25 April 2015

Taking The Trans-Mongolian - Your Introduction

Firstly. remove your watch. A high speed train this is not.  What else can you expect when travelling on one of the extensions of one of the world's longest train journeys?

The Trans Mongolian is the train line which links Beijing to Ulaan Baatar and then continues on to Ulaan Ude (or vice versa) where it connects with the Trans-Siberian. The Trans Mongolian itself covers 1810km in Mongolia and was built along the route travelled by the ancient tea camel caravans. It was built piecemeal as a direct result of the fluctuating political relationship between Russia and China. 

Having travelled from Hong Kong through to Moscow and St Petersburg twice on my way home (a long commute!) I would definitely not consider myself an expert. However, I hope the following helps?! If you have any ideas or suggestions of your own please share them!

Image by our guest, Aucan Czackis

Top Tip - Food

On almost all Trans-Mongolian trains, unlimited boiling water is available free of charge from the samovar at the end of each carriage. Make sure to pack a mug and some cutlery (I love Sporks!). Coffee, tea, dried noodles and instant soups are all useful and help to provide an alternative to the rice and mutton that you will typically find in the dining carriage of a Mongolian train. Other ideas are granola bars, crackers, trail mix, peanut butter, dried meat and dried fruit.

In the words of Man In Seat 61: 

'My personal favourite is water-based drinking chocolate for a relaxing night-time drink each evening...'

Image by our guest, Aucan Czackis
It's a remarkable journey - covering the wide empty plateau of the Gobi Desert with potential swift glimpses of white tailed gazelle. Heading north after Ulaan Baatar, the rail link travels through Selenge Aimag – the name derives from the mighty Selenge River, Mongolia’s principal river.  This part of the journey provides a direct contrast to the Gobi being dominated by magnificent scenery of river basins, forest steppe and fertile agricultural landscapes. Enjoy Mongolian buuz or khuurshuur bought directly off sellers on the platform - an alternative feast is that of salami, gerkhins and the ubiquitous vodka  shared by locals to international travellers. 

Top Tip - Power Sockets

There will not be as many power sockets as you would like. Not when you consider nearly everyone on your carriage will have some electronic device that will need charging at some point during the journey. If you're travelling on the whole length from Beijing through to Moscow bring a worldwide travel adaptor. In the words of Man In Seat 61: 

'All Russian, Mongolian & Chinese trains have shaver sockets in the corridor and washrooms which can be used to recharge things with the right adaptor.  Some trains have one or two similar sockets in the corridor that can be used to recharge things if you keep an eye on them.  Your carriage attendant may be willing to charge items using the socket in their own compartment, for a small tip.'

In the words of our guest Ross Briggs:

'The train trip is quite relaxing. I spent most of my time looking out both sides at the endless Gobi views, often flat from horizon to horizon. As I have said before, I do not tire of these views and the enormity of the countryside. The weather was very good which enabled us to see a last spectacular sunset over the Gobi. The train trip was a good way to leave Mongolia, something new to experience and I would not discourage people from taking the trip.'

Last Mongolian sunset

Image by our guest Ross Briggs travelling south on the Trans Mongolian

Top Tip - Trans Mongolian Handbook

The views are epic. But, if you know you'll need something to break up the window view, buy a copy of  the Trans Siberian Handbook by Bryn Thomas which has a mile-by-mile guide to the sights you can see from the train. 

