Yesterday we drove out to Terelj. Terelj is a protected area (I guess it is the equivalent of a National Park). There are Juulchin (tourist) camps and the usual horse and camel rides available. There is also some lovely quiet places, near the river and so on. As you approach Terelj, there is an entrance gate manned by government employees – at lease I guess that is who employs them. They collect an entrance fee for the park. The charge is 300 tugrig for a Mongolian or 3000 tugrig for a foreigner. This does, of course, annoy many foreigners, especially those that come from countries where we have been taught to protect the local environment and especially the environment within a National Park.
However, the twin charging scheme applies almost everywhere in Mongolia. At the Gandantegchinlen Khiid monastery with 25 meters high statue of Migjid Janraisig in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolians are let in for free but non Mongolians are charged $1.00. I believe that if you were a foreigner and are now a permanent resident in Mongolia, or citizen, you still have to pay the foreigner rate. That, I think, is a little unfair. I can accept the higher rate for bona fide foreign tourists and businessmen here temporarily over locals, if only because the minimum wage set by the government in Ulaanbaatar is currently $37 per month, whereas $37 is perhaps about the same amount a pair of tourists may have spent for dinner the last night. Charging locals 3,000 tugrigs would therefore be the equivalent of charging them a fair percentage of their monthly income.
Still, it is sometimes galling to have to pay the two fees, especially when it is my favourite Mongolian family taking me out. Yesterday we avoided the problem. As we approached the gate, I was asked to get something from the back of the vehicle. The fees were paid with the gatekeeper able to see the three Mongolians in the vehicle as well as my bottom. As we pulled off I was told to look forward so that the gatekeeper would not see me as we drove past.
Success, Thomo in for 300 tugrigs. Still, I guess the truly amazing part of this story is that Thomo must have a very Mongolian looking bottom 😉