I’ve been on a blogging streak for the last two weeks, but Emma has most of the next week off school because of Tsagaan Sar (the lunar new year), so we are going to travel around central Mongolia a bit. This is a sneak peak of what I’ll be writing about when we get back. First, we’re going to the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes, also called the Mini Gobi Desert, to see some lovely Bactrian camels and hopefully ride some as well. We’ll visit with a nomadic family and have a chance to explore the dunes in what will be the coldest weather of our trip, so we are bringing all of our warmest clothes!
Then we are heading for Kharkhorin, a city built in 1235 to be capital of the Mongolian Empire under Ogedei Khan (Chingghis Khan’s third son). Now it is a small town in the Orkhon River valley, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape. It’s also the site of the Erdene Zuu Monastery, so we’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Mongolian Buddhism. Erdene Zuu is the oldest surviving monastery in Mongolia, dating back to 1585. Abtai Sain Khan ordered its construction; he was the grandfather of Zanabazar (the namesake of the museum we saw in downtown Ulaanbaatar last weekend). The monastery was mostly destroyed in the Stalinist-inspired purge in the late 1930s, in which hundreds of temples were destroyed and tens of thousands of monks were killed or sent to gulags in Siberia. The walls and three small temples survived. It has been a practicing monastery again since the collapse of Communism in 1990.
After that, we will get to celebrate Tsagaan Sar, the Lunar New Year, with a local family and also see some horse racing out in the countryside. We are very much looking forward to that!
Finally, we will return to Ulaanbaatar and spend one day at the Manzushir temple, located on the other side of the Bogd Khan mountain (the national park that we can see from our apartment). The monastery was destroyed during the Communist purge, but parts of it have been restored. We’ll also spend some time in the nearby town of Zuunmod, which is the capital of the Töv aimag (province).
So, this is the plan for the coming week. We will see how it turns out, and I’ll write about our trip when we return. In the meanwhile, Шинэ жилийн баярын мэнд хүргэе!