vodka in), erected by locals and travellers to show gratitude and respect and to honour the spirits of the surrounding land.
2. Genghis Khan Statue & Kültegin's Memorial:
Genghis Khan statue is the highest statue representing a man on a horseback in the world, located about an hour drive from Ulaanbaatar.
Genghis Khan may have done more than rule the largest empire in the world; according to a recently published genetic study, he may have helped populate it too. The Mongolian leader was known to have fathered many children with different women. An internatinal group of geneticists have found that nearly 8 percent !!! of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical (referance: NatGeo).
3. Tonyukuk`s Memorial:
Tonyukuk was general and advisor of 3 different kings of turkish empire
Turkic world will mark the 1,300th anniversary next year of the Tonyukuk monument
Below you see, first written " Turk " in history:
If you have 6 mins, and understand some Turkish :), check the video below for Ulaanbaatar impressions.
ULGII & MY STAY WITH KAZAK EAGEL HUNTERS
WHERE TO STAY ?
Ulgii is a small city in the extreme west of Mongolia, one of the remotest places on earth. There are few hotels you can book but I definitely recommend to stay in the hostel I stayed. You will be sharing a nomadic tent (Yurt) with other 5 people. Toilets and showers are shared and are kept always very clean. I got to know really adventurous travellers in this hostel. So my absolute recommendation is Travellers Guesthouse.
WHEN TO VISIT?
There is no absolute answer to this question. It depends on your expectations. I was there in the beginning of October for Eagel Hunt Festival. But, for me, staying with the eagel hunters for few days was far more interesting than the festival. Festival smells like a touristic show. Its also hard to book a hotel around that period. Flights from Ulaanbaatar to Ulgii are also much more expensive.
If you want to witness a real eagel hunt with success, winter time is better. But keep in mind that, it was already very cold during night in October, I can not imagine how it would be in December or January. If you visit in summer, you can combine with hiking activities.
Kazaks are nomadic people spread around central Asia. The ethnic Kazakhs in Bayan Olgii, use captured eagles to hunt for fur animals. Golden eagles are used by hunters which are massive birds with wingspans up to two and half meters.
Golden eagles can be very dangerous. They occasionally become even dangerous to their owners. Golden eagles have known to vent their anger from a lost kill on a hunter or its horse. People have lost eyes.
Training eagles takes a lot of time, (up to 3 years), must be done by one person, and requires constant daily attention. Young eagles are captured when they are around two years old. Hunters train and keep these birds until they release them to the wild after 6-8 years. The eagles are domesticated, fed by hand, and will live with the hunters families for years.
The eagles are given a piece of meat as a reward after each hunt. They are kept hooded when they are not hunting to keep them calm.
YOUTUBE POST --> 1 WEEK WITH EAGEL HUNTERS:
The most famous Mongolian beverage; KUMIS (KIMIZ):
Using milk from a horse 🐎 is common among Nomadic people in Central Asia. When you enter a Yurt (mongolian nomadic tent) they present either milked tea or a bowl of kumis.
The milk is fermented in a wooden barrel with big stirrer. That work is mostly done by children and repeated regularly over one or two days. It was hard for me to finish one bowl at first, but as we met more nomad families, I was searching for kumis by the end of the trip. Mare’s milk is superior to cow’s milk in some aspects; it is low in fat and high in sugar, and thus ferments and becomes alcoholic easily. Although some call kumis horse milks vodka, it is rarely fermented long enough to liven up a party —at most, it contains 2~3 % alcohol.
ROLE OF WOMEN IN MONGOL SOCIETY
In Mongol society, men were dominant. However women had far more freedom and power than women in other neighbouring cultures such as Persia and China. They were riding horseback, fighting in battles, tending their herds and influencing their men on important decisions for the Mongolian Empire.
The photo is from one of my visits to a family living in a nomadic tent, near to Ulaanbaatar.
The video below is from Eagel Hunt Festival, a game, man tries to escape, woman whips him tirelessly .