Christmas Eve Dinner

It's finally over, the Christmas and all.

I've stayed put in Singapore this year Christmas, and decided to cook ourselves a little dinner, a little feast at home.

We don't have a huge stomach to store too much food, a three course meal will be too much for us so we had a little 2 course.

I've made creamy mushroom soup for appetizer, and lemon & rosemary chicken with chickpea salad for main. Come to think about it, we did have our three course meal, we had a butter cake that I baked few days before Christmas Eve as desserts to go with my Nespresso coffee ^^

All these, accompanied by the wonderful Christmas tree :)

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Creamy mushroom soup

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Lemon & rosemary chicken with chickpea salad

For the mushroom soup I didn't follow the recipe. For instance, I used a mix of white and brown button mushrooms; I didn't use corn starch as the cream that I used is thick enough; I used lesser cream than suggested because the soup had already turned very thick; And I blend the soup after it's done with a hand blender instead of blender the mushroom in food processor as I have none. And one thing I regret following the recipe, is the lemon juice. It was too much and the soup had a tinge of sourness.

Well, practice makes perfect anyway.

Now, I'll be off from Singapore soon, to Bangkok! (That would mean more posts on food!)


Playing with the Lights

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 It's interesting how small little changes can change the picture, I'm loving it :)

Honey Lemon

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Merry Christmas 2013 :)

It's always one of the favourite time of the year.

We've had our yearly Christmas Party as usual. And this year, I've made a little butter cookies with all the Christmas cookies cutter to give to my friends as a small gift :)

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Ginger bread man, X'mas tree and bells

This year I have a 5ft Christmas tree of my own and I love it!

Even my penguin loves it :)

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Little Penguin in Scarf

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And this little ski slipped out from the tree to take a photo ^^

Have a wonderful holidays everybody!

Trying out with Lights

I've always like to take photos next to the huge window in the living room. The diffused lights make the photos a little nicer compared to taking them in the kitchen. I didn't learn any set up because the lights are sufficient, or so I thought.

I have to admit, I committed a crime of buying too many photography books and never really put them into use. The little knowledge that I've learn have always stopped within the pages. So, I decided to read them, and really play with it so I did a little set up. I've wrapped my box with white mahjong papers so that they can act as my cheap reflector.

And so here they are.
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With only window lights

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With window lights, and the low quality self made reflector

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With window lights, white table lamps near to the objects, and low quality self made reflector

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With window lights, white table lamps further away from objects shining from front, ceiling lights, and low quality self made reflector

I would say the set up help to reduce shadows significantly. But the last one is not to my likings because I think the image looks a bit flat.

I still like my window lights, but it's too late in the afternoon, the lights are getting dim... I guess I'll have to try again tomorrow and play more of it.

Till then.

Any advice is welcomed :)


Chinggis Khan Statue

No icon represents Mongolia better than Chinggis Khan. Mongolia is what he (Mongolia must be a he, if there's ever a gender for this tough and manly country!) is today because of Chinggis Khan!

It's not a wonder to see a humongous Chinggis Khan statue here! But it is a wonder that this statue was only built in recent years, completed in year 2008. Considering the people had worshiped Chinggis Khan for centuries, this almost real Khan really came a bit too late. But it's better late than never!

The stainless steel statue is standing 40m high at the historical place where Chinggis Khan found his golden whip. Chinggis Khan is symbolically poiting towards the east, his birthday place.

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Humongous Chinggis Khan Equestrian Statue

The visitor center and museum are located at the base of the statue, which takes up 10m of the architecture. Visitors can climb up to the head of the horse, via escalators and stairs from the back of the horse. In other words, you have to climb up through the a**.

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View of Chinggis Khan from the head of the horse

Honestly speaking, after a few days in Mongolia, I think I have enough of Chinggis Khan. Everything is Chinggis Khan here.

Chinggis Khan Airport
Chinggis Khan beer
Chinggis Khan Vodka
Chinggis Khan wine
Chinggis Khan Chocolates
Chinggis Khan ...

And the list goes on and on. During my last day, I couldn't take it anymore and I asked a waitress in Ulaanbaatar, if all the Chinggis Khan brands belong to a same company. The answer is no, they are apparently different companies but decided to use the same name. Brilliant!

The statue was located 54km away from UB, in Mongolia standard, this is pretty near. I can't recall what is the ticket price of this enormous statue. We got a bundle ticket for visiting the statue and 13th Century Theme Park (which I will blog about later on) for USD75. It can easily be a day trip, as long as you get a guide to drive you along.

Worth a visit for a day tour.




