Part 2: The 2016 WildArt Mongolia Expedition-South Into The Gobi


1. BTN goats and ger
Evening light at Boon Tsagaan Nuur

I’ve said for many years that in Mongolia, more than in most places, the journey really is the destination. It’s something most visitors miss with the usual emphasis tour companies have of going from sight to sight on paved roads. Eleven trips in twelve years and I’ve never been bored and have never slept while rolling. It takes time, effort and money for me to go to Mongolia every year and I don’t want to miss a minute of the limited time I have in the countryside. So while this week’s post doesn’t have a lot of incident or excitement, it will give you a chance to see a little of what’s “in between” on the road day to day, this time in the Gobi.

We hadn’t realized it when we set up camp at Boon Tsagaan Nuur, a remote lake in the Gobi, but we were not far from a herder’s ger (see above photo). A short walk towards the lake revealed it settled behind a dune. We found the goats and sheep to be entertaining, but could also see that they had grazed the grass down to the ground in the entire area except for one section that was fenced off, something one sees all too often these days.

1a. spotted goat
Loved the markings and color of this spotted cashmere goat.
3. BTN mt., lake, sheep
After breakfast we picked our way to the lakeshore through wet ground to do some birdwatching. The lake was rough with white caps and backed by a snowy mountain, Dund Argalant Nuruu. It was cold and windy.
2. BTN ruddy shelducks
A pair of ruddy shelducks flew over. That’s the lake at the bottom of the photo.
4. BTN great cormorants
There was also a flock of great cormorants.
5. Black-headed gulls
Black-headed gulls.

There were a number of shorebirds…plovers and a redshanks, but I couldn’t get close enough for decent photos.

6. BT me at lake
Did I say it was cold?

We left the lake driving south around the east shore, a route that I had not been on before, which was great!

7. BTN lake and ger
The lake was a deep indigo blue with white caps from the wind. This ger with a solar panel was the last one we saw for awhile.
8. snowy mt.
As we headed south it got warmer. There was an minor cognitive disconnect between driving through the warm Gobi and seeing heavy snow on the mountains from the front we’d driven through farther north two days earlier.
9. road shot, rocks
We started to climb through the first of a number of rugged passes. Grabbed this shot through the windshield of the Land Cruiser.
10. road shot, rocks
There were some impressive rock formations along the way.
11. apricot tree in bloom
And then we entered a stretch with quite a bit of vegetation, including flowering shrubs. I think this is a wild apricot. I’m usually in Mongolia later in the year when the fruits have already formed, so am not sure. But the pink flowers made quite a contrast with the edgy roughness of the rocks.
12. van, soyoloo
Our Russian fergon support van with our great cook. Soyoloo, waving from the passenger side. Fergons aren’t the most comfortable ride, but they will get you there. No electronics, all mechanical, with the engine between the front seats, which means it can be accessed without getting out of the car, highly desireable when it’s -30F  or 90F outside. And they can be fixed by the drivers, who know them inside out and backward, on the road.
13. gers, mt.
I always try to get photos of gers in the landscape, maybe THE quintessential Mongolian  countryside scene.
14. ger dogs
Also part of the landscape, ger dogs chasing one’s vehicle as a send-off after a visit. The traditional greeting upon approaching a herder’s ger is “nokhoi ga”….”Hold the dog!”. I never, ever, ever get out of the car or van until told to do so by the driver or guide since they can be highly aggressive and are not vaccinated against rabies or anything else.
15. van, lunch stop
View from one of our lunch stops. Blue sky, fluffy clouds, open space that goes on for hundreds of kilometers.
16. lunch stop, herders
But deserted? Not at all. While Soyoloo and our guide, Batana, got everyone’s lunch boxes out of the cooler, this motorbike rolled up, the family either coming or going from the soum center or maybe visiting family or friends.
17. camels!
We spot the first camels! These are domestic bactrian camels. It was great for Kim and Oliver since it was the first time on the trip, but I never tire of seeing camels.
18. horses, mts.
Same with the horses, especially with a backdrop like this.
19. soum center, water
We rolled into a small soum center to get water from the local well. This one was quite a set-up with a permanent building and a window through which one paid.
20. camel and snow
More camels. My “ship of the desert” shot. Three days since the snow storm and these higher southern mountains were still blanketed.
21. mt. pass
We had to get south through a range of mountains to our south to reach our next destination, the soum center of Bayantooroi. The driver started to  look for a camping spot, but then we noticed possible rain clouds coming up behind us. We needed to get out and down to the plain asap since you can see that the road follows the same path run-off from a rain storm would take.
22. saxaul
We did make it down to the upland area and out of the mountains. While the rain ended up missing us to the east, it was very, very windy that night. The next day was calm and we found ourselves in an area with saxaul trees.
23. lunch spot
Our lunch stop was at a large out cropping which had a “terrace” that we climbed up to and where we sat to eat. Nice view looking back the way we’d come.
24. Bayantooroi
The day’s destination, Bayantooroi, where the headquarters of the Great Gobi A Strictly Protected Area is located. We had to go there, quite a bit out of our way, to get a border permit since we were going to be within 50km of the Chinese border. In the background, on the left, is Eej Hairkhan Uul, the sacred mother mountain. On the first WildArt Mongolia Expedition in 2013, we spent two nights camping at the base of the mountain, doing a day hike up onto it. You can read about that wonderful day here.
25. solar panels
Many westerners have this idea of Mongolia of a somewhat backward, poverty-stricken place and while incomes are low by western standards and there are poor people as is true anywhere, the country is also absolutely up to date in many ways, including an increasing use of alternate energy sources like wind and solar. Bayantooroi is a long way from any major town (I think the aimag center of Altai might be the closest and at least a two day drive, judging from the road atlas I’m consulting) and look at this big solar array that has been installed.
26. basketball
Basketball is quite popular in Mongolia. Every soum center seems to have at least one basket set up somewhere. Bayantooroi has a full two-basket court which some local girls and boys were using.
27. Batana, motorbike kid
Our guide and drivers handled not only getting the border permit, but also arranging for a ranger to take us into the strictly protected area. He lived quite a way out of town, so we had to wait for him to come in to plan the next day’s travel. In the meantime, Batana chatted with another local family getting more information. There’s only so much one can do from Ulaanbaatar. Final contacts and arrangements often have to be made once one is in the field.
28. truck
Everything settled, we now had to backtrack over three hours to where we would turn south into the protected area. The only “traffic” we saw all day.
29. sunset
We reached the pre-arranged location and set up camp for the night. The next day the ranger would come to our camp, impossible to miss in its open location on the upland plain, and lead the way to our destination. In the meantime we all enjoyed this gorgeous sunset.

