27 March 2016

Mongolia One Day Experiences - Mongolia Quilting Centre


Short visit to Mongolia?  I have arranged a series of one-day experiences in and around Ulaanbaatar. This post includes an interview with the founder of the Mongolian Quilting Centre - one of the projects we work that is helping us to provide authentic one-day experiences. 



As I write this, the Mongolia International Travel Mart is currently taking place in Ulaanbaatar.

It's the 17th year of operation and co-organised by the Ministry of Nature, Green Development and Tourism and the Mongolia Tourism Association.

One exhibitor at the Misheel Expo Centre is the Mongolia Quilting Centre - I have mentioned the organisation and their work a few times on my blog. Here's their beautiful and vibrant stand at the ITM.


Just so you're in the know (!), Mongolia Quilts is an NGO. Selenge Tserendash is the director (seen below at the ITM with some of the women that Mongolian Quilts supports).


The Mongolian Quilting Centre is known more formally as the New Way Life NGO - established in 2005 to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged and unemployed women based in Ulaanbaatar and in rural areas. They are trained in the art of quilting, textiles and embroidery and use their skills to generate income for their families by crafting products to sell.

As well as making everyday items such as tote bags and tablecloths, the centre also create individual
pieces of fabric artwork made from discarded and recycled material such as their stunning wall hangings.

As part of the Eternal Landscapes Responsible Travel philosophy, I ask Mongolia Quilts to make  EL tote bags as a welcome gift to our guests. During one of my last pick-ups from the centre, I spent a little time with Selenge asking her about her motivation in setting up Mongolia Quilts.


What was your motivation in setting up Mongolia Quilts?

I am a single mother. But, I worked as a lawyer and also used my education and language skills to work as a tour guide.  I was aware that other single mothers didn't have the security provided by education like I had. They were also in a situation where they couldn't work because they needed to be at home. 

As a Buddhist, I wanted to provide some sort of support and thought of ways to start at income generation project.

Why Quilting?

Old clothing and material remnants are relatively easy to come by and cheap to purchase here in Mongolia. They are very easy to use to turn into products such as cushions or tablecloths and with embroidery they can be made beautiful and unique. It is something that can be made by an individual person in their home and the only equipment needed is a sewing machine. It also becomes an ecological product - because it is used and then re-used.

Also, embroidery skills are part of the traditional culture of Mongolia. 

What are the challenges?

Being based in Ulaanbaatar. It is a challenging city. My dream is to live in the Mongolian countryside. In nature. Also, trying to find a personal regular salary can be difficult. It can be tough.

But, I am wealthier in my friendships with genuine people. My work as the Director of Mongolian Quilts provides me with a balance in life. My work fulfils my happiness. 

And back over to me briefly...


Are you interested in the work of Mongolian Quilts? As part of my series of Mongolia one-day experiences, you can spend the day at the Mongolian Quilting Centre and workshop in Ulaanbaatar. You spend the day working alongside some of the women supported by  the NGO. It's an informal insight into the workings of a small NGO as well as a way to meet local people and be part of their ideas and fears. You’ll also come away with a fantastic Mongolian style wall hanging.

‘It was amazing to meet Selenge and all of the women at the quilting centre. It was areally inspiring experience to get to see the wonderful work they are doing there and learn all about the projects they are doing! They were incredibly welcoming and it was really great to spend some time there with them.’

Emma, 2015

The price is from US$ 107pp and includes a donation of 100,000 MNT per person to the centre. Also, lunch and the services one of the EL team to help with translation!






24 March 2016

A Month In The Life Of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia


What did you get up to in March? Here's a brief glimpse into the world of Eternal Landscapes this March. Everything from Ger Area Tours of Ulaanbaatar to the Ice Festival at Khovsgol Nuur National Park.




A majority of tour companies that operate in Mongolia close for the winter and early spring months. We don't.  Here's a brief glimpse into the world of EL in March. 

We'll start with a photo...

