Hi there. I'm gonna take a crack at answering your questions. I was
an M-14, and I'm back in the States now. RPCV wandering about the
countryside, attempting to establish my American life again.
Here are your questions, followed by my answers:
> - If there was one place you would most definitely recommend,
where would it be?
If you have three weeks (Anything less than three weeks in Mongolia
and it's a roller coaster ride. You need to give the country a
chance and be slow-paced.) then I would recommend a trip to Khovsgol
for the beauty, or out in Hovd (to see pure wilderness) for the
> - What are the often looked-over sites?
Anything out west, the Gobi, and Amarbaysgalant Monastery (in
between Erdenet and Darkhan). This rule is true: The farther away
from Ulaanbaatar, the fewer tourists and tourist traps.
> - What makes Mongolia wonderful in your view?
People are nice and welcoming, you can strike up a conversation with
anyone (even if you don't speak Mongolian), and the weather keeps
you feeling humble.
> - A lot of the literature seems to indicate that if I want to
travel in Mongolia I will have to use a tour group. (at least for
the visa) How true is this?
It's a load of lies. You can go solo without a problem. Hell, if
you're an RPCV, you'd be welcomed by PC staff and I'm sure an
Ulaanbaatar-based PCV would consider housing you for your stay. And
if you're American, you get something like 60-90 days without
needing a visa. You can fly through Incheon Airport in Seoul, South
Korea and not need a visa there, either. Those tour groups can be a
tad on the ruthless capitalistic/greedy side. Please beware.
> Any advice would be most welcome. I've just started the planning
> process and there is much I'd like to learn.(so far my research
>has consisted mainly in watching _the story of the weeping camel_
>and purchasing but not reading some books)
Read those books. Lonely Planet's latest offering has pretty recent
information, but if you're serious, get in contact with Jay P.
], the acting Mongolia PCVC (PCVL?)
or Ken Goodson, [kgoodson@...
],the Director of PC
Mongolia (he's very approachable and enjoys meeting fellow RPCVs.)
The Story of the Weeping Camel is a nice primer for Mongolia. It was
filmed in the south, and although the terrain and weather you saw is
indicative of parts of southern Mongolia--during late Spring--there
is a variety of diverse flora, fauna, and topography that the movie
did not reveal.
People will always quote you different "best times" to come to
Mongolia. In my opinion, the late summer/early fall, post-Naadam is
the sweetspot. Harvests of fresh fruit are for sale, everyone is
eating well, rural people have made money on their herd, and almost
everyone is resting before they prepare for the winter. kids are in
school starting in September.
If you have the gumption, I would advise you to try and stay in a
ger with a family in the countryside for a week. You can arrange
that kind of thing with a serving PCV real easily, if you put a
little time into cultivating the idea. Living with a Mongolian
herder family in a ger out in the countryside is the best way to
experience Mongolia in its purest form.
I hope you enjoy your trip--if it ever gets beyond the planning
-Mark "Rosie" Rosenwald