Next week we’ll travel far, far south, deep into the Great Gobi A Strictly Protected Area, one of the most remote locations in Mongolia. No towns, no herder families, no mobile phone service. I could hardly wait!

Mongolia Monday – Arburd Sands Ger Camp And An Interesting Side Trip

The next stop on the “artist’s tour” was Arburd Sands ger camp. This was more a “cultural” stop, than for wildlife viewing, but we got some of that, too.

This was the third time I had stayed at the camp and it was great to see owners Batbadrakh and his wife, Densmaa, again.

Arburd Sands ger camp; the dune complex behind the camp is about 20km long and is one of the northernmost extensions of the Gobi.
Exercising a young Mongol race horse; the owners of the camp are members of a prominent horse racing family.
We took a day trip to two local sacred mountains; this is Baga Hairhan Uul (Small Sacred Mountain).
Scanning the mountain paid off with this sighting a few female Siberian ibex; you can just see one on the lower right side of the second pointed rocks from the left, the head and half the body are visible.
Nearby, to the left of where we were sitting, was a cinereous vulture nest with an adult and fledgling.
Our second destination...Zorgol Uul, one of my favorite mountains.
On the south side is this lovely stupa; the fence is festooned with khadag, blue offering scarves.
On the "front" facing the main road south was a cinereous vulture nest that I don't remember seeing on previous trips.
At the base of the mountain is a small seasonal lake; to the left of the khadag is a large rock with a Tibetan inscription and if you look up to the top you can see a black kite perched on another big rock; quite a composition.
The family that runs the ger camp is known for its horses. One came in third in the State Naadam race this year, which is a big deal since the first five are considered almost equally winners in a 35km race that may have over 400 entries; I asked if the horses were nearby and could we take pictures of them and, yes, they were only a kilometer or so away. The stallion's manes are allowed to grow and grow and grow....because that is believed to give them strength. We got some great shots!
While we were there, three men, probably relatives or friends of the owner, came by to check out the horses.
One of the highlights of the entire trip was seeing Sodnam again; I "met" her when my husband and I were at Arburd Sands in 2008 and we took to each other immediately even though we couldn't speak each other's language. She's 92 now and I'll bet she's caused some mischief in her time. She's Batbadrakh's brother's wife's mother. The lady on the right is the mother of Batbadrakh and the widow of Choidog, his father.
Then it was our turn to ride; I really liked this sarel (grey) gelding and asked Densmaa if they could box him up and send him to California; a joke since I don't think Mongol horses would do well at all in our higher humidity sea level climate.
The Arburd Sands ger camp is set up in a new spot every year or so to protect the land; this year Densmaa grinned at me, pointed to the table and lounges and said "How do you like our beach?" We liked it a lot even though it's a bit far from the ocean.
And one of the reasons is that it was a great place to watch spectacular sunsets like this one.
There really is nothing quite like storm light over Mongol gers.

