Showing posts with label mongolia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mongolia. Show all posts
Saturday, 12 August 2017

Mongolia Packing List & Advice


A year ago I embarked on a two week trip to Mongolia. This post has been sitting in my drafts for almost 8 months now and I thought it was fitting to post it now.

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Before my trip to Mongolia, I wrote a packing list of what I was bringing. I thought it was best to write another packing list for those who are going to Mongolia and to prevent you from making the same mistakes that I did. I went in August which was the tail end of summer therefore my list and advice is only relevant to the warmer months in Mongolia. During my two week stay in Mongolia, temperatures ranged from 10 - 25 degrees C.

This is not an extensive packing list as I have not included all basic items such as shirts, shorts, socks, etc.

Clothing

  • Underwear - bring underwear for more days than your tour. There is no running water and cleaning your underwear on the trip is unlikely. That is unless you don't mind wearing your underwear for more than one day, to each their own.
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Sports bra/s - I am not large chested, however I was told that they are a life saver for the bumpy off-roading
  • Pants / Trousers - especially if going horse riding and also for the cool mornings / evenings
  • Hiking boots / joggers - any sturdy shoes really. I don't think hiking boots are a necessity. I brought semi-casual combat boots and they were an okay choice.

Accessories

  • Sleeping bag - I think this is crucial! Your tour operator will supply you with sleeping bags most likely, however, they will have been used by countless people before who went days without showering. And who knows when the sleeping bags were last washed properly. Even between your tour members, you will inadvertently end up rotating your sleeping bag as they all get bundled up and randomly distributed at the ger. A little bit gross. If you don't have a sleeping bag, I would strongly to see if any family or friends have one. My sleeping bag ended up being my "home" and it was comforting to know it was only mine as everything ended up being shared on the trip. Even my lip balm! Luckily I brought an extra lip balm as some people were using mine. In the end it grossed me out too much and I just gave that one away for communal use.
  • Bandanna - offroading = dust / dirt / sand. I used it extensively when I was in the van as they had open windows. When I washed it halfway through the trip, the water was brown. Yuck, I would have breathed that in.
  • Hat - coming from Australia, I always advocate for people to wear hats.
  • Sunglasses
  • Car charger - the van may be able to charge your electronics via the cigarette lighter outlet, however do not rely on this. The first van's outlet didn't work.
  • Mosquito net (if you are scared of bugs) - if I could go back in time, I would have definitely purchased a mosquito net to place over my bed. I am terrified of bugs and there were quite a few nights where bugs and spiders were all over the ger walls. Brrrrrrrrrrrr. I ended up getting my tour mates to kill them for me, but I knew there were still many more around. There was one night where there were so many spiders and I literally curled up in my sleeping bag all night and too scared to turn over and face the ger wall. At one point in the middle of the night, it was so warm and I needed to take off my jumper and pants however I was too worried to unzip my sleeping bag and ended up stripping in my zipped up bag. It was very difficult.
  • Wet wipes - they were the best alternative when showers were not an option
  • Tissues / toilet paper - always useful and best to carry it with you at all times!
  • Own utensils / mug - this is probably the grossest part of the experience. I am not the biggest clean freak, but knowing that plates / cutlery were not cleaned properly (except with some water and wiped down with a tea towel that probably never got cleaned) was slightly ... uncomfortable to accept. I think I would have had greater piece of mind if I had brought my own cutlery, mug and plate. That being said I did not get food poisoning at all!


Food

I'll be honest, the food in Mongolia is not great. It largely comes down to the fact that supermarkets have limited supplies, it will need to be quickly cooked by the tour guide and transported in the van without refrigeration. If you are not a fussy person then probably ignore this section. But below is what I did and what I would do differently if I had the chance.
  • Buy fruit at the supermarket - firstly it's healthy, especially since the rest of your diet won't be. Secondly, it won't melt in the van.
  • Don't buy too much chocolate - although chocolate feels like a treat, it isn't very glamorous when you end up licking it off from the wrapper as it has melted in the van.
  • Instant oatmeal / porridge (pre purchased in Ulanbaatar) - breakfast usually consisted of bread and jam / butter / nutella. If anything was left over, you would eat it the next morning ergo a lot of dry / stale bread. In hindsight, I should have brought instant porridge and made it with the hot water.
  • Museli bars
  • Hot sauce / condiment - food wasn't always great and having a condiment like hot sauce a) makes bland food taste better and b) it masks the taste of any food that doesn't taste good