This is what you see as you come into Ulaanbaatar on the Trans-Mongolian railway. Look at the variety of housing.  Mongolian laws allow every Mongolian 0,7 hectares of land. However this must be fenced in if it is to be legal and if the owner is to  be allowed to send his children to school. What he does within his 0,7 hectares is up to him. There are very few planning restrictions so he can keep his animals, set up a small business, fill the space with gers, build a luxury house.Words and Image by our guest Lynn McCaw

In the words of our guest Lynn McCaw:

'As you pass through the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia (which as the name implies used to be part of greater Mongolia) the land flattens and the vegetation becomes sparse and dry and you begin to see the occasional ger and some livestock herds. This is the start of the Gobi Desert which stretches across the southern third of Mongolia.  
Once you are across the border you are into the Mongolian Gobi.
This part of the Gobi is not the “desert” of our expectations. There are no sand dunes. Just the elemental emptiness of rock, wide blue sky, burning sun, widely spaced tufts of scrubby, harsh grass on the rough pebbly ground. 
Since the route of the train and the road are the main means communication in south-eastern Mongolia, following the ancient trade routes across Asia to Europe, there are occasional communities at which the train stops, featuring Soviet-era station buildings and Soviet-Siberian-style houses. There are also one or two vast brightly lit mining and industrial complexes. 
As you get closer to Ulan Bator the landscape becomes more rolling hills and green pasture land. Gers and livestock herds become more frequent.'

The train station at Choir - about half way between the Chinese border and Ulaanbaatar. It used to be a large Soviet air base, but now abandoned although the train still stops.

Words and Image by our guest Lynn McCaw

Top Tip - Showers and Toilets

No shower. That clears that up. Actually,  if you're travelling first class (2-berth) on the Trans Mongolian Moscow to Beijing train (train number 3 and 4) there is a shower provided in the private washroom shared between each first class berth. Don't get overly excited, a power shower this is not - more a thin hose pipe. But, grab some hot water and your mug and have a mini-shower in the lockable toilets.

Each carriage has two toilets - one at either end. Both with a sink. The toilets are kept surprisingly clean. Not spotless. But not necessarily as bad as you can imagine. There should always be toilet paper supplied.....but....bring your own. 

The really rather opulent Mongolian dining car.

Image by our guest Lynn McCaw

In the words of our guest Sovay Berriman:

 'The rail journey from Beijing was twenty seven hours through first, tree covered hills, then the industrial plains of Inner Mongolia before reaching the China/Mongolia border at 10pm. Here we waited for three hours while our papers were checked and the wheels on each carriage changed to fit the smaller tracks of Mongolia. Evidently the change of track gauge is to protect national borders, trains loaded with troops and artillery could not force their way through border control.
 We arrived in UlaanBaatar in the early afternoon. It is an old city yet has a feel of impermanence. Things change regularly, and the dust of the desert blows through the Main Street. There is a sensation of being at a frontier. Buddhism and Shamanism are the belief systems of the country. The big blue sky, the land and the spirits being the focus for respect and devotion.'

Top Tip - Security

In the words of Man In Seat 61:

'The Trans-Siberian is a very safe way to travel, even for families and women travelling alone.  After all, the train is full of Russian families and women travelling alone, it's how the Russians themselves get around!   
Just use common sense as you would anywhere else, lock the compartment door at night and don't leave your wallet or camera lying unattended in your compartment while you go to the toilet or the restaurant car.  In addition to the normal lock on the compartment door, Russian 'Spalny Wagon' and 'kupé' compartments have a security latch which stops the door opening more than an inch or two, and which cannot be released from outside even with a staff key.   
There's also a safe place for your bags at night - if you have a bottom bunk, there is a metal box underneath the bunk which you can only get to by lifting up the bunk.  In other words, for anyone to get to your bags, they will have to shift you off your bunk first!   
Your carriage attendants may also lock the access doors at each end of the corridor at night to prevent intruders.  So don't worry, you'll be safe and snug.  Men and women share the same compartments, but on some routes you can now ask for a ladies-only compartment.  If you're a woman travelling alone and do happen to find yourself sharing with men who make you uncomfortable, ask the carriage attendants if they can move you to another compartment and they normally will, without too much problem.'
After the border into Mongolia we began to see more open spaces and lonely gers. Although this is actually in the eastern part of the Gobi, it is uncharacteristically green because of recent rain. Image and words by our guest Lynn McCaw

Top Tip - Train Classes

  • Spalny vagon  - 2-berth compartments, often described as 1st class 
  • Kupé'  - 4-berth compartments, usually described as 2nd class
  • Platskartny -  open-plan dormitory cars, sometimes described as 3rd class.  