Mongolia Monday: The Best Camping Trip Ever, Part 8 – Khuisiin Naiman Nuur National Park

One of the places I most want to go back to and spend a week camping, painting and sketching is this place. For me, the “Valley of the Yaks” is the whole package. Green mountains, beautiful small rivers, herders, their gers and their animals, raptors like black kites and absolutely no visitor infrastructure at all.


Gers in the valley



First yaks we saw


We drove more or less to the end of the road, which was at the top of a steep slope. There was, of course, an ovoo. Getting out and looking over the top, I noticed two things right away: A drop dead gorgeous mountain lake, one of eight in the park (“naim” means “eight” in Mongolian”) and that the road continued down, and I do mean down, the other side at about a 45 degree angle. Needless to say, almost no one is crazy enough to drive it even though it is the only road in the park that provides access by car to any of the lakes. The only other way to get to them is to walk or ride a horse. We climbed up the slope, joining quite a few Mongol day-trippers. Even though nothing in particular was going on, there was a festive feeling in the air.


One of the lakes of Naiman Nuur National Park; road to right, after it's leveled out some





I took my lake photos and also got some more good wildflower images, then it was time to drive back down the hill and find a campsite. We passed some Mongol guys who were sitting and chatting by the side of the road. As we went by, one of them, who had obviously noticed that I was a westerner, yelled out “I love you!” Almost without thinking, I yelled back “Bi mongol dortei!”, “I like Mongolia!”. For some reason, Khatnaa and Soyoloo thought this was hilarious, burst out laughing and high-fived me. Khatnaa then decided that I had to learn another Mongol sentence: “Bi argaliin udad dortei” which means “I like dung smoke.”, a reference to our stay at Orog Nuur in the Gobi. I think I ended up having to repeat it at every ger we visited after that. All in good fun, of course.

The time had now come to find a spot to camp for the night. I was looking a little longingly at a place right down next to the river, certainly a prime spot that one would gravitate to in America. But up on higher ground was a dirt ring where someone had set up a ger. That’s the spot that Khatnaa picked and when it started to rain pretty hard later on, it was obvious that he had made the right choice and my choice might have gotten us quite wet if the river level had gone up very much.


Campsite after the tents had been taken down; what a view!


As I sat enjoying the late afternoon light, suddenly I had to grab my camera body with the long lens. A herder had come down the other side of the river and was rounding up his yaks. I reeled off about 170 images from the comfort of my camp chair.


Local yak herder


After dinner, we all sat and chatted until suddenly the wind kicked up and then it started to rain. Bedtime.

The next morning was beautiful and I got some more long range shots of the same herder milking some of his yaks. Soyoloo and I took turns washing each other’s hair down by the river.

I hated to leave, but promised myself that I would return and have more time.


One of the rivers


We re-traced our route back down the valley. On the way, we stopped for more yak photos. I had, not unreasonably, thought that the bigger ones with horns were the bulls. Then I saw an actual bull. He was absolutely huge and had no horns. The herders remove them because, armed with what are essentially two long, sharp spikes, a bull yak would be a very dangerous animal to have around.


Bull yak on right



Yaks, gers, windmill, car


The gelded yaks, like the ones above, are called “shar”, Mongolian for “yellow”. It seems to be the term applied to any gelded livestock. I don’t know why yet.