(It's not of the best quality nor the most thrilling or life changing but a photo it is)



Staff Training - Conservation Practises
On the left is Tuya, one of my EL trip assistants. Yes, she is holding a stuffed toy fox. On the right is Tungalagtuya Kh of Nomadic Nature Conservation -   a zoologist, and specialist of the grey wolf (Canis lupus) in Mongolia. I have arranged a series of training events in conservation and sustainability for my trip assistants.
This is in collaboration with Tungalagtuya Kh and also equine scientist and researcher Anne-Camille Souris of the Association Goviin Khulan.  We work closely with Association Goviin Khulan including providing small specialist conservation based expeditions in alliance with them
My team also recently did a training event at Khustain Nuruu National Park focusing on the wild Takhi horses with equine scientist and researcher Anne-Camille Souris of the Association Goviin Khulan. 
Here's a few images from the training day by Anne-Camille Souris.



Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

This is Gorkhi Terelj National Park. Yes, Gorkhi-Terelj is well developed for tourism and is a key location for international visitors and can feel busy.  But, sometimes it's not necessarily where you visit but the way in which you visit. 

For those travelling looking to travel out of season or on the Trans Siberian we offer short trips focusing on the 'real' Mongolia. One of the destinations we include is Gorkhi-Terelj where the main focus of your experience is staying with Naraa and Bujee - a modern herding family that move twice a year. You can learn more about our Mongolia short tour experiences here.



Ger Area Tour - Ulaanbaatar



Nogoon Nuur (Green Lake) is located in the ger district area of Denjin Hill in Ulaanbaatar. It is actually an abandoned quarry that has been turned into a privately-run community park. In the winter it turns into a skating rink, in the summer there's an area for basketball and a small lake for the local children to sail boats on. 

It might not look like much to you as an outside observer, but this is just one way in which local communities within Ulaanbaatar's ger districts are working to transform the local areas in which they live.


One of our recent guests took a tour with the Ulaanbaatar based Ger Area Tour -  a Mongolian NGO that we work with.  The purpose of the ger area tours is not to commercialise  the 'spectacle' of the ger area, but to humanize it. Ger Area Tour want to give people the opportunity to discover that the ger area is not a slum, but a unique part of UB with endless potential.  Its aim is to improve the image of the ger district in UB and even better, all profit goes to the community members.


If you're interested, we include a Ger Area Tour as one of our one-day Mongolia experiences.



Khovsgol On Ice Winter Small Group Trip

At the beginning of March on the 3rd and 4th, Khovsgol Province in northern Mongolia hosts the Ice Festival  - held over 2 days. During the winter months, Khovsgol Nuur freezes over and forms the venue outside the small community of Khatgal. The festival is held to promote tourism outside of the main tourist season and events include ice sculpting, ice sumo, ice ankle bone shooting and horse sled races.

I absolutely love this great image of our guests and the EL trip assistants, hanging out on the ice. 

I love this one too of Turuu (my business partner and EL's lead driver) with his beloved Furgon. 
You can learn more about our Mongolia winter trips here.

Ulaanbaatar Eagle Festival




And now back to Ulaanbaatar and the UB Eagle Festival. This one-day event is arranged by  the Chingisiin Khuree Tourist Ger Camp together with the governor’s office of Bayan Ulgii Province. It forms part of the winter festival events that take place as a way of promoting tourism to Mongolia outside of the main season.
Roughly 20 Kazakh eagle hunters travel from the Altai to Ulaanbaatar to take part in this short one-day festival. As well as eagle hunting demonstrations there are also traditional Kazakh horse games. I sent Onorbat (one of my EL drivers) along to catch some of the action. 

You can read more about either of these two festivals and how you can visit them on the Mongolia Festivals page of my website.


In The Media


This image was taken by our guest - photographer Massimo Rumi who travelled with us back in October 2015. This March, a few photographs from his time in the Altai with us were published online this March by the UK Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers. 

