Desert escapade in Ulaanbaatar

Desert escapade in Ulaanbaatar

Words and photos by V. Sivaji

A trip to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar would be incomplete without a visit to the National Museum of Mongolian History located right in the heart of the ancient historical city.

The National Museum of Mongolian History

For those who are not students of history, Genghis Khan and his grandson, Kublai Khan, were the great rulers of the Mongol Empire.

The Zaisan Memorial

In its heydays, the Mongol Empire stretched from one end of the Asian continent to the other end; reaching the entire European continent and also conquered China.

Be ready to stand corrected when you mention the name of Genghis Khan, as it is rightfully spelled and pronounced as Chinggis Khan here.

Artefacts of the Mongol army ranging from their weapons, armour and clothing that could withstand the harsh weather conditions are on display here.

Another location to take in is the Zaisan Memorial which pays tribute to Russian soldiers who had fallen to safeguard Mongolia during the onslaught of the Japanese and Nazis during World War 2.

The picturesque view from the monastery at Terelj National Park

After climbing some 245 steps to the hilltop of the memorial, visitors are greeted with a panoramic view of the city and can feel the gust of strong cool wind.

More sights worth taking in are the Gandan Monastery which is still in its original state and is one of the most important and largest tourist attractions.

“Other places of interest are Choijin Lama Museum, Sukhbaatar Square, Tumen Ekh National Folk Group, Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, State Opera & Ballet Theatre.

“The State Opera & Ballet Theatre hosts colourful cultural, traditional folk dances, a contortionist showcase and other musical performances. Other than traditional sounds, the orchestra has also adopted modern numbers like “We Are The Champions” from the band, Queen.

View of the rolling mountains at Terelj National Park

Among the biggest tour agencies here is Juulchin World Tours which celebrated its 15th anniversary. Its corporate tagline of “One Mongolia, Many Adventures” says it all.

Its general manager Nara Delgersuren is friendly and helpful to share their tour packages which range from business trips, Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition (MICE) groups, cultural trips and adventure trips for visitors.

“The tourists are mainly from United States, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, France, Russia, China and Spain although small groups of Malaysians and Singaporeans are finding their way here to Ulaanbaatar nowadays.

“European tourists also travel on the Trans-Siberian train which takes them from Moscow, Ulaanbaatar to Beijing with many stops along the way.

“We also cater for tailor-made tours upon request with the Gobi desert trips, the 13th century ancient capital of Kharkhorin which is located some 380km from here and the clearwater lake 800km in the North called Khuvsgul.

“Other favourite attractions are the Terelj National Park where guests can view traditional performances, Mongolian wrestling showcase, visit the monastery, witness horse racing, and experience a stay in the traditional Ger (Traditional Mongolian home),” said Nara.

A typical Ger or traditional home in Mongolia

En route to the Terelj National Park, visitors can take in the picturesque sights and scenery along the way like the flowing mountain range with yaks and cattle dotting the route. Some of the mountain slopes are used for skiing during winter.

An elderly resident in front of her traditional home

Nara said Gers can accommodate small or large groups with the largest Ger lodge hosting 160 people with its 40 Gers at any one-time. They also have 27 luxury Gers which accommodate two guests each that are equipped comfortable beds, table, chairs, stove and also built-in bathrooms.

In Gobi Desert, Juulchin World Tours owns another luxury lodge, Gobi Naran.  It has 24 luxury Gers with en-suite facilities.  Gobi Naran is conveniently located and easily accessible to all attractions of the Gobi Desert.

“Our peak season is from June to October but occasionally Australians want to experience our winter and travel here all year around.”

The company has 60 full-time employees who are well-versed in English, German, Russian, Mandarin, French, Japanese while some 200 personnel would be recruited during peak seasons. It owns over 40 vehicles like tour buses, mini vans, jeeps, motorcycles and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV).

Juulchin World Tours has offices in Tokyo, Beijing, the USA, and a representative office in Spain.

Mongolian wrestlers in action

“We are also looking at the possibility of opening offices in Malaysia and Singapore as we see the growth potential there. In addition to inbound tours, we offer outbound tours and are currently the authorized ticket seller for the Olympic Games.  The next Olympic Games are the Winter Games in South Korea and the 2020 Summer Games in Japan.

“We own a three-star hotel in the city and are pleased that the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel Ulaanbaatar which opened two years ago with 290 luxury rooms has contributed to the MICE groups,” added Nara.

Juulchin World Tours is located at Marco Polo Place, Jamyan Gunil Street 5/3, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Tel +976- 319401 / 99113214.

Wild yaks roaming the plains of the Terelj National Park