Sand, Gnats and Mad Max: Exploring Mongolian Sand Dunes

Part of our National Week (October, 2018) tour took place at a desert resort in the sand dunes. We did not stay the night, but enjoyed several hours at this very unique venue. We had certainly been to many American dunes, which are usually very undeveloped.  We didn’t know what to expect at a sand dunes in Mongolia. We were surprised to see a massive tourist site with able cars, odd post-apocalyptic dune buggies, a Disney-like train, a large swimming complex, camel rides, sand sleds, and even a massive tent arena all plopped into the middle of an ocean of fine powdery sand.

Most of our fellow tourists were Chinese nationals taking their week-long holiday with us. It took over an hour in line to finally climb onto our cable car ride to the dunes. During our wait in line, we were engulfed by tiny little gnats that descended in swarms. We had to cover our mouths so we could breath without sucking in little creatures. Once we got to the dunes, there were no gnats (thank heavens!)

The view from inside one of our “Mad Max” post-apocalyptic vehicles.

 

Each “Mad Max” sand boat (or dune buggy?) carried 30-40 people. They traveled easily in the sand and it felt a bit like floating on water.

Is it just me, or does everyone else feel like their in a Star Wars movie?

Ahead is a large tent where theatrical productions are presented.

Sitting on cushions on the sand floor of the arena, we saw a traditional Mongolian wedding with all the dances. It was very interesting and surreal at the same time.

No sand dune trip would be satisfactory without connecting to a camel. We’ve come to love our camel rides in China and Mongolia. They seem like such docile creatures, although we understand they can get quite belligerent. It was only a five minute camel ride but it was fun.

We took a “Disney” train to get us back to the gate of the gate of the resort.

Cable car rides are enjoyable when you’re with good friends. Here is Leslie Pelton, Laraine, and Barbara Openshaw. We again had to stand in line to catch this cable car back to the bus.

Genghis Khan–Up Close and Personal

Genghis Khan–Up Close and Personal

We had the opportunity to visit the monument for Genghis Khan. He was the founder of the great Mongol Empire, which compared to anything else in world history, was the most far-reaching contiguous empire.

Here we are standing in front of his mausoleum. No one knows where his body actually lies because he did not want his body buried in a marked grave. He is revered all over Mongolia (Inner and Outer), and there are statues and shrines of him everywhere. He was the first “Khan” (ruler or king), and other Khans came after him. He was born in 1162 AD as “Temujin.”

 

This is a statue of him even though there is no painting of him. He never wanted his portrait painted. They based the likeness of the figure in this statue on what his grandfather looked like. Temujin (Genghis Khan) had an interesting, yet troubled life. At the age of 9 he was betrothed to a young girl and was taken to live with her family until he could marry her at age 12. Later in life, his wife was kidnapped and carried away to a distant land. He prayed for three days about what to do. He eventually rescued her in a very bold, military move and was reunited with her. Genghis Khan lived in a brutal age and was a man true to his times, yet he had a spiritual side. He wanted all to have the freedom to practice their religion.

 

This is a worship area that is supposed to be for men only. Visiting women are told to go shopping while the men walked around this area in order to gain super power. The blue banners and cloth are all over Mongolia. You make a request for blessings and then tie a blue scarf at the shrine for it to come to pass.

Based on the English translation of this sign, would you know what to do? In essence, it is saying: “Traditionally, women do not enter here, out of respect for themselves and tradition. But we understand tourists don’t have the same beliefs, so consider this a suggestion only.”  The women didn’t mind having time to shop. And the men came back so very powerful!

We so much wanted to correct their signage.

If you were to spend your lifetime correcting every sign in China and Mongolia, you would not get out of one small town, and you would not cover even a tiny fraction of the need.

On the way back to HohHot we stopped to see these massive statues that were on the grounds of a government building. This is just one of several in the same area.