Chinggis Khaan’s Water Spot and Camp

The monument to Chinggis - the blue scarves are a Buddhist sign of good fortune and general blessing

In Selenge Aimag, between Sukhbaatar and the soum Altanbulag is a monument to Chinggis Khaan. It is near a spring that issues from the ground. It was in this area that Chinggis along with 60,000 troops camped whilst he searched for his favourite wiife. She had apparently been kidnapped by a rival.

Whisting over the spring to generate ripples

The monument, along with most of the others through the country to Chinggis, is revered by the Mongolians. The spring nearby issues forth from the ground with clear, cool water. It is said that whistling over the spring causes the water to ripple on the surface. You can see Tseye trying this. As to whether the water rippled from the whistling or not, well, Tseye whistled, I watched but if you want to know, then travel to Selenge, visit the spring and whistle over the water and watch what happens.

Sukhbaatar Museum

The Sukhbaatar Museum, Altanbulag soum, Selenge aimag, Mongolia

In Altanbulag soum in Selenge Aimag, up on the border between Mongolia and Russia, is the Sukhbaatar Museum. It is not a large museum but is significant as this part of Mongolia is where Sukhbaatar fought and defeated Chinese forces back in the 1920s, during the war that won Mongolia its independence. Just on the other side of the border is the Russian town of Kyakhta and between there and Altanbulag is a border crossing. The Mongolian government has also set aside an area here as a free trade zone to try and improve and expidite trade with Russia. Kyakhta and Altanbulag are also significant as the location of talks in 1915 between the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian governments resulting is a treaty giving Mongolia a degree of Autonomy. This lasted until 1919 when the Chinese revoked the agreement which in turn led to the Chinese invasion of Mongolia and the later struggles for independence by the Mongolians.

So, back to the museum. It is a museum devoted to Sukhbaatar and the 1921 Independence War although it does contain other exhibits. The day my favourite Mongolian family took me there was the day the tour guide was on holiday so the young lady that sold the tickets escorted us around the museum and explained the exhibits.

Cannon makers mark and Thomo's Toes, Sukhbaatar Museum

The exhibits include a diorama of the area showing Sukhbaatar’s struggles with the Chinese. There are some old weapons of the time, including a couple of wonderful old machine guns. Unfortunately I was not permitted to photograph inside the museum. Also on display are some uniforms worn by the Mongolian troops of the time as well as a number of paintings and the furniture from Sukhbaatar’s office.

Upstairs is an heroic statue with Sukhbaatar and Lenin meeting. Also upstairs are some paleantological exhibits (old bones, including part of the front tooth of a Sabre-Toothed Cat (Sabre Tooth Tiger)), archeological finds from the area and some anthropological exhibits showing how Mongolians lived 100 years ago or so.

The museum is inexpensive to visit and worth the look. If you have made the effort to go to Selenge Aimag, Sukhbaatar Aimag Centre, then you may as well travel the few extra kilometres to the border and visit the museum.

Oh, the cannon picture included on this blog was the barrel from one of the cannons used during the 1921 War of Independence (and yes, they are Thomo’s toes in the picture as well).

The Tale of the Four Mountains, Umnugobi Aimag

In Umnugobi Aimag, there are four mountains. King Mountain (Noyon uul), Queen Mountain (Khatan uul), Prince Mountain (Khuu uul) and a mountain named after the member of court that assists the King, his servant, and organises the King’s domain. In Mongolian this person is known as the Tushmel and so that mountain is called Tushmel uul. Noyon uul is near Noyon Soum in that Aimag. One day, a long time ago, the mountains were close. Noyon uul and Khatan uul then argued and fought. They argued so hard that Noyon uul decided to move to the east whilst Khatan uul moved to the west. As part of this argument, Khatan uul, the Queen Mountain, kicked a rock mirror at Noyon uul, the King Mountain. Noyon uul kicked a table in his anger.

So now in Noyon Soum we find Khatan uul to the north west and Noyon uul to the south east. In front of Khatan uul is a mountain range that looks like a line of soldiers, protecting the queen. Khuu uul and I are behind Noyon uul, with the table rock between them and Noyon uul.

The mirror rock that the Queen Mountain threw was of a dark polished stone, When you looked on one side of it, you could see Khatan uul reflected in it. Look in the other side and you could see Noyon uul reflected in it. It was a beautiful rock.

In 1932 the Russians came into this area and shot the Mirror Rock. No one is quite sure why, other than it was perhaps because the rock was beautiful. The result of this vandalism was that now the rock is destroyed.

Noyon uul was so named as the rocks on the top of this mountain resemble the type of cap that the old rulers of Mongolia wore. Visitors can still travel to Noyon uul, Khatan uul, Khuu uul and Tushmel uul and see the remains of the mirror rock.

Umnugobi Aimag is the southern most Aimag in Mongolia and borders with China. It is fairly easy to reach from Ulaanbaatar.

Fences

Fences are a reasonably new phenomenon in Mongolia. Most of the country is unfenced and the herders live a nomadic lifestyle. Even near the Aimag Centres and the Soums and Bags there are no fences. However, this changes when you get into the Soums, Aimag Centres and such, with fences now enclosing parcels of land that Mongolians now own. The rest of the country is still unowned (I guess this means that the government owns it) and people and animals roam as they will.

The Soums and Aimag Centres are becoming more like everywhere else in the world now with property fenced.

When An Eagle Cannot Soar

Bayankhangai, Mongolia. A couple of weeks ago I went to the area of Bayankhangai, near to Ulaanbaatar with my favourite Mongolian family. One of the family members had been watching the television advertisements on Mongolian TV and liked the look of a tourist park that was there. The tourist park was in a nice area, although not so exciting of and by itself. It did have one claim to fame however. An eagle.

The only trouble with the poor eagle was that it appeared as though both of its wings were useless. I do not know if this was from an accident or the result of a deliberate act, however, the bottom line was that the eagle was unable to fly at all. All it could do was walk and run. I must admit, it appeared to get along at a fair clip on the ground – and it was still supporting the rather extensive beak as well as some very nasty looking talons.

The bird seemed well fed and allowing for the fact that it was an eagle that could no longer soar, it appeared to be in reasonable health.

The tourist park that the eagle was in was about 30 minutes drive or so from downtown Ulaanbaatar.

Two Camels, No Roadsigns — Hell, No Roads

I had to travel last week. The job required me to get out and about in our branches so we packed the car, and set off. The troop was our driver, his son who accompanied us as it was school holidays, Baggy, the faithful and long suffering translator and aide confidante and Thomo. We left Ulaanbaatar around lunchtime on Monday and headed south to Sukhbaatar Aimag (province/state). From Sukhbaatar, we would head north, passing through the edge of Dornod and then into Khentii Aimag, after which, we would return to Ulaanbaatar five days later.

Wonderful trip. We stopped and looked at bank branches in nine Soums (towns), one Aimag Centre (main provincial town) and a small village. The country folk were wonderful and some of the scenery was just totally inspiring.

At one point as we travelled along, two camels atop a hill watched our progress. It should be noted too that in the countryside, there are no road signs pointing the next town. Hell, there are no roads – just tracks – and some of them are hard to see if they are not travelled often.

Come visit Mongolia, but if you want to get off the beaten track (that would be the main north-south highway) then connect with one of the local tour people – or drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with some reputable groups. Come see the countryside though, it is an experience you will remember. I will get some more photos up in Thomo’s Hole Proper soon – in the meantime, here is the highway we followed from Baruun-urt, the Aimag Centre of Sukhbaatar Aimag to Norovlin in Khentii Aimag.