We also passed a number of herds of horses. It looked like the airag supply was good.




Back out of the valley, we passed this little riverside drama, but didn’t stay to see what happened next.


Someone made a poor decision


We drove past a family who was setting up housekeeping. I thought this was a good photo of a ger without the felt covering, plus, what a lovely spot to live!


Soon to be home, sweet home


We also went by this small monastery, located outside of a soum center.


Small monastery, with stupas


Continuing on, we were soon going up in elevation and I started to see forests for the first time. We stopped for lunch on a hillside covered with wildflowers.


Lunchtime view


Next week: wildflower heaven and a famous waterfall.

Mongolia Monday- Favorite Ger Photos

Two of the things I like best about traveling to Mongolia are staying in a ger and visiting people in their gers (“ger” means “home” in Mongolian).

Actress Julia Roberts was hosted by a family of horse trainers during the filming of an episode of the PBS series “Nature” called “The Wild Horses of Mongolia” (which isn’t what it was about, although there was a little takhi footage from Hustai National Park included). At the end, she’s sitting in a ger filled with Mongolians, looking into the camera with this big grin, saying something to the effect of “I’m sitting here in this ger and I don’t understand a word of what these people are saying, but I’m as happy and content as I’ve ever been in my life.”

Yup, she nailed it. I feel the same way. There’s something about the quality of space created by a ger that is very special. I’ve been in clean ones, dirty ones, sat on stools, beds and the floor, seen beautifully furnished ones and ones with next to nothing in them and I get the same content feeling in all of them. Hand me a bowl of suutei tsai (milk tea) or airag (fermented mare’s milk) and some aruul (dried yogurt) or tsotsgii (cream) and I’m a happy camper (and a cheap date too, I guess, although my husband would probably beg to differ). Anyway, here are some of my favorite images of gers from my four trips to Mongolia.

First, ger camps:

My ger at Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve (AFC Flag Expedition), July 2009
Dungenee Ger Camp (Nomadic Journeys), Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Sept. 2006
Dungenee ger interior; notice large rock to help hold it down in high winds, Sept. 2006
Dinosaur Ger Camp, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, May 2005 (haven't stayed here; yet)
Arburd Sands Ger Camp (Nomadic Journeys) with lightening storm, July 2009
Red Rocks Ger Camp (Nomadic Journeys) with oncoming storm, July 2009; two hours of heavy rain soon followed
Dining ger door, Red Rocks Ger Camp, Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve, Sept. 2008

In 2005, I got to visit a ger factory and see how they are made:

Ger factory, Ulaanbaatar, May 2005

Then we went to the Black Market where you can buy anything ger; from individual parts to the whole thing.

Everything ger at the Black (or Narantuul) Market

The research camp at Khomiin Tal (takhi reintroduction site) in western Mongolia is spectacularly sited in a river valley:

The research camp at Khomiin Tal, western Mongolia, Sept. 2006
Ger interior with goat meat, Khomiin Tal, western Mongolia, Sept. 2006

My first experience of staying in a ger was during my first trip to Mongolia on an Earthwatch project “Mongolian Argali” (now called “Wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe”; highly recommended) in the spring of 2005. The camp is much bigger now; seven gers, two containers and a volleyball court:

The research camp at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve, Earthwatch project, April 2005
Typical spring dust storm, Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve research camp, April 2005; photo taken out the door of the ger; circles are the flash bouncing off dust particles; the wind was howling, too

And, private homes:

Small ger with aruul drying on the roof; en route from Baga Gazriin Chuluu Nature Reserve to Ulaanbaatar, July 2009; my guide helped me buy some aruul from the family
Prosperous establishment in the Gobi, Sept. 2006; they breed racing camels
Dung fuel with traditional gathering basket, western Mongolia, Sept. 2006; the owner manages a nearby salt deposit
Ger in western Mongolia, Sept. 2006; we bought fresh cow's milk from her
Gers above the Tuul River, near Hustai National Park, Sept. 2006; they have great view!
Ger visit, near Hustai National Park, May 2005; my first encounter with Mongolian hospitality, but not the last!

Mongolia Monday (More from “Among the Mongols”)- Hospitality

Ger near Arburd Sands, Sept. 2008

One of the interesting and, to a lot of Westerners, amazing things about traveling in Mongolia is that the thousand-plus year old traditions of hospitality out in the countryside are still practiced. It feels very odd to walk up to someone’s ger (assuming there are no dogs in sight), open the door and walk right in without knocking. After four trips, I still get a twinge doing it.