The four berth (second class) compartments are the most popular. 

If you're looking for information on how to book a trip on either the Trans-Siberian or the Trans-Mongolian then pretty much everything you could possibly need to know has been written by The Man in Seat 61. There is also excellent information on the To Mongolia blog

 If you’re looking to buy either local or international train tickets to Russia or China starting from UB then please contact Ganbayar Davaajav. He is the owner of www.mongoliatraintickets.com and, due to his longterm connections with the train ticket office, his ticket prices are substantially lower than elsewhere. He can provide a ticket copy for any visa application requirements and does not need to be paid until you arrive in Mongolia - when he hands over the ticket. I receive no commission to recommend him. He just does an excellent job at excellent prices. 

If you have any further suggestions then please get in touch. Coming soon will be my Beijing, Xian and Shanghai extension ideas!

19 April 2015

Mongolia - By Our Guest, Graeme Allen

Graeme Allen joined us in Mongolia in 2012 on our 3-week  Untamed Mongolia small group tour. These are his thoughts. The images are by John Holman who was also part of the same trip.

The places I loved the most and why...

For me, the constantly changing landscapes gave the most memories.  The place I felt most moved by was Khongoryn Els. I think the evening of song (and vodka!) on the warm sands in the moonlight (full moon rising) with the gigantic sweep of the steppe in the background and the trillions of stars above was one of the most wonderful, atmospheric/romantic evenings I've ever had.  Lake Khovsgol and the great day we spent climbing the mountain beside it and looking over the vast sweep of water into Siberia was another. But there were really so many places.  What variety!  What experiences!

The experiences I loved the most...

As above and building a small ovoo on a rocky outcrop above our last campsite, and leaving a prayer scarf on it, was moving.  I left a large slice of myself there!! 

Favourite cultural experience?

My favourite cultural experience was probably sharing airag in a ger and getting the feel of the life of the herdsman/woman/children at the same time was special.  But all my visits to ger encampments were memorable. But I was also fascinated by my visit to the Fine Arts Museum in UB.

Would I return to Mongolia?

There is no "if I returned".  Let's be positive and say "when I return..." I'd go back tomorrow if the opportunity arose.  I probably won't get back but the 20 days I spent with you gave me the greatest life-changing experience I've had in my over 70 years.  I'd especially love to see some more of the Altai in the west, and some of the more remote steppe country over that way, too.  

Memorable impressions?

The days in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan gorges stood out.  Seeing the form of a mountain goat high up on the rocky crags, silhouetted against the evening tones of the sky was special.

I'd have to say, Jess, that what especially made the experience for me so wonderful was the way we were looked after by you in particular.  It was such a personal trip, not stereotyped and routine as "organised" trips usually are, but giving us a sense of discovery with what often seemed unplanned variations into new areas/experiences.

16 April 2015

Arts in Mongolia - The Mongolia Project

Any ideas? Think Mongolia. Where may you have seen this design…?
This image represents the aerial view of the Mongolian ger. It is also the logo (designed by Chris Tizard) of The Mongolia Project.

The Mongolia Project is the first non-commercial contemporary art exhibition in the UK for Mongolian and international artists who have been inspired by their visits to Mongolia. The Mongolia Project  allows them showcase their personal responses to the culture and development of modern 21st century Mongolia. 

This photograph by Vanessa De Smet captures the Mongolian performance art group Nomad Wavefour visual artists and a designer who create individual artworks as well as working as a group of performing artists since June 2010. A limited edition of this photograph forms part of the reward  for a £100 pledge for the Mongolia Project Kickstarter Campaign. 

Anna Louise Hale graduated from the UK Central St Martins School of Art in 2011. In 2012, she then spent two months in Mongolia where she engrossed herself in learning and experiencing modern Mongolia and along her journey met many inspiring artists.  An idea was born….