Technology

  • Don't bring a laptop, chances are you won't use it and the chances of it breaking are quite high - I brought it and although I used it back in Ulanbaatar to edit photos, I really could have done without it. I ended up stressing a little about my laptop breaking as luggage was constantly jostled, thrown on the ground, etc
  • Bring spare camera batteries- you will not have a chance to charge your electronics. And, on the odd chance that there are powerpoints they will all be occupied
  • Powerbank - life saver! I used it to charge my camera
  • Camera of course!
  • Don't bother bringing a power adaptor, all places have a wonderful multiplug powerboard which is great! That being said, if you are a little worried you will be caught out then bring one just in case.

Luggage

  • Do not bring a suitcase unless you are happy to roll your suitcase over dirt / sand / grass.
  • Pack light, the vehicle does not necessarily have a lot of space and luggage will be packed in snuggly along with the food and other supplies.

Entertainment

  • MP3 Player / Ipod - Chances are that you will be in a vehicle for an extended period of time and it does get a little boring
  • Books / Audiobooks - I brought my Kindle which was a lifesaver! I read probably 5 novels over my 12 day trip during the downtime. I also had one audiobook loaded onto my phone for the car rides. I can't read on a moving vehicle (trains are the exception) as I get motion sickness. In hindsight, I should have loaded more audiobooks!

And most importantly, you definitely need to go with an open mind! Go with the flow because things won't go to plan and that is okay! You will most likely get to know people very intimately, moreso than the average person. You will be living and breathing the same air in a smallish enclosure for an extended period of time!

By the way, that camel from the photo is from camel hair handmade by a family in rural Mongolia. So cute!

If you have any other questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email at dignifiable[at]gmail.com.
Monday, 2 January 2017

Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar is the capital city of Mongolia and is home to 1.3 million inhabitants (almost half of the country's total population). I spent a total of 2 days in the city; 0.5 days when I first arrived and 1.5 days after my 12 day tour ended. From my research, it wasn't recommended to spend more than a few days in the city and in my short period, I believe I had more than enough time to see all that I wanted to see.

Mongolia
Chinggis Khan

Mongolia 2016

Mongolia
Friday, 28 October 2016

Mongolia Trip: Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

Day 11 & 12 - Thursday 18th & Friday 19th August 2016

The end was near!

Mongolia Trip 2016
This was going to be one of the last times I was going to repack my bag; I must admit, I was soon becoming quite proficient at it.

We headed back to Ulanbaataar to drop off one of the tour members before heading to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, which is located not too far from the city.

Mongolia 2016
Monday, 24 October 2016

Mongolia Trip: Karakorum & Ankle Bones

Day 10 - Wednesday 17th August 2016

The end of our tour was nearing and it was a little bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited at the prospects of not being with the same people 24/7 and heading back to civilisation. Hello Western style toilets, or any toilets. Heck, I would have been excited about proper squat toilets. I was getting sick of peeing anywhere / at squat toilets which were literally two planks of wood and usually a trillion flies. And the smell .. oh boy the smell. On the other hand, I was sad that I would be leaving the beauty of Mongolian countryside and I knew that I would not be returning any time soon.

But first - we got into a situation. Due to the rain, the ground was super super muddy and our van actually got stuck. We all climbed out and started to gather branches etc to help the wheels get traction. The van moved a little however we were still stuck. Eventually we had another tourist group in a 4WD pull us out of the mud. The funniest thing was that my tour group were all muddy and when the tourists in the other car got out, the contrast was hilarious. This Korean girl got out in her white jeans and her super white sneakers, saw the mud and then immediately got back into the car. Who wears white sneakers to visit countryside Mongolia?!?!

