A Travellerspoint blog

The Fallen Mighty

sunny -1 °C
View Through Siberia to China and Beyond on Hawkson's travel map.

There’s gold in them thar Mongolian hills and Ulaanbaatar is today’s Klondike, but no amount of international investment in the mining business can put a gloss on that fact that at heart it is a scruffy third world city. If one measure of a country’s wealth is the degree to which it venerates its past, and preserves its historical artifacts, Mongolia is as poor as a monastery mouse. This is the country’s leading Buddhist monastery, the Gandan Khiid, home to the spiritual leader of Mongolia’s Buddhists…
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It may appear old but it was actually built in 1938 to replace the one that the Communists destroyed.
The 90 foot high statue of Buddha is impressive…
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‘No Photos – No Video’ warned the widely ignored signs, maybe because the whole place is very tacky and the temple and its ancillary buildings are thickly coated with guano. Bird seed sellers outnumber the monks ten to one, but the pigeons aren’t here to pray…
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And this was the palace of the last king, the Bogd Khan, who died in 1924…
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The palace is now a museum with an eclectic collection of junk and moth-eaten stuffed animals and it is completely overshadowed by rampant development and surrounded by a dusty weed patch. There are more ‘No cameras’ signs here than you would expect to find at a Berlussconi Bunga party, yet there was really nothing worth photographing. So here’s some pictures of some of the locals instead…
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Mongolia holds a unique record in history – it once ruled over the largest contiguous empire that the world has ever known. In the 12th and 13th centuries under Genghis Khan and his sons and grandson, Kublai Khan, the Mongolian Hordes ruled 33 million square kilometers of Asia and Europe; from the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea in the east to the Mediterranean and Black Sea in the west. The whole of China, together with most of Russia and numerous other countries from Korea to Turkey, were all conquered by the ruthless and brutal Ghengis and his warriors. Here’s the statue of Ghengis – known here as Chinggis Khaan – at the parliament building in Sühbaataiin Talbai Square…
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You may consider us intrepid travelers but our travels are child’s play compared to Belgian, William of Rubrick, who travelled from Istanbul to Mongolia on an ox-cart in 1253 as an emissary of King Louis IV of France. William of Rubruck’s report to the king is a masterpiece of medieval literature and includes details of a 1254 formal debate between Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims, to determine which faith was correct. You might think that we would have an answer for that nearly 800 years later!
So, if Mongolia was the centre of most of the known world in the middle ages – what on earth happened? Why is it that unlike the capitals of other great empires like Istanbul, Rome and London, virtually nothing exists of the Mongolian empire? The history of the empire and this land is far too complex for this blog, but one thing is certain – just as Lance Armstrong, Conrad Black and Bernie Maddoff have discovered – the mighty nearly always end up falling.

Posted by Hawkson 04:03 Archived in Mongolia

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2 years ago my grandson Damien Waugh and his wife Gill bicycled from China on the East Coast to London.the only time they didnt ride was across the English Channel. they had a hard time finding food in Mongolia. It was so far. the trip took 6 month to the day. July 6- Jan 6...your stories are amazing...

by `Jean

Once again, insights into a part of the world I know I will never see in person. Quite a shift here. Are the people still as friendly? hugs Sharron

by Sharron

Nothing monotonus in the women's clothing styles! The Mongols would have conquered Japan too, but for an invasion fleet-destroying storm, a divine wind or kamikaze. Love the green tiles on the roof of the ramshackle palace. Looks like the kind of place where you would find a fly covered kiosk still hoping to sell film to tourists.

by Tom

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