‘Young contemporary artists (in Mongolia) have difficulties accessing financial support and art networks. Nevertheless they have passion, talent, genuinely strong concepts and they are eager to learn and grow inspired by their country and its rooted heritage and cultures.

The visual arts are a common ground for thousands of people across the globe, great for communicating ideas, sometimes without the aid of a common language. This is our link to exploring Mongolia with the help of international artists who have been inspired by the country. Our common language is the contemporary arts which we are ALL so passionate about. Sculpture, painting, video, documentary, animation, drawing, performance and photography.’ 

The is the work of Idermurun Khurelbaater. Ida is a Mongolian calligrapher and an ancient script lecturer and teacher at the University of Arts and Culture in Mongolia.  Mongolian calligraphy is written in the traditional Mongolian 'bichig script' vertically down the page. In 2013, Mongolian Calligraphy was inscribed on the 'UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding'. The reward  for a £250 pledge for the Mongolia Project Kickstarter Campaign includes a hand painting of your choice by Ida. 

Working in conjunction with Arthub Gallery, The Mongolia Project will showcase art forms as varied as performance, sculpture, film, photography, painting and installation art.

They have an endorsement and assistance from The Embassy of Mongolia UK and The University of Art and Culture, Mongolia - including  an invitation from the university to collaborate with them to produce work for the show.

And now they are at the fundraising stage - through their Kickstarter Campaign. This is your opportunity to be part of something new and exciting in the Mongolian art world and cultural scene. For more information visit their website, or their Kickstarter Campaign. Also, if you are an artist, Mongolian or international (with experience of Mongolia), would you like to exhibit your work with The Mongolia Project then they are looking for further artists or people to get involved who are inspired by the remarkable country that is Mongolia. 

12 April 2015

Food Of The Nomads - Mongolia's Ultimate Street Food

If you're a regular to my blog (thank you!), then you'll know I've previously written other posts under the heading Food of the Nomads. Because Mongolian food gets such a bad rap from travellers and guide book writers and....well, almost anyone who isn't Mongolian, I thought I would run a series of posts introducing you to the delights of a typical Mongolian table. And that's not meant to be sarcastic.

So far you've been introduced to khorkhog (the REAL Mongolian barbecue) and what to expect during Mongolian Lunar New Year (a whole lot of dumplings). So. now for your introduction to khuurshuur.

The oranges are for decoration purposes only ;-)

First, you have to battle with the spelling and pronunciation but once you've won those two small challenges, all you have to do is eat this delicious Mongolian staple. Basically, khuushuur are Mongolia’s version of a handheld meat pastry. It’s a circle of wheat flour dough folded in half around a filling of minced or ground mutton, sometimes beef, and deep-fried. The meat is typically seasoned with onion and salt. 

For vegetarians, these can easily be made with vegetables - usually potato, cabbage and carrots are the main vegetarian ingredients if you're buying them in Mongolia at a road-side guanz (restaurant but this description would probably lead to expectations that wouldn't necessarily be met!).

Cooking up a storm in Bulgan in Omnogobi Aimag. This is one of my favourite road-side gers selling freshly made khuushuur.
By now, you probably have worked out that I like Mongolian food. Just to prove that others do like it, here is one of EL's  repeat guests Emer Levins writing about her love of khuurshuur:

'It was on the train that I first heard the word khuushuur. A local cross-border trader had joined my carriage as I travelled from Russia into Mongolia. As we struck up a conversation we inevitably ended up on the topic of all things best in Mongolia. When it came to food khuushuur and buuz (dumplings) were his top tips. However, if I’m honest buuz was easy but khuurshuur took me a bit of time to get my head around. It took several tries on his part before I could make out what the word was and then several goes on my part before I could pronounce it in any form that he approved of.  The way I remember how to pronounce is like this  - hore-shore. 