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不行,都说了是家传秘方,不外传 :)


Grilled Cherry Tomatoes Bruschetta

I like bruschetta because it's simple to make, delicious to eat.

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Cherry tomatoes bruschetta

I never really do research on how others make their bruschetta, I just put the ingredients together, and assume I've made one myself.

Ever since the trip to Spain, I realized cheese with strong pungent smell goes very well with honey! And I've tried a feta cheese with honey bruschetta in Cozy in The Rocket in Penang (will blog about it later on), it helps to prove again, this combination is heaven made.

So this is what I did for my own bruschetta:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. While waiting, wash and cut the tomatoes.
2. Spread some butter on the baguette.
3. Place the cut cherry tomatoes nicely on baguette.
4. Toast them in the oven for 13-15 minutes.
5. Once ready, sprinkle feta cheese, honey and herbs as much as you like.
6. Serve.
Oh wait! Asians At Work! Snap a picture and share it on Facebook :P


Nutella Brownies


第二次更搞笑,我摆了乌龙,竟然用bread flour做蛋糕。这就是我的问题了,总是没有做5S,东西爱收哪里就收哪里,没有标明,结果用错了!蛋糕弄出来,似糕非糕,似包非包,结果进垃圾桶去了!

几天前, 男人不知从哪里看见用Nutella做Brownies的食谱。只需要三种材料就可做蛋糕。那我尽管试试。(人生就是这样,明明是他看见,却是我做的蛋糕。)当然,我没照着三种材料的食谱,反而用了这个。我还是加了点牛油,没有牛有的蛋糕不会好吃。(注:我不加糖,Nutella本身已经很甜了。)


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Nutella Brownies

顿时为自己感到骄傲!哈哈哈!下次可以加点口味了 :)


Naadam Festival

Naadam Festival is one of the most celebrated festival in Mongolia. It is "the three games of men", which are wrestling, archery and horse racing. Nowadays, women take part in the archery as well, so Naadam is no longer just-for-men festival.

Naadam Festival is being celebrated nationally, in the whole of Mongolia. But, the largest festival is held in Ulaanbaatar. Festival in other rural areas are held before or after the one in Ulaanbaatar, so that the people could celebrate at both their hometown and capital.

Our host insisted we must watch Naadam Festival, because it's really huge for them, and because we've never experienced before. Before we actually reached Ulaanbaatar, our host family went to queue for the entrance tickets for the opening ceremony in the stadium. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I'll explain later), they didn't manage to get the tickets. They're sold out!

So, instead of watching Naadam in the capital, we witnessed the festival in a small small town, called Jargalt Khan. I tried to google this place after my trip, I can't even find anything about it. This small!

The first game we watched was wrestling. The first impression I had for the game was, what the hell were they doing, it's so unfair?!?!

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First round in wrestling

Then, my host explained to me. The wrestlers have to go through 9 rounds of eliminations. And the more famous wrestlers got to chose their opponents, therefore, they always chose the smaller ones in the first few rounds to ensure they have the continuation in the game.

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Eagle dance before the game, it's a ritual

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Judges of wrestling

I'm not quite sure about you, I personally don't like wrestling. I lost of my interest pretty fast so I moved to the other stations. I turned to archery, imagining Robin Hood doing that.

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She's pretty "you yeng" isn't she?

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Very cool!~

At the end of the day, it's the event that everybody is waiting for. It's the horse racing. Horse racing in Mongolia is different from the ones we watch normally. It's not a sprint for short distance. The racers and horses have to march to the starting point which are 20-40km away, then, race their way back.

There are few categories in horse racing, from age 2 (the horse age!) to 7-8years old. And the riders, they're all young kids! So young! Age not more than 10 perhaps! And imagine, some of them race 40km without saddles, because saddles add weight to the horse and could slow them down in the race.

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First two horses are back

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Close fight

It is believed that if one managed to touch the champion horse's sweat, it'll bring luck for the rest of the year. Also, the dust from the horses while racing will bring luck too! However, it was raining for two days during Naadam Festival, there wasn't any dust, therefore nobody was chasing behind the horses.

Well, why was it fortunate that we didn't manage to watch this in Ulaanbaatar? To be honest, I like the local settings of the small town festival. It is so much more closed knit than the city. And not so commercial too. We are the only tourists in the town! And, I managed to touch the sweat! I will be lucky for the rest of the year! I'd love to believe this :)


Kids I Got to Know in Mongolia

It's a very different travel experience for me, during the trip to Mongolia. I've been backpackers that stayed in youth hostels; I've been with my husband on leisure trip that we stayed in good hotel and traveled leisurely; I've been with my big family and traveled like a mini tour group. But, I've never stayed with a family, and attached to them for entire trip. Did whatever they did, stayed wherever they stayed.

