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China and Mongolia Land of Dynasties


Beijing to see family, also a trip Huanglong and Jiuzhaigou

The   primary   purpose   of   our   visit   was   to   see   our   son,   Julian,   his   wife,   Anna   and   our   4 month   old   grandson,   Mali.   We   enjoyed   many   days   and   evenings   sharing   their   lifestyle, visiting    Julian’s    school,    dining    and    drinking    at    their    local    favourites    and    spending    a wonderful weekend in the countryside. As   we   had   visited   Beijing   many   times,   tourist   sites   were   not   top   of   our   list.   However,   we did   enjoy   a   few   new   experiences   –   Beijing   Ming   City   Wall   Ruins   park,   Yonghegong   Temple and   a   tour   of   the   Dashilan   district   meeting   some   of   the   old   locals   arranged   by   Beijing Postcards. We   took   a   3   hour   flight   from   Beijing   to   Jiuzhaigou   to   visit   two   of   China's   most   beautiful secrets   -   the   Huanglong   colourful   lakes   and   the   Jiuzhai   nine   villages   Valley.   The   area   is   off the   beaten   track,   in   the   north   of   Sichuan   Province   and   doesn’t   have   many   Western   or Australasian   visitors   –   we   saw   only   10   in   our   4   days   there.   I   can   only   describe   the   area   as one of the most stunning sceneries I have ever seen.


We travelled to the Gobi Desert in the south, Lake Khovsgol in the

north, the Delger river to the west of Ulaanbaatar and Terelj

National Park to the east.

Landlocked   by   China   and   Russia,   Mongolia   is   mostly   a   vast   open   land   of   dried   grass steppe   with   no   fences,   where   horsemen   and   animals   roam   free.   It’s   a   land   of   extreme weather. With 1,564,116 sq km (603,909 sq mi) of land, Mongolia is the 18th largest country in the world by land mass yet it only has a population of just three million people. I was struck by what a unique place this was. The Mongolian people are very proud of their nomadic background and a significant part of the population still live this lifestyle. Where else on earth do you find people living exactly as they did 10,000 years ago? The nomads living in Gers live entirely off the land, and their livestock. Most travel on horseback and camel, although a few have acquired motorbikes. Around 1.7 million Mongolians live in the countryside, either in smaller communities or as nomadic herders on the highland steppe or vegetated regions of the desert, with the remainder living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city. The majority of its population are Buddhist. Mongolia    is    widely    known    for    the    notorious    founder    of    the    13th-    and    14th-century Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan, known locally as Chinggis Khaan. From   the   end   of   the   17th   century   until   1911,   Mongolia   was   under   the   control   of   China. Soon   after   that,   they   fell   under   Russian   hegemony   and   in   1924   were   declared   a   satellite state   of   the   Soviet   Empire.   It   wasn’t   until   1989   that   Russia   withdrew   its   troops   from Mongolia.   In   1992,   Mongolia   created   a   new   constitution   and   a   multi-party   democracy. Mongolia is thus a very young country, and a very old one. It’s    ironic    that    China    still    lays    claim    to    Mongolia,    yet    in    the    13th    and    14th    century Mongolia controlled China. Weather   -   Mongolia   is   renowned   for   fast-changing   weather   fronts.   It   may   be   a   warm sunny   morning   and   a   windy,   rainy   afternoon.   One   day   can   be   30   degrees,   then   next   day 10.   However,   weather   passes   quickly,   especially   bad   weather.   We   visited   in   June   which   is late   Spring   and   changeable.      In   the   Gobi,   it   was   breezy   but   warm   25-30C   degrees   during the   day,   and   not   less   than   15   at   night.   We   had   a   blinding   sand   storm   whilst   attending   the Naadam   Festival   in   the   Gobi,   which,   sadly,   forced   us   to   leave   early.   Up   North   it   was   about 20C during the day, but as soon as the sun's heat fades at 6-7pm it dropped to 6C.

Genghis Khan and Kubilai Khan

Mongolia is widely known for the notorious founder of the 13th- and 14th-century Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan, known locally as Chinggis Khaan. He conquered huge areas of land in China and Asia, as far west as Turkey and Poland to establish the largest land empire in history. Many people were slaughtered in the course of Genghis Khan’s invasions, but he also granted religious freedom to his subjects, abolished torture, encouraged trade and created the first international postal system. Genghis Khan’s grandson Kubilai Khan is one of the most prominent and accomplished emperors born in Genghis Khan’s clan. Yet, he was more favoured in China than in Mongolia. The majority of the dynasty he built up was in China, rather than in Central Asia. Therefore, it must have made sense for him to have a capital city at the centre of his dynasty in Dadu (today’s Beijing) rather than at the northern west corner at Karakorum. Not only was Beijing central but also its climate was much milder compared to Karakorum which has cold winter and hot summer.

Yurts, Gers and


We call them Yurts - the locals call them Gers. Gers are made of thick felt from their own animals, heated by a fire of animal dung and a few bits of wood (there are no trees in the Gobi Desert so it’s not clear where they get the wood from). The Gers can be dismantled within a few hours and moved by camel. And you know the traditional American Indian Teepee, well, in some regions of Mongolia they have the same thing - they call those Yurts. It’s all very confusing. But while in Mongolia, call them by their local name, Ger. The only sign of modernisation, starting to appear, is that some have motorbikes and the occasional cell phone.
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