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Mongolian Comparisons

July 28, 2015 0 Comments


Rained out today.

Our intention was to go into town and set up border permits, then submit signed Russian visa applications. It was just too wet and we are camped beside the Tuur River, about 12km east of Ulan Bator.

It’s idyllic except for plenty of rubbish. The only effort Mongolian campers and day trippers make with their rubbish is to place it in heaps. Then the cows and dogs come around and spread it about. But the spot is truly nice, and an easy run into town.

Time for some comparisons.

Chinese and Mongolians

The Chinese and Indonesians were so curious and interested in what we are doing. It was wonderful, but after the 200th daily photo opportunity with them, their kids and their extended family, it became very draining. We have sign-written on our cars, in simplified Chinese, “say hello, we are driving from Australia to Portugal” and they took us at our word. So we invited the attention.

The Mongolians are different. They are stoked to read the Mongol writing on our car, they are happy to say hello, but they are not desperate about a photo. They give you plenty of personal space. They are shy, they don’t giggle unnecessarily, but have a wonderful sense of fun and humour. They are pretty laid back. I think with too much vodka, they would be a handful, more than a handful.

One of the guys today said the Mongol message on the side of the car says: “Say hello, we’re driving to Australia’s Portugal”!

Latitude and Attitude

China has some of the best, most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. Our last week or so in China, above Beijing, ran us into some semi desert country. I must say, I was less than impressed with the Geopark Ice forest. The bit I didn’t like was it being touted as a once in a lifetime, Unesco certified area. Okay, it was unique geologically, but didn’t live up to my expectations.

Petroglyphs in Mongolia

Khavtsgait Petroglyphs – rock art up to 10,000 years old

Last Saturday and Sunday, in Mongolia, we went to rock formations far more dramatic, larger scale and steeper, than the Chinese Geopark. With no fanfare. Just come and have a look. Okay, much different geology, volcanic not sedimentary, but for the common plodder like me, far more interesting. But, no-one at the gate to charge admission. No gate. No busloads, no concrete roads. No big deal. It tells me everything about Mongolia.

To me the Chinese are “working up” their domestic tourism, so it is, for the Chinese domestic tourist, the “best” in the world. So the domestic tourist doesn’t need to go anywhere else in the world.

The Drivers

The Chinese are the worst. Indonesians had a similar dramatic style, but had a sort of ‘flow’ that seemed to work.

Mongolian country drivers are better. In the city they are less patient – a lot less. But they don’t blow their horns like the Chinese.

On country Chinese roads, if there was a blockage – and there always was – the queue would widen to a few lanes, then blow their horns. I thought it was hilarious. Once a guy drove up the wrong side of the gravel road and blocked a car going the other way, so I jumped out of our stopped car and played traffic cop.

The car on the wrong side was far more aggressive than the car blocked, so I just stood in front of him and waved him back. He came forward to run into me, but I put on my constable plod face, swore at him loudly using words only heard in an Australian shearing shed and held my ground.

He drove up to me but didn’t actually touch me. I looked back at the blocked driver, who thought the theatre was a great joke and was laughing, as was I. Then the aggressive driver started to smile and backed up out of the way, to let the blocked driver through.

Anyway, Chinese drivers just jam themselves together and wait for a spirit to untangle them. But they don’t jump out and punch the bloke beside him!

Truck drivers in China are better than Mongolian – more aware of what’s happening around them.


Chinese talk in riddles and talk pictures. Mongolians, like Australians, grunt and get straight to the point. No pissing about.

Way to go!

Indonesian, Chinese and Mongolian directions are close to the same level of confusion. I stick by my theory of asking three people and averaging out the answer. Everybody points in a different direction to get to the same place. A bit like getting directions from an Australian Outback farmer.

Way of Life

Indonesia and China don’t really have a word for camping – it’s a foreign concept, requiring a good look and questions. To Mongolians it’s their way of life. They will drive out of their work town, park, set a fire, cook a feed and sleep on the ground, although some use tents. They are very impressed with our rooftop campers. They are bush people and the bush comes easy to them.

Sunset and Rise

We’ve driven across the equator, so we’ve had heaps of change, however, now, in Mongolia at 47° north, sunset is at 10pm. And sunrise seems early. So, it’s a long day.

That’s it for comparisons for now. I had to tone some down after I read them to Lynn. She thought I was being a bit tough on the Chinese!

Bye for now.

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