I found myself very intimidated the first time. There are no windows in a ger and the door is solid wood so, even with a guide, you are walking into someone’s home without any idea of what to expect. Fortunately, the Mongols are patient and understanding, like my first time, when I turned to the right instead of the left and circumnavigated the ger to get to the stool that I was to sit on.

At least I remembered not to step on the threshold or walk between the upright supports.

The older gentleman approved of the fact that I was wearing Mongol boots. He said to me, through my guide “I see Mongol boots and I look up and see… a western face”. It was spring, which means really cold and windy, and they were the warmest footwear I had with me, having purchased them at the State Department Store in UB. They worked, of course. I asked if he would be willing to have his picture taken with a westerner wearing Mongol boots and he immediately sat up, buttoned his del and made room for me to sit beside him on the bed.

First-ever ger visit; ok, I'm hooked; near Hustai National Park, May 2005

Those thermoses keep water hot, hot, hot for over 24 hours. I want one. I just have to figure out how to carry it home.

Ger interior; the Gobi near Bayanzag, Sept. 2006

Now ger visits are one of the things I MOST look forward to when I go to Mongolia. A ger, maybe because of the quality of space that the round shape creates, is one of the most pleasant and peaceful places that I’ve ever been in. I just happily sit sipping milk tea or airag and nibbling aruul as conversations that I don’t understand a word of go back and forth between my guide and our hosts.

Mutton almost ready; my driver really tucked in; I passed; western Mongolia, Sept. 2006
Boortz soup; Yum!! Mutton I can believe in (and eat safely); Baga Gazriin Chuluu, July 2009;
Aruul; an acquired taste that I had acquired after about three (careful, 'cause it was rock hard) bites; western Mongolia, Sept. 2006
Mongol-style clotted cream; to die for- near Hustai National Park, Sept. 2006

Gilmour seems to have relished ger visits also and provided a good description of the customs:

“As for entering tents on the plain, there need be no bashfullness. Any traveler is at perfect liberty to alight at any village he may wish and demand admittance; and any Mongol who refuses admittance, or gives a cold welcome even, is at once stigmatised not a man but a dog. Any host who did not offer tea, without money and without price, would soon earn the same reputation, the reason being, I suppose, that Mongolia has no inn, and all travelers are dependent on private houses for shelter and refreshment. At first sight it seems rather exacting to leap off your horse at the door of a perfect stranger, and expect to find tea prepared and offered to you free; but probably the master of the tent where you refresh yourself is at the same time sitting likewise refreshing himself in some other man’s tent some hundred miles away; and thus the thing balances itself. The hospitality received by Mongols in travelling compensates for the hospitality shown to travelers.”

Young hostess; near Hustai National Park, Sept. 2009 (the ger with the CREAM)

Mongolia Monday-More From “Among The Mongols”; Traveling By Horse

While I’ve done my traveling in Mongolia by vehicle, the following, for me, really evokes what it’s like to journey through the countryside. I’ve included a few images from my trips.

“Traveling in Mongolia has many pleasures, but ordinary traveling is so slow that the tedium threatens to swamp them all. Horseback traveling does away with the tedium as far as possible, and presents the greatest number of new scenes and circumstances in rapid succession. Night and day you hurry on; sunrise and sunset have their glories much like those seen at sea; the stars and the moon have a charm on the lovely plain.

Ever and anon you come upon tents, indicated at night by the barking of the dogs, — in the daytime seen gleaming from afar, vague and indistinct through the glowing mirage. As you sweep round the base of a hill, you come upon a herd of startled deer and give chase, to show their powers of running; then a temple with its red walls and gilt ornamented roofs looms up and glides past.

Hill-sides here and there are patched with sheep; in the plains below mounted Mongols are dashing right and left through a large drove of horses, pursuing those they wish to catch, with a noosed pole that looks like a fishing rod. On some lovely stretch of road you come upon an encampment of ox carts, the oxen grazing and the drivers mending the wooden wheels, or meet a long train of tea-laden silent camels.

When the time for a meal approaches and a tent heaves in sight, you leave the road and make for it. However tired the horses may be, they will freshen up at this. They know what is coming and hurry on to rest.”

