November 17, 2013


Harsh, empty, and beautiful are words that could describe either K-girls or the Mongolian landscape. Add natural to that list of adjectives, and the land of Genghis Khan remains the only viable option among the two. I had previously visited Inner Mongolia, the part of the once great empire now absorbed by China, to explore the ghost city of Ordos and perform a Bollywood-style dance in the singing sands of the Gobi desert. This gave me a vague idea of the type of environment I was to expect in Mongolia, but did not prepare me for the vast open spaces, hearty lifestyle, hospitable people, and charming desolation that I would experience during my trip. 

Last Chuseok mostly fell on a weekend, so I spent my limited days on the island paradise of Jeju as I could not venture very far from the peninsula. The Korean thanksgiving holiday fortuitously fell on three consecutive weekdays this year, so I took a couple of extra days off work to convert it into a nine day sojourn of Mongolia.

The least densely populated country on Earth, Mongolia is about 15 times the size of South Korea but has less than 3 million inhabitants compared to the 50 million denizens of Daehanminguk. The capital city of Ulaanbaatar was utilized primarily as a base for entry and exit into Mongolia, as most of the days were spent on the road exploring sand dunes and national parks. A sturdy but aged Russian vehicle was used for transportation and circular tents (called gers) were the primary type of accommodation.


The open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself. ~ William Least Heat-Moon