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.
|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!
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.
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!
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.
|Riding a horse is as easy as walking to Mongolians|
|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.
|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?
|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 :)