The previous post is here.

Mongolia Monday- Cats and Dogs

Cat seen from train, 2004
Cat seen from train, 2004


In three trips to Mongolia I’ve seen exactly….three cats, literally one per trip. In general it appears that Mongolians don’t much like cats. There are a number of beliefs about them, none particularly positive. I was told that the appearance of a cat meant that there would be a death. Two women that I’ve spoken with both said that they didn’t even like the idea of touching a cat, but one allowed as how her attitude was probably based on things older people had said when she was much younger.

On the other hand, when we stopped at a ger in the Gobi, I watched a woman shoo this cat into the ger while the dogs were clearly meant to stay outside. I remember thinking “It figures.”

Cat at ger near Bayanzag in the Gobi
Cat at ger near Bayanzag in the Gobi

They do seem to be kept around by some families for the age-old purpose of rodent control. This little cat was at the ger camp at Ikh Nart. She was fussed over by the cook, who I was told loves animals. She was very friendly, so David and I were able to get an unexpected “cat fix”. It was apparently impossible to keep her out of the staff ger because she would climb up to the top and come in through the center opening. One night she dropped down onto our guide’s bed, one of the women who was adamant about not liking cats, and proceeded to try to snuggle up near her head. I remember thinking “It figures.”

Young cat at Red Rock Ger Camp, Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve
Young cat at Red Rock Ger Camp, Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve


I suspect that Mongols have had dogs for as long as they have had horses and the other “Snouts”. The traditional greeting upon approaching a herder ger is “Hold the dogs!” and they aren’t kidding. The traditional herder’s dog is a Tibetan mastiff, which can take its guard duties very seriously. I was told on this last trip, however, that many herders do keep a dog as a “pet” along with the ones for guarding. I hope to learn more about all this on the next trip.

Tibetan Mastiff-type dog
Tibetan Mastiff-type dog
Mastiff puppies near Hustai National Park
Mastiff puppies near Hustai National Park

One consistant piece of advice that one runs across when looking into travel to Mongolia is do not, DO NOT, pet, pat, scritch, scratch or otherwise touch any dog. They have not been vaccinated for rabies and getting saliva on your skin, much less a bite, means air evacuation to a hospital for the (painful) series of shots. Foreigners who are working in the countryside get the rabies vaccine, but since nothing is 100%, it’s smart for them not to have contact either.

That said, I have found that most of the dogs I’ve seen don’t exhibit vicious behavior and a lot of them seem to be longing for contact with people. I finally relented once at Arburd Sands when this dog approached me while I was sketching and leaned into me. I decided that it was unlikely that the camp owners would have a dog around that was at all likely to bite the guests. I stayed alert while I gently petted his back and didn’t let his mouth near my hand. He seemed to really like it, but it was still a risk.

Friendly dog at Arburd Sands
Friendly dog at Arburd Sands

I hadn’t seen brindle dogs like this before this trip. Not sure where that coloration came from, but he has the mastiff head and body type.

I feel like I’m seeing fewer of the pure mastiffs since my first trip. When the Russians pulled out in 1991, I was told that they left their guard dogs, mostly German Shepherds, behind. And I remember seeing a couple of what looked like purebred Shepherds between the airport and UB in 2006. There has obviously been a lot of uncontrolled interbreeding. It looks to me like the dogs are gradually reverting to the basic dog form that travellers see all over the world in the streets, the countryside, at dumps, etc.

Dog seen by side of the road near Gorkhi-Terelj
Dog seen by side of the road near Gorkhi-Terelj

And, for something completely different, at Red Rock Ger Camp, there was this chow chow, the only one I’ve seen in Mongolia. Never found out who he belongs to, but a fairly wide area around the camp seemed to belong to him, judging by his thorough and conscientious marking routine.

Chow chow at Red Rock Ger Camp
Chow chow at Red Rock Ger Camp


From The Global Village Dept.- twice when I’ve been in the State Department Store, I’ve seen young girls with tiny “fashion accessory” dogs tucked in their arms, a la Paris Hilton. Sigh.

And finally, many of you know that I have a rough collie, named Niki, the same breed as Lassie. Imagine my surprise when I happened upon this banner in Ulaanbaatar:

Pet shop banner, Ulaanbaatar
Pet shop banner, Ulaanbaatar