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Mongolia

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When we got up it was cold and snowing. We thought the snow was kind of funny, but mostly because we were leaving. If we wanted to do other stuff I don’t think it would have been so funny. It’s not really my business but I think if Mongolia wanted more tourists they should try to have less snow. Or at least not have any where the tourists can see it, like on the Trans-Mongolian train. There were lots of other tourists in the train station. They all looked pretty tired, just like us. But not many of them had a boiled egg like we did, or a cookie. I think some of them would have liked a bite, but I didn’t think there was enough for everyone so I just ate them all myself and tried not to make eye contact. There were quite a few announcements over the…

We scrambled frantically up the final few steps, my feet sinking deep into the sand and being sucked inexorably – and frustratingly – backward, the feeling much like in a dream where your feet feel unreasonably heavy and no matter how hard you try you can’t quite make enough progress to pull away from whatever subconscious horror has designs on your junk this time. Adding even further to the difficulty, the strong wind whipped over the top of the Gobi Desert dune, at 240 metres high having had plenty of time to collect an exceptional amount of sand with which to pelt our exposed faces and vulnerable eyes. The displaced sand emitted a low, moaning noise as it slid back down the slope, explaining why these dunes were also known as the “Singing Dunes”. Barely dragging ourselves over the crest, we collapsed in a heap, sliding slightly down the less…

Heading out west for a week-long tour through the Altai Mountains after our time in Ulaan Baatar, our fourth day in Mongolia started with a relatively short (3 hrs) yet surprisingly annoying early morning flight (up at 4 am) to Olgii which set us back considerably in our quest for acclimating to our new time zone. We were met by our Kazakh Tour organizer, Dosjan, who escorted us to our hotel for the first nighth and, while the name sounded rather exotic – The Tsambaragav Hotel – it really just meant “Green Hotel”, which it indeed was. However, it also featured many, many pounds of gold curtains and an shocking amount of gold leaf wallpaper, not to mention a fairly elaborate set of toiletries that, while not offering any soap, did include what was surely some of the worst toilet paper known to man, not one but two combs, and…

Well, off we went, feeling like it was way too early to be leaving, especially considering the temperature was still hovering in the high 20’s. But Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, much like the Prairies, is not a place a tourist necessarily wants to have anything to do with once the snow starts flying. A bit of déjà vu, with our first 2 legs being exactly the same as those we took to Bali in January. First to Vancouver, same Asian-dominant terminal, same Mama Burger meal from A&W that will presumably be my last for several months (cue bleeding hearts). One small difference was the apparently harried mother who, when the flight attendant politely insisted she either shut down her laptop or detach the tablet portion, growled for him to “shove it up his ass”. Out of discretion I didn’t turn all the way around but, from what I could tell, he…

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