Dartmoor National Park Eternal Landscapes Weekend

And for something completely different. As part of my winter series of events, when I'm back in the UK I invite our UK based guests to come and join me for a free weekend on my home stomping ground of Dartmoor National Park. Dartmoor is my back garden and my home when I am not in Mongolia. It’s where I formulate a lot of my plans and ideas. It’s not the same as Mongolia, but the wide open spaces and weather can still challenge and inspire in the same way that Mongolia can.
The weekends are relaxed, laid back and informal and a chance for friends of EL to come and enjoy being in wide open landscapes and talk about all things Mongolian. The views aren't bad either!

15 March 2016

Mongolia Winter Trip - Khovsgol On Ice Review


Interested in a winter based trip to Mongolia? This post might inspire! It includes images from our February 23rd - March 5th, Khovsgol On Ice winter tour. Wrap up warm and come and join us in 2017!




Let's start off with a photo.


This is Turuu with his beloved Furgon on the ice at Khovsgol Nuur. I love this image.


We don’t ‘close’ for the winter months. For those looking to experience Mongolia differently, we offer winter explorations. Our February 23rd Khovsgol On Ice small group experience was one of these. We were joined by Yi-Hsin and Sally-Anne. 
 I offer all our winter festival experiences as a 'road trip'. None of this fly in, tick it off and fly out again style of travel. I believe that flying from place to place gives you no context of location,  no real experience of the country or the lives of the people in-between. That’s why my winter festival experiences focus on travelling across country - it slows you down and gives you time to experience the ‘places in between’, the places and communities not actually mentioned in the guidebooks. The landscapes take on an extraordinary beauty in the winter, and being part of them is the only way to experience them. 
(Anyway,  the domestic flights are often delayed or cancelled at this time of year!!)
Interested? Here's a few of the images taken by Turuu....when he wasn't battling the weather and road conditions. 

Gorkhi-Terelj National Park 



At Gorkhi Terelj National Park - the winter pasture of herding family Naraa and Bujee 'The opportunities to meet local people we met were very important in getting to know about Mongolia' - Sally-Anne.

Aglag Buteel Khiid



 Since the collapse of communism in the 1990’s and as Mongolia’s religious freedom has returned, a number of Buddhist monasteries have been newly established. Aglag Buteel is one of these. Established by Mongolia’s renowned Buddhist lama and artist Purevbat, it is located within a stunning mountain forest steppe landscape.  Granite rocks have been carved as statues of Buddhist tradition, each signifying a particular symbolic meaning.  There is also a road ‘a kora’ meditation route designed to harmonise with the natural environment.

'Everything was a revelation. The scenery of Mongolia is stunning and driving through it was so enjoyable. Visiting the monasteries and seeing the creativity in the landscape' - Sally-Anne.

Selenge River Valley



'Love the slower travel philosophy that gave us more time to experience the amazing landscapes' - Yi-Hsin.

Khovsgol Nuur National Park and Ice Festival

 The Ice Festival is held over 2 days at Lake Khovsgol. In winter the lake freezes over and forms the venue outside the small community of Khatgal. Held to promote tourism outside of the main tourist season events include ice sculpting, ice sumo, ice ankle bone shooting and horse sled races.


The group were hosted at Khovsgol by Basaanchuluu (Bambakh for short!). Bambakh is  head of a young family of traditional ‘malchin’ or herders who make their home in the mountain forest steppe roughly 8km from the small community of Khatgal at the southern edge of Khovsgol Nuur.

'I really enjoyed being able to visit/interact with local people and just get a brief glimpse into their way of life' - Yi-Hsin.







'The Ice Festival was a true local gathering and seeing people turning up in their sleighs and cars and enjoying the sculptures and events was special. People were very friendly' - Sally-Anne.

If you're interested in a similar experience, why not explore the Mongolia winter experiences that I offer? And yes, there are many companies and offering to help you to plan such an experience so why would you choose EL? I'll leave you with the words of Yi-Hsin"
'I've been trying to travel in ways that give back to the local communities whenever possible, instead of funnelling money to overseas owners while paying locals minimum wage. Also, I've traveled with other companies, where when you ask questions about the tour it's obvious that the person answering your question has probably never been to the country you're going to. I really like that EL is a small company and the people in charge are still really connected with what's happening on the ground.'