However, having tasted it I will forever remember how to pronounce it as it’s Mongolia’s most delicious and abundant fast food. A firm favourite with Mongolians, it usually makes an appearance at a stall or two at festivals and can be found in most local restaurants in the aimags (towns). You’ll find the drivers will never turn down the offer of some khuurshuur! 

So, what is khuurshuur? It usually comes approx the same size as a small pitta bread, crescent in shape and filled with deliciously flavoured mutton.  It’s typically deep fried and at its best when hot.  Sharing some khuurshuur with new friends or old, in a dusty van in a new aimag or at a festival with a bottle of beer is a uniquely Mongolian experience.  Highly recommended to all who travel  through the open expanse of this land.'

Waiting for our dinner in the small town of Zereg in Khovd Aimag in Western Mongolia. You probably will never pass through but it's worth stopping for the khuurshuur. Some of the best in Mongolia!
There's no need to go upmarket. Just grab napkins and eat. Mongolian's add spicy ketchup or Maggi sauce to accompany khuurshuur. They cost between 800 and 1500 tugrik each,  an absolute delicious bargain! 

If you've been to Mongolia, please let me know what your favourite local food was. If not, and you're thinking of visiting, what are your concerns about the food? I always like to know. It helps with menu planning :-) Please do get in touch, Jess

8 April 2015

Expeditions to Mongolia

Most of you will have heard of Indiana Jones? Did you know that Steven Spielberg  apparently based his character on 20th century explorer-scientist Roy Chapman Andrews? Roy Chapman Andrews led the Central Asiatic Expeditions to  Mongolia's Gobi in the 1920's.

Roy Chapman Andrews 1928, being made aware of an approaching caravan.

Image Source - www.amnh.org
Mongolia has been attracting explorers and those with wanderlust for centuries.  The country continues to provide a genuine challenge that takes adventurers through  some of the most remote and challenging routes through some of the most stunning regions to be found anywhere on earth. 

Mildred Cable was a missionary who travelled extensively in western and northwestern China in the 1920’s. She was a  prolific writer, chronicling not just her missionary work, but her travels as well.  A number of her books (co-authored by her colleague Fransesca French) are considered ‘classics’  because of their descriptions of life in western and northwestern China in the first half of the twentieth century.

And for 2015, we are proud to be assisting Jack Toulson with his epic 3-month trek to eastern Mongolia - a planned solo expedition to cross Mongolia. On horseback. Two horses actually (as Jack writes on his expedition page). 

'With the world in a seemingly endless rush to get its hands on a Black Friday Asda telly, what better time to embark on a nostalgic adventure harking back to the good old days of equine exploration. Forget doing it fast or furthest. Just enjoy doing it. 
Ever since I could speak, I spoke of horses. Now I have the time and energy to do something few people would think of, or it turns out, care to do. Ride across Mongolia and visit one of the last nomadic horse cultures left. Really visit. Learn what it means to live or die by your horsemanship.'

Born in Denmark, Henning Haslund originally traveled  to Mongolia in 1923, ostensibly to help run an experimental agricultural project.  Henning, who was an excellent horseman, had already explored far afield by the time the farm failed. Henning was introduced to Swedish Sven Hedin, another  Central Asian explorer in whose company  he  spent several years exploring the Gobi desert and learning the basics of scientific research
Jack's planned expedition has been recognised by The Long Riders Guild. The what? The Long Riders' Guild is the world's first international association of equestrian explorers, and is an invitation-only organisation. It was formed in 1994 to represent men and women of all nations who have ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey.
 'The Long Riders Guild marks the first time in modern equestrian history that like-minded men and women are combining efforts to preserve a hitherto unmarked heritage and provide an international forum to discuss our mutual love of horses and travel. We believe the only valid definition of a Long Rider should be courage in the face of danger, resolve in the presence of hardship, and continual compassion for our horses.'