But because of this, I've got to see how the Mongolians life are. And, I've got to know some Mongolian kids too.

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Mogi, a girl I met at Naadam Festival

The Mongolian family that I've stayed with couldn't get tickets for Naadam Festival at Ulaanbaatar. However, I felt good that they didn't manage to get, because it's so much more fun to join Naadam Festival in the rural place. Even though it's a much smaller scale, but we got to see everything much closer. And it's not as commercial, as I'm pretty sure we're the only foreigners there!

We've traveled to Jargalt Khan for Naadam. A place that I can't even find to pin on my travel map. Kids are generally curious about us because we're obviously foreigners that don't understand them. However, there was this particular girl, Mogi, who was exceptionally brave. While we were watching wrestling, she asked with a timid voice:"Where are you from?" We continued the conversation, a bit here and there. Her English wasn't good, but for a 13year old girl, in such a rural place, and carried a good few minutes conversation, I salute her! The next day, we met again at a local party at community hall, she's much confident the second time, and approached me again. We've exchanged email address to add each other on Facebook, but somehow, I couldn't find her. I guess, she couldn't find me too.

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Banbo and Iso

Banbo is the grandson of a friend of my host family. Iso, the happy girl in the picture, is a mysterious girl in the house, that I have no idea of her relationship with Banbo, most likely they're not really related but just family friends who happened to be there when we were there. Iso started conversation with us, but we have no idea at all. She asked the adults and understood that we're from Malaysia. Then, we started some sign language and some nonsense conversation. The only thing we understood each other was the name. But still, it's fun.

After Iso left, Banbo was stuck with us for two days. Because we stayed with them for 2 days 2 nights. The longest conversation I had with Banbo was when we watched Mongolian dubbed Cars. When McQueen is out, we'll say McQueen! McQueen! When Mater is out, we'll say Mater! Mater! He's the little teacher who taught me animals in Mongolian with his book. I've forgotten most of them, but important ones like cows, camels, sheep etc, I can still remember. I learned that cars are called "machine" in Mongolian, from Banbo too!

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Banbo never know how to smile for camera

There is a picture of Banbo in long hair, being tied up in the living room, that I mistakenly thought Banbo has a sister! Apparently, boys in Mongolia do not cut their hair until they're 4. They'll have their hair shaved. As for girls, I can't remember the age, probably 3. And, something odd, before they shave, the hair was very light brown in color, almost blond for some. But after they shaved, the hair is darker brown.

I don't understand, but it's really cute.


Transport to Terelj National Park

I would say that going to Terelj from Ulaanbaatar wasn't that difficult. Well, of course, you'll have to expect some traveling time in this wide land. But the fact that there are straight bus from Ulaanbaatar which you do not have to worry about transiting, I think that's good enough.

Copied from Lonely Planet:
The road from Ulaanbaatar to Terelj, which goes through part of the national park, is in pretty good nick. A bus departs at 4pm from Durvun Zam and goes to the centre of the park, a few kilometres past the turn-off to Turtle Rock. The same bus comes back directly to UB. The cost is T1500 each way.

Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/mongolia/central-mongolia/terelj-area/transport/getting-there-away#ixzz2bC06lN00

We took this particular bus into Terelj National Park. However, when we left, we took a van. It wasn't a public transport, just a normal van, drove by the villager to pick up locals or travelers to go somewhere called Mid Station. From Mid Station, we could take a public bus to Ulaanbaatar, which was only 1.5hour away, at T800 per person.
The capacity of a normal van in city is 15 people, maximum. However, in Mongolia, this same van managed to squeeze in 20 people (or more!!!), with some luggage. Therefore, if you could, ask a local, get to the first pick up point to wait for the van. Take the last row in the van so that you won't be squeezed to death. Or asked to sit at someone's lap etc.
The van runs every 2 hours from 8am.

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First pick up point

There's no way I can tell you exactly where's the first pick up point. I do my best by showing you how it look like. It's within the village Zagaan Temeet.

I had so much doubt in whether the van would ever come. Unexpectedly, it turned up on time and got us to our destination safely :)

Wildlife Spotting in Terelj

In this very scarce land of Mongolia, there wasn't many wildlife you could easily spot. The easiest would be small birds, mouse, squirrel and eagles. There are wolves and bears too, but it's not often that you could run into them. And if, you're very very very very (x infinity) lucky, you might see a snake. At least that's what the locals told us.

