The Diverse Gobi Desert

I woke up in my tent.

The couple was talking and I thought to myself, ‘nah, let me lie in this comfortable tent for a little while longer and let the couple spend sometime with each other. Don’t want to be the third wheel.’ So I stayed in my sleeping bag and closed my eyes again. After they left to climb a hill nearby, I came out of the tent.

The sun had already gone up.

The morning air was so fresh.

No pollution.

No inhabitants.

Outside my tent
The moon that I saw last night.

The couple came back and told me the view up on the hill was nice so I climbed up and took some photos.

Can you see me there? 🙂
I wonder if this area in Gobi Desert was once a sea or a lake. It looks like one. Google says it could be. Some marine life fossils have been found in Gobi Desert.
This reminds me of Pancake Rocks in New Zealand. Yeah! Pancakes! 😀
Fermented mare’s milk. Can you see my shadow? I was trying to drink the shadow of the milk. The milk was actually very sour. It’s not something that I’d drink again.
We entered into a different realm of Gobi Desert. You can see the change in vegetation. This area is much drier.

The travel agency that I contacted before this trip was right. She said ‘Gobi Desert is very diverse. One can see different vegetation, flora and fauna, arid land, grassland, sand dunes, etc.’ It was really amazing!

Speaking of fauna, while we were sitting around the foldable dining table, having lunch, chatting and laughing, the tour guide suddenly said to me in a very serious manner, ‘Don’t move.’

Sensing the seriousness but not knowing what was going on, I asked, ‘what?’

‘There is a snake under your chair.’


The driver jumped up on to his chair.

The couple fled.

And I?

I ran away too!

It turned out the snake was a teenager. The driver and the tour guide guided it to another place.

Then a surprise came.

They found the home of the entire snake family.

We had been eating only a metre or so away from the snake cave!

We could have been attacked by the parents. (shivering)

The tour guide and driver quickly packed everything and drove us away.

The driver was teasing a lizard.
Public shower in Gobi Desert

The couple needed to leave directly from Mongolia to their next destination on the last day of our Gobi Desert trip so they requested to take a shower before they flew. However, according to our tour guide, the area where we were going to on our last day did not have a shower. So, we took a shower on our second day of our Gobi Desert trip. The shower in the photo looked terrible but it was actually quite good – water pressure was great, water temperature was fine too, very hot.

How would you feel if this was the first thing you saw after you woke up?
Our driver loved playing with lizards.
This is a very interesting terrain. It looks like some Hollywood movie setting.
We climbed up the hill and met a lady there.

We started chatting with the lady. She told us she was in her sixty’s and had been travelling alone in Mongolia. I remember thinking to myself, ‘can I travel like that when I reach that age?’ She was carrying a walking stick but she looked very healthy and energetic. For those of you who have followed my blog long enough, you know I started having knee problems a few years ago. Several years before that, I was asked, ‘what if, one day, you can’t travel like the way you do now?’ I answered, ‘I will have no regrets. I have been to countries that I wanted to go to so what more can I ask for?’ The hardest part is to accept that fact. But when it sinks in, everything is fine and you move on, just like what I said in one of my previous blogs. Now in 2021, feeling the pain in my knees, I think, maybe when I reach 60, if I can live until then, I may still be able to hike up and down the mountains. I may not be as agile as my younger self or other young people and I may not be able to do strenuous hikes but I may still be able to do some easy hikes. Who knows what’s going to happen? Life is so uncertain. In fact, the couple also said, ‘you’ll be able to do it.’

The shape of the mountain looks like fire in a fireplace.
Kevin said, ‘pose like this as if you had achieved something.’ Yes, this can be a good poster for some motivational talks.
Mongolian horses

Speaking of horses, the tour guide said almost every Mongolian man can ride a horse. Hm… that’s the Mongolia that I had envisioned.

Our tour guide came to this store to get more food supplies for the next few days. Yes, instant noodles can be found almost everywhere in the world.
Tonight, we couldn’t see the Milky Way but we saw this.
All of us, including the tour guide, stayed in this Mongolian ger for one night.

It seemed the ‘fauna’ in Gobi Desert really liked me. Once I got in my bed and was ready to sleep in the ger, something bit me. I screamed. The first thing that came to my mind was a scorpion. But it was pitch-black inside the ger. I couldn’t see a thing. The tour guide was fast asleep. The couple immediately asked me if I was ok. I explained. Kevin asked, ‘can you see what’s there? It could be a scorpion.’ ‘I need light.’ Jennifer quickly took out a torch (or her phone) and passed it to me. I checked my thigh and found the injured area. It looked ok. At least, it wasn’t bleeding. Then I found the insect inside my trekking trousers. Lucky that it wasn’t a scorpion. I slowly guided it out of my trousers and threw it out of my sleeping bag. What a night!

The next day, the tour guide asked me, ‘I heard you scream last night. You don’t like the ger?’

Today’s activity – camel riding at the sand dunes.