Tim Cope  was awarded National Geographic Adventure Honoree 2007 and Australian Adventurer of the year 2006.  His most renowned journey was a three and a half year odyssey from Mongolia to Hungary by horse on the trail of Genghis Khan and in the spirit of the nomads of the steppe.

Image Source - www.timcopejourneys.com
Of course, the whole success of such an expedition depends on the generosity, help and time of Mongolia's nomadic herding communities - he'll be relying on their local knowledge as the best place to access water and fodder for his horses. Also, they'll warn him of imminent bad weather and provide him with shelter. 

 Rob Lilwall and Leon McCarron spent 6 months on their  5,000 km Walking Home From Mongolia expedition. From the Gobi Desert down to Hong Kong their route included following the Great Wall of China, paddling a stretch of the Yellow River, and trekking through the mountains of central China.

Image Source - 
Through the expedition, Jack will be raising funds for CAMDA  - the Cambridge Mongolia Devleopment Appeal. CAMDA is dedicated to  supporting and bringing resources to Mongolia’s herders - not just by  focusing  on just financial aid, but real practical help, the sort that makes a long term difference. This is one of the projects that we support and their essential work includes the restoration and replacement of fresh-water wells in addition to providing machinery to aid in crop harvesting during the short harvest period.
As Jack says:
'The money raised here will continue to do good work long after I return, and perhaps will go someway to repaying the kindness of people that have very little to give, but give it freely and without expectation. People who live in a harmonious battle with nature.'

In the summer of 2014, Ash Dykes walked across Mongolia, solo, and set a new world record in the process.  From the Altai Mountains, across the Gobi Desert to the Mongolian steppe, Ash covered more than 1500 miles alone on foot, pulling a 120kg cart of provisions behind him. During this epic test of endurance and stamina, Ash battled sandstorms, heat exhaustion and dehydration and became known to the natives as ‘the lonely snow leopard’. 

Image Source - www.ashdykes.com
Jack Toulson has  access to the huge wealth of knowledge and expertise of the Long Rider's Guild in equine based exploration. He also has the help and support of Hilary Bradt - founder of the Bradt Guides as well as the assistance of CAMDA. Once he arrives in Mongolia, Turuu and I have offered our time freely to assist on the final route planning as well as last minute equipment purchases. We will also give him advice on handling Mongolia's customs and traditions. 

If you would like to acknowledge the effort of Jack Toulson and help support the essential work that CAMDA does in Mongolia, then this link will take you to Jack's fundraising page. If you have any questions about CAMDA and where your donation will be spent then do not hesitate to get in touch. 

Jack uses  a quote by Sir Francis Richard Burton on his website. I'll finish this post with those words:
'Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks is the departure upon a distant journey to unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the Slavery of Home, man feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood….afresh dawns the morn of life…'

2 April 2015

Focus on Mongolia - March News

Those that are frequent visitors to my blog (thank you!) will know that every month I like to post a round-up of the news from Mongolia. 

I choose items that (in my mind) provide an overview as to the issues affecting the country as well as articles that provide an insight into the Mongolian culture.

Here's a brief summary as to what went on in March. 

Mongolian Imagery Exhibition - 976 Art Gallery - March 4th - 30th

State Honoured Artist Ts.Tsegmed opened his solo exhibition 'Mongolian Imagery' on the 4th of March. 

If you look at the images I’ve posted, you’ll notice that most of his artwork features camels instead of horses. This is because Ts.Tsegmed was born and raised in the Gobi region.

News item and images from UB Post

International Women's Day - March 8th

As you may already know, March 8th is International Women's Day. The official United Nations theme  for 2015 was  'Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!' IWD is acknowledged throughout Mongolia as an official public holiday. 

In Mongolia,  the Heavenly Mothers Event was held for 1,000 women at Independence Palace to celebrate IWD. The Vice Chairwoman of the Social Democratic Women’s Association of Mongolia (Ch.Undarmaa) attended the event and there were discussions on employment and family and social welfare issues. There was also an awards ceremony with honours granted to women recognised for their achievements and their contribution to the community. 