We saw birds and mouse every single day when we're in Terelj. Spotted some different species mouse in Gobi too but it was night time, I didn't take pictures. And saw birds nest underground in Jargalt Khan (future post).

Not that I've never seen a squirrel in my life, but spotting them always make me feel happy. What more those staying under ground. (OK, I am not even sure if they're squirrels. I initially thought they're meerkats) (My friend had corrected me, this is not a squirrel, but a marmot!) =)

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Being wary

These shy animals always tried to stay a constant distance from me. This is the nearest I can take a shot. They didn't run away from me, but if I took a step forward, it'll move backward a little. At the constant distance they tried to keep, I respected that and stayed at my spot.

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Upside down

This "hao lian" little fellow was showing out its acrobatic skills by eating its favourite nuts upside down in the woods. It actually kept this pose for a long time. Until I, standing upright couldn't take it anymore.

I know I know, there's nothing to shout about for spotting a squirrel. But I'm really glad that I have rented a zoom lens to take this! Worth the work :)




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我们站在那里等着买牛奶的时候,最痛苦的事情,就是赶苍蝇,而不是牛屎。牛屎羊屎马屎,遍地草原都是,去了一天草原,也就见惯不惯。况且,大概是因为这里的动物都是吃草的,而不是吃饲料的,大便也没啥味道。 苍蝇,是最破坏草原美感的事情。明明想站在那里欣赏美景,可是偏偏苍蝇都围着你飞。我们四位,站在那里,手不停地挥动着。远远看我们,好像跳舞一样。

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把牛奶扛回家,生火把它烧滚杀菌,就可以喝了!这新鲜的牛奶实在是太香太浓,我很喜欢,一口气喝了两大杯!我们喝剩的,就会用来制作牛油和乳酪。吃的喝的,都是天然的产品,没有化学添加物。真好!在这里多住几天大概会很健康! :)



First Experience Staying in Ger

It's not a trip to Mongolia without staying in ger! It's all in my plan, that I MUST get myself into a ger, and yeah, I made it! Of course, with friends' help.

We've managed to stay in a ger in Terelj National Park (I'll talk about the transportation in next post). As we were traveling around Naadam Festival, the accommodations were all over priced. But what to do, so we stayed anyway.

Luckily our Mongolian friends have a car, we were driving around to search for a suitable ger. Some are pretty expensive, some are really dirty. And finally we're here! A decent one!

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Ger Camp

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Ger is a really brilliant design. Look at the walls, they are pre-made walls, which were then tied up together to form  a circle. It depends on how big is the ger, it could be made from 3-8 walls. The two center poles are the supporting structures. The fire place was in the middle, and the smoke was directed out to the ring roof. So, we got to keep warm at night, at the same time stay away from the smokes.
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Keeping us warm

The fire went off pretty fast, averagely 1-2hours. However, I am a deep (or "dead") sleeper, I didn't wake up entirely throughout the night. So, whoever shared the ger with me, and felt the cold had to wake up to add the woods. While I felt warm for the whole night long.

Remember I said there's no proper toilet in rural places? Well, if you were to stay in this particular ger camp, you will get to have one.

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Future posh toilet

It wasn't ready when I was there. I went in anyway, and found that the toilet bowls were installed but not connected. I do not know how are they going to connect to sewage system, I didn't even know if there's any. But looking at this, this is the most high end toilets you will ever get in this area.

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Wash basin

It's such a wonderful experience to stay in the ger. When we're resting in the ger waiting for the lunch to be served, horses were running outside the ger. We can hear them galloping. When I went out to check it out, I saw horses, horses and horses.

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Galloping their way

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Very handsome horses

The most wonderful moment, was the morning, when I woke up, horses and cows are just next to our ger. Well, basically all around our ger. Munching their delicious grass, ignoring me completely. I took my chair to sit outside the ger, having them as my company as I wrote my travel diary. I have no words to describe how it felt, it's really just GREAT!

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Horses as my company
My friend woke up and took a picture of me and the horses.

This decent ger is located in the village in Terelj National Park, Zagaan Temeet. The camp name is Shijiz Camp. And the owner is Aetandnimeg (+976-99084445). The lady boss speaks English. There's also a small signboard in English outside the camp. According to my Mongolian friend, as long as there's English, the price is more expensive. Well, I believe in that.

It's 80,000 Tughrik per night, which is about USD55. Perhaps if you're traveling at other season, you could get a better price.


Things You Should Know About Mongolia

Before I traveled to Mongolia, I was nervous and excited at the same time. I've booked my ticket only 2 weeks before the trip, I didn't have enough time to prepare myself. I guessed that's where all the anxiety came from.

