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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