Mongolia can be a hard nut to crack for DIY travelers. We realized it very next day.
- Clearly the beauty of the country is in remote areas.
- The infrastructure is very poor, there are only a few paved roads and so there are only a few bus routes in the country connecting UB with the capitals of other provinces.
- Very often the capitals are not connected with each other, which means you need to take the bus back to UB to continue to other province.
- Outside of UB people do not speak English in order to help you and the ones that do, want to sell you the tours.
- The trails are not signposted therefore it is not easy to explore on your own.
The hostels are using (or rather abusing) these facts offering tours starting at the prices of 2 to 4 digits in US Dollars, which was higher than our initially planned budget. The lady from our hostel was helpful; in contrary to other guesthouse owners didn’t push to sell a tour and gave us the idea about the alternative ways to do it at least a little bit cheaper.
- The cheapest but also the most complicated and time consuming way is to take the bus to the capital of the province and continue trekking on your own.
- The simplest, more expensive but still relatively cheap and seemed to us as the best way to explore the country is to rent a jeep or UAZ with the driver and share the cost with 4 other people.
Having neither time nor other people to join us, we decided to go with the public transport as far we can and see what’s next.
We took the first crack at visiting to Genghis Khan (locally known as Chinggis Khan) Statue Complex, 54 km outside of UB. We decided to make it on our own, after finding the bus connection to the town called Nalaikh from where we could take a cab directly to the statue. It seemed simple, so next day we went to the indicated bus stop.
While waiting for the bus, we were stopped by many people curious where we were going and wanted to help us. After one hour of confusion and not seeing the right bus we decided to change the stop although many people were still claiming that was the right place. Once we did it, the travel went according to the plan.
Outside the city it’s just empty area. The complex is placed in the middle of nowhere but due to its size it is visible from far.
Genghis Khan Statue is the biggest equestrian statue in the world. It is 40 meters high and wrapped in 250 tons of gleaming stainless steel. The statue is symbolically pointed east towards emperor’s birthplace and according to legend this is a place where he found a golden whip that is said to have inspired him to go on to conquer much of the known world.
Visitors can use elevator or walk to the head of horse from where there is panoramic view over the vast steppe landscape peppered with handful of yurts and close view of Genghis of course.
Below the statue there is a museum (the base itself is 10 meters high) surrounded by 36 columns, one for each of the Khan dynasty of the emperors. Inside the building, we could see a replica of the legendary golden whip, tour the numerous portraits of the Khan lineage, watch the movie about the construction of the museum or take a picture … wearing traditional Mongolian costumes. Yes, we did that as well.
The statue is the largest of all the monuments built to honor Genghis Khan since the country relieved itself of communism in 1989. The independent nation presents him, not as the rest of the world sees him, a brutal and merciless ruler but as a national hero ruling over the largest contiguous empire in history and establishing Mongols as a political force. His image is now present everywhere in the country (not only on dozens of statues) starting from the bottles of liquor to packets of cigarettes. One thing is sure – the statue is magnificent and the view from the top is excellent.
On the way back since we didn’t have any transportation we hitchhiked. Having conversation in broken Russian with the local driver and watching the sheep passing the road, we reached Nalaikh from where we took the bus back home.
After brainstorming over Chinggis vodka, we decided to take a bus next morning to Kharkhorin, capital of the province in Central Mongolia and just see what is awaiting us there.