It’s the last installment of my six part series. This week it’s going to be what I haven’t done yet. Of course, it’s an endless list, even for one country, because there’s always something new crossing one’s radar. But I wrote down the first six thoughts that came to mind and found that I do have a good list of things that I really do want to do or see and that are reasonably achievable.
Not having done them yet, I don’t have images. But I’ll share some which I took on previous trips that are related and also have inspired my list.
1. Gallop on a horse across the countryside– I am not a rider, but I’ve always wanted to do this (maybe it was all the western movies I watched as a kid). I looked into it once and the riding teacher I spoke with said six weeks of lessons at least to get to that point. Needless to say that didn’t happen. But in Mongolia…..I trust the horses and the horsemen, so maybe it’s possible. We’ll see.
2. Attend the Yak Festival– Now really, who could resist that? Not me, that’s for sure. My current understanding is that it was started by a dairy company and is held around the first weekend in August, which means I can probably go this year! According to the Wikipedia entry for “Yak Racing” the activities include “…yak racing and showing, wild stallion and yak rodeo riding, milking contests and other traditional Naadam events of horse racing, wrestling and archery.”
3. See Burkhan Khaldun– This is the sacred mountain where Chinggis Khan dedicated himself to Tenger, the Sky, went to pray and, on a few occasions, hide from enemies. It is still an important place in Mongol culture. I don’t know if non-Mongols are allowed or welcome onto the mountain, but I would like to see it.
4. Take a lesson in writing the ancient Mongol vertical script– Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I worked as a sign painter, graphic designer and calligrapher. I’ve always loved lettering and type. I spent a lot of time learning to letter with a sign painting quill (brush), along with pen and ink. “Oriental” brush lettering never particularly attracted me, however. Then I went to Mongolia and saw the vertical script, which Chinggis Khan adopted from the Uighar people because he realized that he couldn’t run his empire without a writing system. As you can see below, it’s still in use today, 800 years later. And it’s stunningly beautiful.
5. See Tsam Dancing– Today it’s a Buddhist ritual of relatively recent (late 18th century) origin, but it has it’s roots in ancient shamanistic beliefs. Basically an exorcism ritual, it has a set “cast of characters”. The fantastic costumes and masks must be seen to be believed. Fortunately, many of them are on display at the Chojin Lama Museum in Ulaanbaatar. When I saw them the first time, I was captivated without having a clue about what they were for. To see them in use would be wonderful. For a fuller explanation, go here.
6. Hike in snow leopard habitat-Which is a lot more realistic than saying “see a wild snow leopard”. There are between 500 and 1000 snow leopards in Mongolia, according to the Snow Leopard Trust. Their habitat covers over 100,000 sq. km, so obviously the odds of seeing one are really slim to none. But one can get out into the mountains where they live.