Thursday, May 28, 2015

4 Days Self-guided Solo Trip in Winter Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar and the Great Genghis Khan's Monuments
February 16 to February 19, 2015

“Without the vision of a goal, a man cannot manage his own life, much less the lives of others…The ancients had a saying: ‘Unity of purpose is a fortune in affliction.’” - Genghis Khan

My 40th solo backpacking trip, 42 countries visited so far and of course, usual budget do-it-yourself itinerary from arrival to departure. This trip is the 1st part of the Northeastern Asian winter adventure with Mainland China.

Mongolia is a landlocked country located between China and Russia. It is a vast emptiness that links land and sky, and is one of the last few places on the planet where nomadic life is still a living tradition. The province of Inner Mongolia is geographically and politically separate and located in northern part of China yet it shares common borders with Mongolia. Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, and his grandson Kublai Khan conquered China to establish the Yuan Dynasty. After the collapse of the Yuan, the Mongols retreated to Mongolia and resumed their earlier pattern of factional conflict and occasional raids on the Chinese borderlands. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism.

4 Days Self-guided Solo Trip in Winter Mongolia (Genghis Khan Monument in Sukhbaatar Square)

4 Days Self-guided Trip in Winter Mongolia (Golden Triangle Tour)

4 Days Self-guided Solo Trip in Winter Mongolia (flight from Beijing via TWOV)

4 Days Self-guided Solo Trip in Winter Mongolia (train ticketing office in Ulaanbaatar)

4 Days Self-guided Solo Trip in Winter Mongolia (2nd class ticket from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing)

This another race against time, short backpacking researched in somehow detailed manner has a compressed itinerary designed as follows; 

February 16 Monday: Afternoon arrival in Ulaanbaatar Airport
February 17 Tuesday: Genghis Khan Complex and Terelj National Park
February 18 Wednesday: Ulaanbaatar whole day City tour 
February 19 Thursday: Crossborder overnight train ride from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing

TOTAL BUDGET : USD766 = PHP34,087 (72.4% went to plane/train ticket)

timezone - +0800H UTC;   capital - Ulaanbaatar;   language - Mongolian
currency - Tugrik 1 USD = 1,800 MNT
visa - Filipinos are visa on arrival (free visa) in Mongolia

Interesting Facts about Mongolia: 
1. Despite its landlocked status, Mongolia has many salt lakes. Mongolian lakes and rivers contain more than fifty unique fish species.
2. Mongolia has the oldest National Park in the world. Lying just South of Ulaanbaatar the Bogd Khan National Park dates its origin to 1778 - it predates Yellowstone by over 100 years.
3. A 131-foot statue of Genghis Khan sits on the steppe about an hour drive from Ulan Bator. He sits on the world's tallest statue of a horse.
4. Ulaanbaatar is described as the "coldest national capital city in the world," with temperatures dipping to -40C (-40F) or lower in the winter.
5. Genghis Khan lived his life as a nomad. Genghis Khan is just a title. His real name was Temujin. Genghis Khan's grandson, Kublai, united China for the first time. His dynasty became known as the Yuan dynasty.

4 Days Self-guided Solo Trip in Winter Mongolia (mongolian barbecue)

4 Days Self-guided Solo Trip in Winter Mongolia (mongolian barbecue)

4 Days Self-guided Solo Trip in Winter Mongolia (State Department Store at night)

4 Days Self-guided Solo Trip in Winter Mongolia (Gandan Monastery Buddha)

Arriving from Ulaanbaatar (Ulanbator) International Airport; 
Filipino passport holders are gratis on visa fee and visa on arrival in Mongolia with 21 days period of stay. In addition, China immigration particularly in Beijing International Airport provides 24-hour free transit without visa (TWOV) regardless of nationality. As a Filipino budget traveler, I availed and ensured this information before arriving and 100% true and successful. Cebu Pacific flight arrived in Beijing Airport Terminal 2 almost exactly as per schedule. I arrived 0030H and immediately walked fast to transit desk which unfortunately closed at this time. Thus, I went straight to immigration lane. Beijing Airport immigration officer I encountered was somehow oriented and informed about the 24-hour TWOV because they asked only routine questions on a non-typical tourist like me. I handed-over my passport and asked usual questions like "Where is your ticket outbound? and "What destination".  After around less than 5 minutes, I was in full smile going outside and looking for the free shuttle bus (24hr-operation) going to Terminal 3 transfer for all Air China flights. I arrived early morning of 16-Feb and my flight outbound is around 1100H of the same day. Beijing Airport IO's stamped TWOV on my passport with validity date up to 17-Feb, no particular time limit indicated. This means IO's are not that strict in implementing 24-hour TWOV as the vailidity is more than 24-hours, maximizing the difference between two days. I can even visit Beijing for a day tour if I want.

At the Ulaanbaatar International Airport, Mongolian IO asked where is my ticket outbound. I told her I will buy my ticket in Ulaanbataar train station. She then told me to asked her Superior Officer, I went to her Officer and informed about my outbound ticket. the Superior Officer asked me how long will I stay, I told him only 4 days. They are all kind enough to let me go and stamped the entry visa.

From Ulaanbaatar Airport, the only way to go to Ulaanbaatar central is through taxi, standard fare per Airport information advisory is 30,000MNT ($15). But what I did was I gambled to ride on a colorum car to save which was only 20,000MNT ($10), service was exactly the same. I asked to drop-off to Ulaanbaatar train ticketing office which is infront of the Ulaanbaatar train station. Ticket office operates from 0900H-1700H. After I bought my ticket, I just walk my way to my booked hostel which is around 2km distance only.

Anyways, I divided this wonderful journey into different set of posts to be more specific on its content;

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