News item from UB Post

For IWD, Mongolia's Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg welcomed representatives of mothers and girls at the Government House on March 6th. 

Image from InfoMongolia

One Billion Rising Revolution Flash Mob 

I must admit I had not heard of the One Billion Rising Revolution so with the help of an internet search:

'One Billion Rising is the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history.  The campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.'

On March 8th, Oyundari Baynbaatar of Mongolia's Beautiful Hearts Campaign NGO, organised for the One Billion Rising Revolution Flash Mob to take to Chinggis Square as part of IWD and as part of the One Billion Rising Revolution movement to raise awareness on violence against women.

The Beautiful Hearts Campaign NGO works to end child sexual abuse in Mongolia and to protect the rights of girls and young women. It provides psycho-social rehabilitation services and works to raise public awareness.

(On February 28th, over 10,000 people gathered in Chinggis Square at 6pm to mourn a four-year-old victim of domestic violence. A total of 5177 signatures were collected for a petition, written by the vigil’s organisers, asking for the government to improve efforts against child abuse and domestic violence.)

News item from UB Post

Soldier’s Day - March 18th

Image source UB Post

On March 18th, Mongolia celebrated its Soldier’s Day. 2015 was the 94th anniversary of the founding of Mongolia’s contemporary army when the Mongolian revolutionary Sukhbaatar (the guy on a horse in Chinggis (formally Sukhbaatar) Square in UB) led a guerrilla army in 1921 against the Chinese and won back the Mongolian part of Kyakhta. From 2003, March 18th was commemorate as Mongolian Armed Forces Day - changing in 2012 to Soldier’s Day. 

The below image (Source - Wikipedia), is from March 18th 2010 in Afghanistan  with members of the Mongolian Expeditionary Task Force 1 stand in formation for the (as it was then called) Mongolian Armed Forces Day.

News item from InfoMongolia

March 22nd - 34th Anniversary of Mongolia’s first participation in a space flight

March 22nd marked the 34th anniversary of Mongolia’s first participation in a space flight. Jugderdemidiin Gurragcha was the first Mongolian and only the second Asian to go into space.  He studied aerospace engineering at the Zhukovsky Military Engineering Academy in Ulaanbaatar graduating in 1977. He then joined the Mongolian Air Force as an aeronautical engineer and rose to the rank of major general. 

Image source www.britannica.com
In March 1978 he was selected to participate in the Soviet Union’s eighth international Intercosmos mission (launched from Kazakhstan and spending nearly eight days in space).   Gurragcha was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. He later became Chief of Staff of Air Defence for the Mongolian Armed Forces. From 2000 to 2004 he served as the Minister of Defence.

When asked about how we can prepare future astronauts, J.Gurragchaa replied:
‘The relevance of space flight is in research, which must contribute significantly to the development of the country, its people, and technological advancement. Preparing astronauts has little to do with it. Mongolia is in need of an organization to define the state’s space policy. We must have a national space studies advisory board to support state policy. Even though such an organization exists, their activities are unclear.’

News item from UB Post

March 25th - First rainfall of the year

Khatgal soum - a district of Khovsgol Aimag in northern Mongolia where Khovsgol Nuur (Khovsgol Lake) is located - received the first rainfall of the year in Mongolia on the evening of March 25th. (The area had received snow fall throughout the winter but this is the first rainfall). 

(If you're wondering why I put this in, look at it from the perspective of a Mongolian herder. Rain brings growth to the pasture.)

On March 26th,  light snow and rain fell in Ulaanbaatar. Western and central regions experienced snow and rain in the days after. The average wind speed was seven to twelve meters per second, blowing from the north-west  country wide. In the Altai Mountains and Gobi regions, the wind speed temporarily reached 16 to 18 meters per second, with dust storms.

Khovsgol Nuur in early December as taken by Turuu on one of our Winter Journey departures