Fly to: Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia
Internal Transfer: Ulaan Bataar - Olgii (3hrs 30mins)
Ex-Soviet 4x4 Jeeps 9hrs driving without roads across the steppe to Potaniin Glacier, Altai Mountains
Visa required: Yes if British
Time Zone:+8hrs GMT
Day 1, 20/07/09: Mongolia - Altai Mountains
The flight from Moscow to Mongolia's Capital Ulaan Baatar (AKA U.B or Red Hero) took approximately 6hrs and we arrived at about 7am; the outside temperature was already a respectable 22 degrees.
As we drove from the airport there was a huge glass domed building to the right hand side; our city guide (Baysaa) said that the building; to improve Olympic sports had be donated by the Chinese Government as a gift to Mongolia. Hmmm I'm not familiar with the words 'China' and 'altruistic gift' being used in the same sentence.
The architecture and layout around the outskirts of U.B reminded me of that which I'd previously seen in Cohaique, Chile; the difference being of course that rising from the circumference was an array of striking looking dusty brown 2,000m peaks. Our destination was 'The palace Hotel' - wow what can I say about this place - gorgeous. I had a room to myself with two double beds and an amazing bathroom. From here we headed out to have lunch at the 'Veranda' restaurant overlooking the old, Chinese/Tibetan influenced sector of the Capital.
Lunch was followed by a visit to the Buddhist temples at the Gandantegchenling Monastery. The Migjed Janraisig is a temple for the veneration of Janraisig (Chenresig in Tibetan), the Bodhisattva of Compassion; where inside at 26.5m stands the Janraisig Statue; made from copper (from the Erdenet Mine) and is gilded in gold; apparently this is the 2nd largest in the world.
As we walked from the temples the area was shrouded in a mass of pigeons; it was quite incredible because a small child ran through them and all the birds took flight simultaneously in a frenzied flitter; bizarrely however, there was absolutely no sound - it happened in the most incredible moment of utter silence. Never have I experienced a moment quite like it; completely surreal yet at the same time it felt immensely spiritual.