First Encounter with CS in Terelj National Park Mongolia

The story goes like this. I met a couple on my first day at the B&B who had been travelling for nearly one year. Over the past few days in Mongolia, every time when I saw them at the B&B, we would have a chat. They had started telling me about how they could travel in an inexpensive way. One of methods was CS. I had heard of it but had never used it because I was a bit sceptical about it. In fact, my ex-colleague was a CS and he introduced me to his friend in Bhutan before I travelled there. When he told me about CS, he saw the way I looked so he said, ‘what, you think everyone in the world is a psycho?’ He got me wrong but it was ok. He was just my colleague. Before he told me about CS, I had travelled quite a bit and the thing is I always stayed in hostels and I found it cheap enough. There was no need to engage in CS. It was the ‘need’ that I was considering. This time in Mongolia, the couple kept telling me, ‘CS is the way!’ OK, got it. Maybe I still looked a bit sceptical so they invited me to join them on a one-day trip with their CS to Terelj National Park ‘to try it out’.

The CS they contacted was a Mongolian girl who taught herself English. She also invited her other friends who also invited other people including an English teacher but I don’t remember where he is from.

We all got into a vehicle that they arranged. Because none of us knew Mongolian, the language, we patiently waited. The funny thing was we could see the Mongolian girl and her friends walking outside the vehicle doing something and saying something. Then she would come back to tell us, ‘just wait’. And then she’d run around again and say something in Mongolian to her friends. The English teacher said, ‘I’m used to it. I never know what is going on.’ That sounds pretty familiar – I was like this in Cambodia as a volunteer too. (check out my chat over coffee with other volunteers I met in Cambodia here.) I guess all the foreigners are like that when they work in a foreign country.

Anyway, we paid for the entrance fee and then headed towards the central part of the park.

If I remember correctly, it was my first time to tag along somebody in a trip since I started travelling solo. It felt strange. But the entire group made me feel welcomed.

As the vehicle started going into the national park, I started to see the Mongolian steppe and their gers.
Horses! Horse trekking! It’s a must-do in Mongolia.
The locals took us to a cave inside the national park.
We visited a family living inside the national park. It turns out that the mother is an activist who fights for the rights of women. This is her kid. He loved being in photos.
He also loved playing on a tablet too just like any other kids in the rest of the world.
The family treated us some Mongolian snacks. The language you can see on the cans is Russian. You can see Russian, the language, almost everywhere in Mongolia.
I took this photo because I think it’s an ingenious design. The container catches the rain. You push the ‘stick’ at the bottom of the container to get the water to wash your hands.
The group took us to another spot for a picnic.
It was actually quite windy.
Another spot in the national park
What kind of bug is it?
Here comes the picnic.
Yummy! I think it was mutton…? Poor me, I don’t and can’t eat red meat.

It was a very good trip. I got to know something more about the country. CS is a platform where you can meet the locals and if you are lucky, you will find some locals to host you for free. But now, you need to pay to be a member. I became a member before I started my trip to South America but I didn’t use it while I was there. I will talk about that trip soon. I have also hosted some CS’s when I was in Shanghai. I will talk about that later too. 😊 It was actually quite fun. 😜

Anyway, after this one-day trip, I was happy. It’s true that if it weren’t because of the CS, we wouldn’t be able to go to the national park and enjoy the day like this. Kevin asked me if I enjoyed it. Yes, I did. He had that triumphant smile on his face. Yes, I got it. CS is the way. You two had kind of convinced me. Kind of.

The following day was the day before we started the Gobi Desert trip. We didn’t need to prepare for anything. The package that the B&B sold us included everything – a driver and a tour guide who was also a translator and chef, tents, meals, etc. It was not as expensive as the other ones I saw on the internet. I’d say, it was a very good deal.

So, the day before I headed to Gobi Desert, I went to the church again for an appointment with the priests.  

