Further adventures in Central Mongolia: Tövkhön Khiid

After seeing all the sites in Kharkhorin thrice over, Swiss Friend and I decided to do a day trip to Tövkhön monastery on the recommendation of our ger camp buddies. Gaya, ger camp manager extraordinaire, hooked us up with a relative of hers for a ride, and with surprisingly little fuss or issues, we were off.

But in Mongolia, life isn’t easy for very long, and in our case, it was easy for about an hour before our car got stuck. How stuck, you ask? This stuck.
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In a stroke of luck that we made sure to appreciate very, very hard, we got stuck within sight of a few gers that housed an extended family of horse herders. Amazingly, these people also owned a tractor, so we let them get to it while we:

1) Wandered around for two hours looking at the baby horses
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2) tried (and then declined) massive bowls of fermented horse milk
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3) chased away the cows that wanted to join our picnicDSC01139DSC01140

and 4) climbed mountains

Find the stuck jeep in that picture.

Eventually our car was freed from the mud, an event our driver and rescuers celebrated with various alcoholic beverages, as is only appropriate when you’re about to go drive on cliffs and things.

And then we were off!




Our drive finished at the base of a forest on a hill.

After half an hour of hiking, we reached monastery base camp, or whatever the official name is.

Monastery base camp sold iced tea, vodka, potato chips, and very little else.

Up we go!

The view from the top was…well, it was Mongolia, what do you expect?





Oh, and the monastery was pretty aiite too.


Tövkhön is the one of the oldest monasteries in Mongolia and has stood on this site in one form or another since 1648 when a fourteen-year-old monk looking to build a monastery decided this was a nice spot. You know, as opposed to fighting the Manchus, like every teenager with a head on his shoulders was doing at the time.



But the mountain kept going, so up we went. At one point we had to do some actual rock scaling to get to the top, only to discover the giant sign that said women weren’t allowed on that part of the mountain because insert reason here. In such instances, I like to pretend I’m illiterate.


And then our friend showed up! The day before, we had befriended a Dutch tour guide, so while his group ran around the mountain, we happily hung out with him.

After we got back to the ger camp that night, we discovered Gaya had somehow read our minds and booked us bus tickets back to UB for the next day. So instead of stressing, we packed our bags and spent the rest of the evening chilling with our ger camp buddies and being overwhelmingly happy that we had come to Kharkhorin after all.

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One Cow, Two Cow, That’s A Moo Cow.

You can tell a cup, you can tell a quart,
You can tell a tale, you can teleport,
You can tell time and tell lies and tell why, but you
Can’t tell a Mongolian cow what to do.

Why did the Mongolian cow cross the road?
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He’s clearly got somewhere important to go.
Perhaps to the bar, where he stands in a funk?
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Go home, Mongolian cow, you are drunk.
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Navigation is hard–we know this, it’s true,
But remember: I live in this building, not you.
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Go back to your home, please, if you can be swayed,
I’ll call you a taxi…
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You can wait in the shade.
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Perhaps you’d rather just have a nice scratch.
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Perhaps you’re waiting to fill up on gas.
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Perhaps you’ve gone looking for cars to harass,
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But whatever you do…
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please get out of the goddamn trash already. I mean seriously, you’re getting that shit EVERYWHERE.
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The End.

Settling in, sort of.

So I’ve spent the past few days during bureaucracy things, and by that I mean I shadow the poor guy whose job it is to help me from building to building and occasionally produce HIV tests and pictures of my face on cue like the world’s most jaded magician. My passport is currently on its way to UB where some stuff will be done to it and I’ll get an alien registration card that I can flash like it’s something cooler than an alien registration card. Otherwise, I should be mostly done bureaucracy, I think.

Khovd is…something. It’s all dust and stellar architecture for which Boris the Sad Soviet probably won awards, with the occasional cow wandering around my apartment complex for good measure. As one of about twenty non-Mongols in this town, I get stared at by everyone and shouted at by all male children under the age of 25. On a related note, seeing as how I’m now an English teacher and all, it worries me that the only phrases my future students can produce are “Hello, American!” and “Fuckyoufuckbitcheseverywhere.”

Things of note in Khovd:

1) Winner’s, a local pub that everyone keeps telling me is excellent. Unfortunately, the nuances of the pronunciation are lost to a Mongolian accent, and every time someone says “When you have time, we eat weiners,” I pray for the strength to keep a straight face.

2) Lots of small shops, which I have thus far been too afraid to go into because my Mongolian is limited to “hello” and that is not sufficient for buying things. I can’t even say “fuckyoufuckbitcheseverywhere” to at least express a range of emotions.

3) The black market. No rocket launchers or hard drugs on this black market, oh no, this one sells vegetables.

I found the supermarket, which was a victory unto itself, so I stocked up on essentials like bread and Arizona fruit punch. Food out here is waaaay more expensive that I had counted on—unless it’s made in Mongolia, then it’s cheap. However, since the Made in Mongolia list starts with “meat” and ends with “more meat,” it’s safe to say I will be spending a pretty solid portion of my limited income on things that aren’t meat. Before we set out on our roadtrip, my boss saw me clutching a box of cereal and agonizing over the sliced cheeses in UB, and she laughed and said “In Khovd, this is expensive. You will learn to do without cereal and cheese.” She knows what she’s talking about, but I’m such a bad eater anyway, I’ve got to come to terms with the fact that the foods I eat make for a cheap meal in Europe but a very expensive meal in Central Asia.

Luckily, I am not alone in any of this—there are way more foreigners than I had expected. There is, for example, Other English Teacher, several missionaries, a couple Peace Corps volunteers, and a bunch of other foreigner teachers/government workers.This is excellent news! It means I’ve got people I can bitch to when the difficulty of life here stops being novel and just starts being difficult.

To everyone who has sent me emails and Facebook messages, thank you! I haven’t answered any of them because while the university has wifi, the battery on my laptop is broken and doesn’t last very long when it’s not plugged in. And since I have yet to find someplace with both wifi and an outlet—outlets seems to be more precious than water in this country—my internet usage has thus far been confined to twenty-minute bursts for copy and pasting blog posts I’ve prepared ahead of time, deleting spam emails, and taking a cursory look at Facebook. I will, however, be getting internet in my apartment, possibly as early as this week. So we will partaaaaay, and by partaaaay I mean I’ll post pictures and answer your emails in a timely fashion.

Until next time!