11 March 2016

In Honour Of International Women's Day In Mongolia

As you may already know, March 8th was International Women's Day.  In Mongolia, it is celebrated as a national holiday.


The official United Nations theme  for the 2016 International Women's Day was 'Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.' When I read this I wasn't entirely sure what it meant. After a little research, it basically comes down to working to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. 

If you did a Google search for anything on March 8th, you may have seen the Google Doodle marking International Women's Day. It featured  women and girls across the world completing the sentence ‘One day I will’, talking about their dreams and ambitions.

How does this all relate to Eternal Landscapes?

Those of you who have travelled with us know that I employ only female trip assistants.  They are not professional slick tour guides. Instead they are Mongolian females working in tourism as a way of improving their lives, to support their family and for the independence it brings.

Some of my female trip assistants during a winter picnic with Turuu as the chosen one!


During Naadam 2015
At the EL end of year party
Eternal Landscapes is about my love of Mongolia. It's also about my belief in providing the chance to others - drivers and 'guides' that other companies won't take as they don't fit the stereotype. My business philosophy is not only to help provide support to local Mongolians but also to provide training and development opportunities to those who want the opportunity to work in tourism but who don't have the professional qualifications to work for our larger competitors. 

‘My Girls’ are a mum of two, an international school librarian, a dedicated student, a journalist and English teachers…. Pride runs deep in my girls and I have chosen them as they have a willingness to do right, a desire to learn and have a genuine love for and connection with their country. 

Anything that Google does, I can do (!!) so to honour International Women's Day and to honour my briliant female team, this post is dedicated to them. It's the Jess version of Google's 'one day I will!' Unfortunately, not the whole team is represented. 

Enkhee




Enkhee is from the small community of Chuluut in Arkhangai Aimag, although her base in now in Ulaanbaatar.

What Do You Most Want For Women In Mongolia?

For Mongolian women to be healthy. For their families to be happy and together.  Also, not to lack money.


What are your wishes for your own life?

I wish for my life to be good throughout. I want to be healthy, have a good job and to create my own family. I also wish for my mum's illness to get better so she no longer suffers.


Odnoo




Odnoo is from the small community of Erdenedalai in Dundgobi Aimag where she works as a qualified English teacher.



What Do You Most Want For Women In Mongolia?

To help empower Mongolian women by organising and arranging meetings and sports events in rural Mongolia to bring women together. 


What are your wishes for your own life?

To make it interesting and powerful. And to carry on playing sports as much as I can.


Tomoko


A dedicated mother of two, Tomoko (Big Khaliunaa) is based in Ulaanbaatar where she is currently working as management at the Khaan Deli - a small community business set-up by our other Khaliunaa.



What Do You Most Want For Women In Mongolia?

That their children grow up healthily and are well educated.


What are your wishes for your own life?


I want my children to grow up as good people. I want to study more. I want to travel abroad with my friends.



Chimgee




Cousins with Enkhee, Chimgee is also from the small community of Chuluut in Arkhangai Aimag, although her base in now in Ulaanbaatar.


What Do You Most Want For Women In Mongolia?


To receive a good education. For their families and children to have access to enough food and money so their lives are stable and happy.

What are your wishes for your own life?

I want to study abroad and travel. I would like a professional job, to earn a good income to be able to support a healthy and happy family.


Oyunaa

Part of our large Erdenedalai family, Oyunaa is based in Ulaanbaatar and is  a student at one of Mongolia's top universities. 




What Do You Most Want For Women In Mongolia?

Gender equality. Even though Mongolian women are freer than in other Asian countries, there is still a stereotype. 


What are your wishes for your own life?

A fair and quality education is what I wish for. Also, healthy living - at the moment there are many environmental problems.


Use the following link to find out more about who we are - my brilliant Eternal Landscapes Mongolian family.  If you're interested in seeing the style of trips we work on together as a team, then why not have a look at the Mongolia holidays that we offer?!

And yes! There is an International Man's Day....November 19th and celebrated in 60 countries! And to make sure they're represented, here are the brilliant EL drivers as you have probably never seen them before - minus their beloved Furgons and without their hats and deels!