I don’t know what brought it up but Kevin said when it rained in Ulaanbaatar, it’d be disastrous. When I went out that day, it was cloudy. I walked to the bus stop from the B&B which was quite far away and had a look around in the city.

I took a bus to the church. It was so much easier now that I knew where to get off.
The weather wasn’t really that good.
I walked past a park.
The Beatles
The local cinema was showing Step Up 4. Quite a recent movie back then. Channing wasn’t in the movie though. ☹

I spent a few hours chatting with the priests and visiting their community centre. The priests told me about the problems in Mongolia and their missionary work.

When I left, they taught me how to take the bus and took me to the bus stop. It was already quite late. I was supposed to meet the CS girl I met yesterday at 7pm. The church was quite far away from the city centre and the B&B.

What made it worse was, it started to rain.

Traffic jam. Stuck on the bus.

The rain was so heavy that all the vehicles literally stopped on the road. Our bus couldn’t even move an inch in 30 minutes. I was late for the appointment and I didn’t want the girl to wait at the square which was an outdoor area. I called her but she couldn’t hear me. I looked around me and found a young girl sitting close to me so I asked her if she could help. She talked to the CS girl in Mongolian and then handed me back my phone and said, ‘I thought you were a local. Only the locals take buses. Most of the foreigners just take the taxis.’ I told her I loved to travel like a local. She agreed, ‘that’s how you can see more of a country.’

The bus moved slowly like a snail.

It was raining harder.

Finally, after I talked to the girl for a long while, the bus stopped at the square where I was supposed to meet the girl. Needless to say, there was nobody there. It was still pouring so I walked back to the B&B in the rain. There was no point of taking the bus anymore because it was so congested.

It was really crazy. I totally understood what Kevin said earlier about the rain in Ulaanbaatar. The roads in Mongolia weren’t really that good. The potholes in the roads I saw were huge. They could be as wide as one lane. I had to do a long jump to jump over the potholes but I am not an Olympic athlete so in the end, my feet got wet.

I walked and jumped in the rain, feeling hungry.

It was nearly 10pm and I was still on the road, in the heavy rain. I needed to eat. But most of the restaurants were closed.

Fortunately, I saw a pub on my right. It looked like it was still open so I went in and asked if they still served food. The waiter looked at me strangely and answered, ‘yes’. Thank God! I quickly sat down and ordered some food.

While I was waiting for the food, I looked around the pub. It looked pretty cool! Can you see the clock? It was 10:10pm.
These look very African.

Just as I was taking the photo of those African masks and ornaments, the guests sitting close to them waved to my camera. I said, ‘oh, sorry, I was just taking photos of those things up there. I made sure you weren’t in the photos.’ They were disappointed. ‘would you like to be in my photo?’ I asked. We started chatting and they even invited me to join them. Cool!  One of the guys said, ‘you know what, when you first came in, I thought you were Mongolian and I thought “wow! She has such a nice body.”’ I laughed. I was surprised that Mongolians were that straight forward. It was a nice compliment though.

A group of colleagues having a drink after work. I remember that pen on the table! They used it to help them illustrate their ideas when they talked to me.

We chatted until late. It was a very good conversation. They told me quite a lot of things about Mongolia – some of them were things that the B&B owner told me on my first day here while some were new to me. But I had to wake up early for the Gobi Desert trip the next day and the rain had stopped so I excused myself. They left me their contacts and asked me to call them if I needed any help. That was so kind of them. Anyway, thanks for the good conversation. If you see this blog, leave me a message below. 😊

When I returned to the B&B, it was after midnight. When the reception saw me, she was relieved, ‘the couple had been looking for you.’ That was so sweet of them. That’s why I like staying in a hostel. Backpackers look after each other and help each other out. If everyone is like this in the world, our world will become a much better place.

There is always something to look forward to, including my Gobi Desert trip. Stay tuned. 😉

5 August 2012 – 6 August 2012

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