Mongolia 2016

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Mongolia Trip: Tsenkher Hot Springs

Day 9 - Tuesday 16th August 2016

The pace of the tour gradually slowed down and today was the long awaited 'spa day' at the hot springs! It was also the second opportunity for a shower which was very exciting.

Mongolia 2016
Waking up to this. Incredible.

Mongolia 2016
Sticking my hand and camera out the window!
Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Mongolia Trip: Lost at Tövkhön Monastery

Day 8 - Monday 15th August 2016

The first half of the tour was quite hectic and it involved many hours in the van. The second half of the tour was considerably slower. Although I had googled the tour back in April, I hadn't looked at the exact details since and wasn't sure what was on the agenda. Therefore each day was a surprise!

Mongolia 2016

We were allowed a sleep in as we were only heading back out at lunch time. First we walked over to the Ulaan Tsutgalan waterfall. Two of my tour members actually jumped into the water which was crazy as it was pretty chilly!

Mongolia 2016
Friday, 30 September 2016

Mongolia Trip: Horse Riding II

Day 7 - Sunday 14th August 2016

The second day of horse riding was simply to head back to the ger camp that we started at. This time I took more photos although it highlighted the immense difficulties of having a manual focus lens. I didn't want to fall off my horse and tried to do a lot of point and shoot photos. It was windy that day which meant that my allergies were at bay!

I will leave this post relatively photo heavy which will be refreshing.

Mongolia 2016

Mongolia 2016
Monday, 26 September 2016

Mongolia Trip: Horse Riding I

Day 6 - Saturday 13th August 2016

Earlier this year, I was on a horse for the very first time in my entire life. I wanted the experience as I knew that I would be horse riding on my trip to Mongolia. I honestly forgot that 2 days of horse riding would be included on my tour which was very exciting. Mongolian horses are a lot smaller than the typical horse. They are said to be half wild since the families let the horses roam freely except when they need a horse to ride. That being said, the family do select the same few horses for the tourists to ride. Mongolians only ride male horses as the female horses are for milking.

Mongolia 2016

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Mongolia Trip: Orkhon Valley

Day 5 - Friday 12th August 2016

Another long day of driving! We were now moving up north towards Central Mongolia for the second half of the tour which - like most days - involved covering a very large distance. The landscape started to change from the desert to the iconic steppes! The Gobi was so flat and barren and it was beautiful to see the difference in the landscapes.

Mongolia 2016

Mongolia 2016
Monday, 19 September 2016

Mongolia Trip: Bayanzag

Day 4: Thursday 11th August 2016
We were warned the night before that today would consist of a lot of driving. We were heading out of the Gobi region and back north towards Ulanbaataar. This day was quite challenging for most of the people in the van, however it also highlighted something to me about myself. Naturally, I can get quite stressed and I am not the most positive person in the world. For those who know me in person, I am quite a negative and sarcastic individual, perhaps even bordering on bitchy more often than not. I find it hard to let things go, however for some reason when I travel a lot of these traits take a backseat (ha, I literally had a backseat in the van). I am definitely more carefree and stress a lot less about things I have no control over. It's a little bizarre but I think it's very much a good thing.

This day was a turning point in terms of the company that I was with. It was when the Canadian and American started to become quite grating and largely it was due to their negativity. Our vehicle was quite slow, going only at around 70kmph and had horrible suspension which made for a very bumpy car ride. The van was travelling with two others from the hostel (on shorter length tours) and we could never keep up with them which was very frustrating. They would be able to cruise at 100kmph and we would be trailing behind. The situation for this day was that we got separated from the vans (since they never waited for us) and we took a different route to our destination. It was a slightly annoying situation as the driver and the cook in the van did not speak English and we had no idea where we were going or if it was even the right direction. The American and Canadian (I was wedged between them) started to complain constantly that they didn't know where we were going and in the end I ended up putting in my earphones and listened to my audiobook (or maybe it was music). I was travelling through some beautiful and desolate landscape with people who ultimately would be able to communicate to Mongolians if we really ran into trouble.

Mongolia 2016
The drivers having an argument about which direction the town was.

