Travelling along the Trans-Mongolian railway was never a dream of mine. But then I stopped and thought about the enormity of it all for a minute.
Profess a dislike of beaches and you’ll incur a perplexed look. So far as social propriety carries, thumbing your nose at salt and sand is pretty much tantamount to saying you married your sister. Or flat share with 37 cats. Or begrudge your avocation as a travel writer.
It’s easy to feel the world is a shrinking place. Journeys that used to take months now happen in the time it takes us to watch Godzilla and eat a microwaved meal, and we have more information in our pocket at any time than the sum total of human knowledge for the last three thousand years. In such a world it’s easy to think there’s very little mystery left, very little tradition or magic or authenticity.
Think of places where it’s easy for vegetarians to travel and Mongolia probably won’t be high on the list.
Growing vegetables is tough in the harsh climate and tending to the garden is not really part of the traditional nomadic lifestyle. People joke that in Mongolia you eat meat, more meat, with a side order of meat on top of that. But believe it or not, at least in Ulaanbaatar it’s possible to dine meat-free without too much trouble.
In the city there are at least three purely vegetarian restaurants:
Hands up if you ever expect to win any of the competitions you enter? Well for Cassie Silva it was no different, except that this time she got the surprise of her life when she really did win…
“As one of the winners of Intrepid’s ’30 Trips in 30 Days’ giveaway, I just wanted to say a huge thank you for one of the most fantastic tours of my life. I have travelled with several other of the big name group tour companies in the past years, but Intrepid surpassed them all.
Every year from 11-13 July Mongolians gather in the thousands to display their mastery in horse racing, archery and wrestling.
The history of Naadam, the festival of manly sports, stretches back centuries to when it was an annual sacrificial ritual honouring various mountain gods.
When Charlie Grosso decided to challenge her own own boundaries, boy did she do it big and Intrepid was along for the ride! After 13,025 kilometres (8095 miles) across 14 countries in 38 days, she shares her incredible Mongol Rally experiences…
“The eighteenth-century Swiss author Madame de Stael once said, “travel is one of the saddest pleasures in life.” If travel is a lovely single malt Scotch, The Mongol Rally is akin to crack. It has been 3 months since I arrived at the finish line and yet not a day goes by where I don’t think about those 6 weeks spent driving across the world. I am beyond addicted and I constantly wonder how to get another fix.
In Mongolia many things are different to what we are used to at home, but especially the food. Trying fermented mare’s milk, dried curd, sour yoghurt and other traditional dishes is all part of the fun, and Intrepid’s Denis Sobnakov explains why a Mongolian barbecue gives you a special taste of the local lifestyle…
“We finally reached our remote destination, where we were warmly met by our hosts, Bat and Tsetseg. Our Mongolian friends invited us to their ger and Tsetseg gave us each a cup of salted milk tea and put a bucket of small breads, that looked like donuts, in the centre of our table. We talked for a while and our hosts told us that for dinner they will cook a meat dish and we’ll eat it in the traditional way.
One of the things that Denis Sobnakov loves most about being an Intrepid group leader is introducing travellers to inspiring local characters. Mongolia is a perfect example of how in one day you can come away with a lasting impression of a country and its people…
“Despite being a gorgeous and wonderful land, nowadays Mongolia has a lot of social issues that are not easy to overcome in a hurry. One of the biggest problems is the high rate of abandoned kids. Fortunately there are some generous people who have made it their priority to help the local community, like those who run Lotus Children’s Centre.