It's lucky for me, I have a new Malaysian friend in Mongolia. He's settling down for good, and he knows my cultural background. So, I got to ask questions without too much fear of offending him. I sure have learned a lot by observing their life. (Thanks to CS for introducing a new friend to me!)

Now that I'm back, I wish to tell you what I've observed and learned. I think these are the things you should know before you go.

You Do Not Get to Shower
You know you're not going to get a luxury trip to Mongolia. But what you MUST know, especially city kids like us, growing up at places with plenty of resources that we've forgotten how lucky we are all these times, you don't get to shower. Well, life in Ulaanbaatar was okay, but out of the capital, resources are really scarce. People get water from well, and they have to pay for it. Therefore, water is really precious.

The photo below is showing the place where I washed up and brushed teeth when we were at Terelj National Park. The "mailbox" is where the water was stored for usage. Used water is collected in the pail. This version here is considered as "luxury" type.

Life is tough for them. It's an irony we travelers went there to experience life, while the people are struggling with their daily life. So when you're there, try not to waste the water. That's all they have.

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Open air water tab for washing

I've broke my own record for not getting shower in 3 days. During the entire trip, I've only got a handful of shower, only when we're back to Ulaanbaatar.

There is No Proper Toilet
It's good for me that I've had experience in rural places in China few years back with my sister. Don't expect to have any proper toilet. Toilets in the country houses are basically a very very very deep hole. It's so deep I was in constant fear that I would slip and fell into the pile of shit. No kidding, you might probably die because you sink into the shit!

If you're on the road, there's definitely no toilet. We've been pampered by plenty of Rumah Rehat along Malaysia Highways. No such thing in Mongolia. If you need a leak, just stop your car, find a spot you like, there you go!

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Toilets everywhere

To be very honest to you, sometimes I prefer this "toilet" than the deep hole. Even in the first case, that would mean no cover. But here in Mongolia, nobody gives a shit if you pee or poo in public, because everybody's doing it.

Nomadic Life
I've got to stay in a ger, as I've always wanted to. The ger is specially built to be robust to all kinds of harsh and extreme weather in Mongolia, at the same time, so easy to take apart and rebuild anywhere and everywhere they want to. It's really a brilliant design!

Even when they are already living in the city, Nomadic Life is still in the blood. There's nothing in the world could change them. I've learned it, quite a hard way. We've all went to Terelj National Park with the Mongolian host family. As a typical city kids we've always asked about plans for tomorrow and few days later. But we've always got no answer. I thought it's because communication problem, at first.

But after all, I realized it's not. They don't make plans because everything they do depend strongly on the weather of the day. And also, the mood. Everything is unpredictable. One morning, the host asked us to pack and leave Terelj because we're going to Jargalt Khan to watch Naadam Festival. We have to pack and eat breakfast in half an hour!

Second time, I was slightly smarter, I packed in 15 minutes. Third time, I realized, I don't have to pack anything because I don't have to change anyway! I was ready in 5 minutes!

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Normadic Life

You Have To Be a Man
Yes, you have to be a man, sissy IS VERY un-welcomed by the Mongolians. Manhood is everything, that's why they have Naadam Festival. All boys are trained from young to race a horse, shoot an arrow and wrestle.

Guys in Mongolia don't wear colorful clothings like pink, yellow, light blue etc. Those are for girls, so beware of the colors you chose to wear when you're in Mongolia.

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Riding a horse is as easy as walking to Mongolians

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Wrestle! Even he's much bigger than you!

Respect The Nature
Mongolians respect their nature, a lot. Don't take rocks/stones/sands from places you go. They believe things belong to where they are. They have life. Don't kill animals/insects for no reason. Yes, we kill animals for food, but that's for living.

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At a farm

I've visited the farm of the herders. Even if the animals will eventually be slaughtered, generally they still treat them pretty well. I often see them petting the cows or the goats, which is kinda loving.

Marvelous Sense of Direction
Mongolians have incredibly good sense of direction! GPS is definitely not useful in Mongolia. Forget about it, just hire a Mongolia guide!

There's no proper road, no signboard, no... NOTHING on the road. Of all the days I was in Mongolia, I was really amazed by the drivers. How did they know where to go? And how did they know they're at the right direction?

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In the middle of desert

The concept of privacy of Mongolians are very different from us. If they changed their clothes in front of you (even opposite sex), don't be alarmed and misunderstood, nothing's going to happen. They're just having different concept in privacy than us. All these are perfectly fine to them, but not us.

I guess that's all for now, I will continue with it if I could think of any others :)