Mongolia 2016
Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Mongolia Trip: Khongoryn Els

Day 3 - Wednesday 10th August 2016
We headed to the sand dunes part of the Gobi desert! It was a reasonably short drive distance wise, however the van could only travel at around 70kmph which was quite slow. It was incredible to see the changing landscape from the beautiful mountain ranges to the steppes and slowly to the insanely massive sand dunes! This was also the day where I learnt how to pee in an open field with people around!

Mongolia 2016

Mongolia 2016
Lunch! A cucumber was never as tasty! By this stage, I was craving vegetables and fruit.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Mongolia Trip: Yolyn Am

Day 2 - Tuesday 9th August 2016
I woke up naturally right before sunrise and managed to watch the sunrise. It wasn't a super special sunrise however it was very surreal to be in such an empty and quiet landscape, well except for the noises from the goats and the camels.

Breakfast consisted of stale / dry bread and spreads including super sweet jam and liverwurst. Sadly, this was the start of 11 days of breakfasts.

Mongolia 2016

Mongolia 2016

After breakfast, we headed towards our destination of the day which was Yolyn Am which is located within the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Mongolia Trip: Tsagaan Suvarga

I am back in Sydney and already halfway through my second day at work! I really did jump straight from my holiday back to work and it was a little difficult yesterday. As mentioned numerous times, I have just returned from my two week holiday in Mongolia! In Mongolia I went on a 12 day tour to the Gobi desert and to central Mongolia.

Day 1 - Monday 8th August 2016
The tour had a little bit of a late start. We were originally told we would be leaving at 8am however I tried to embrace it as I knew the concept of being on time in Mongolia was going to a rare occurence based on my previous research.

The vehicle we were allocated was the typical Soviet van / Russian van that are reknown in Mongolia. The Soviet Vans are frequently used on tours as it has been said they are reasonably cheap to purchase initally and the parts are easy to obtain. They are also notorious for breaking down easily so this is something to be mentally prepared for. That being said, the vehicle that I was on did not experience any major issues (one flat tyre, the window handle fell off and the spare tyre fell off).

Mongolia 2016

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Packing List for Mongolia

This weekend I will be flying to Mongolia via Hong Kong. I will be in Mongolia for two weeks and Hong Kong for 2.5 days in total. A question that I get asked every time I tell people that I am going to Mongolia is, "Why Mongolia?". A very valid question and one that I don't really have an answer to. Mongolia was almost a whim destination .

This is the first packing post that I have ever written in the 5 years I have had this blog. I will be in Mongolia for two weeks and on a tour in a Russian van for 11 days in total. We will be driving around to nomadic families and staying at gers. In short, I will have limited facilities (such as toilets and showers) so hopefully the clothing I have packed will be sufficient.



Luggage
I will be travelling with two bags. The one pictured is a 40L backpack that I purchased from Kathmandu. I actually dislike the colour pink but it is a bright colour which will mean a) it will be easy to spot at baggage collection b) I can easily keep track of it if I put it down anywhere. I also have a Country Road tote bag as my carry on. I wanted an extra bag for any purchases that I make in Mongolia or Hong Kong therefore on the flight there, that bag is almost empty.

This is the first time I have used packing cubes and they are amazing! In the past, I have used compression sacks which are great (!!) however I thought it was time to "upgrade" myself to a life where I didn't permanently have crumpled clothes. That being said, I do have the compression sack for my outerwear that I am bringing.

Clothes
1 x lightweight rain jacket
1 x lightweight long pants
1 x shorts
1 x swimmers
2 x summer dresses
4 x t shirts
2 x long sleeve shirts
1 x flannel
1 x leggings
1 x cotton long sleeve
1 x jumper
1 x set of PJS
2 x tanks with built in bra
10 x pairs of underwear

Shoes
1 x Roc Boots
1 x thongs / flip flops
5 x socks

Other 
1 x sleeping bag
1 x sarong
1 x towel
1 x packet of baby wipes
1 x kindle
2 x cameras (digital and film)
1 x laptop

Something I do when I travel is that half the clothes I tend to bring are ones that I will also get rid of throughout the course of my trip.

Apologies, the photos are out of focus. I purchased a new camera with manual lens and clearly need some practice still! Electronic viewfinder does make things a little harder for me.