Finally, we reached the most typical desert part of Gobi Desert – sand dunes. 😊 Actually, the ger we stayed at last night was right beside the sand dunes. It’s just that when we arrived, it was so dark that we couldn’t see it.

Riding a camel was much harder than riding a horse. When I mounted the camel and as it stood up, I screamed. It felt so unsteady. The host said, ‘you scare the camel.’ 😅

Finally, I got on the camel.
The tour guide and us. You can see the land was very dry.
The camels started to climb up the sand dunes.

The camels only took us to the shoulder of the sand dunes. We continued to climb up. It was actually very hard to walk on the sand.

View from the top of the sand dunes.
Kept walking
The sand looked like waves in the sea. Beautiful. I was speechless.

The sand dunes reminded me of you.

I wrote your name on the sand.

I’d leave you there.

The wind would do the job.

Sea of sand
After we left the sand dunes, we arrived at this barren land.
We saw this man catching his horse.
The Flaming Cliffs. This is where fossils of dinosaurs are found.
The Flaming Cliffs. Imagine the dinosaurs walking around this piece of land 80 million years ago! ROAR! I am like a kid. 😄
Sunset at Flaming Cliffs
This was the first thing I saw in the morning! 😱
My first time to see a mirage! It looked so real!
Posing in front of the mirage
This one looked more real! It’s like the camels were really gathering at a lake when in fact, there was no lake at all! It was so amazing! The camels were real by the way. 😄
Relatives of the driver

I actually didn’t know where the driver was taking us but anyway, here we were. The couple in the photo are the relatives of the driver. To tell whether the nomads are wealthy, all you need to do is to count the number of animals they own. This family had quite a lot but our driver said, ‘no, they are not that wealthy.’

Inside the ger. This is different from the one for tourists.
The roof of the Mongolian ger
Mass production of goat’s milk

The goats were so noisy. They kept going ba ba ba so I imitated them. I did it so well that the lady in the photo looked at me, perplexed… and then laughed.

The driver invited us to his ger to stay for a night with his family. It was so kind of him. His wife kept the entire ger so clean and tidy. It was so different from the tourist one we stayed at on our previous night. I had such a good sleep there. Nothing bit me at all.

This is how the fermented mare’s milk is produced. The driver takes the finished products to town to sell.
The next morning, we went horse trekking with the driver’s relatives.
We rode to the lake nearby.

I can never control white horses but I get along with the brown (or bay or chestnut) ones very well. They seem to like me too. So, in the morning, when the host let us choose a horse, I picked a brown one. The white horse saw me in a distance and could sense that I didn’t like it so it took a step back and hesitated. (Horses are sensitive. They can tell your emotions.) I mounted the brown horse in the photo and followed the group to the lake.


I carried my heavy DSLR camera with me. Whenever the horse started to gallop, my camera hit my bone around my waist. In the end, I had to stop the horse. The host thought I couldn’t ride it and that I was afraid. I explained by using my unique body language and my voice mimicking the sound of the hitting. He then understood and asked the horse to slow down. It was my dream to ride a happy horse on this vast Mongolian land but because of my camera, my dream was shattered. Anyway, I will do horse riding again, some time and somewhere in the future. I love horses. 😊

The time when I was in Mongolia, Nadaam Festival had finished. But very fortunately, the driver said there was a minor one going on in his tribe so he drove us there.

Getting ready for Nadaam Festival
Mutton is their staple food.
To greet each other, the Mongolians don’t shake hands. They exchange snuff bottles. They then open the bottle and sniff it. The design of the bottles also tells the other something about you too.
Inside the ger, the local people prepared some more food for the festival.
You can see this ritual almost everywhere.
The MC announced the opening of the ceremony.
The wrestling started.
At the same time, another game was about to begin.
Even the kids joined in.

I had so many questions about taking a long trip so when the four-wheel drive was moving around the desert, I started asking the couple. My questions may sound stupid but they did lead me to some inspiring answers.

So, don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. You may get an intelligent answer.

‘How do you make money on the road?’ I asked recalling all the blogs that I read on this topic.  

‘We have been using our savings.’

I wondered what job they had back in America. They told me and it wasn’t like those finance jobs that paid them millions of dollars a year.

‘How much does it cost to travel around the world?’ I asked.

‘How long do you plan to travel for?’ Kevin asked.

To become a long-term backpacker had always been my dream. When I say ‘long term’, I mean three months or above. How about for life? I don’t know. Hm… Be careful of what you wish for. Hm… Maybe not for life then.

‘I don’t know. One year may be too long for a first timer. Three months may be too short. How about six months? If I like it, I can continue for another half year or another year or so.’ I answered.

‘That’s about right.’ Kevin responded.

‘Where do you plan to stay?’ The couple asked.

‘I usually stay in hostels or B&B like this one in Mongolia.’ I said.

‘Try CS!’ ‘CS is the way!’ I laughed. CS should pay them commission. They started preaching to me about CS. 🤣

But what if I don’t use CS?

Kevin gave me a rough number.

I did a quick mental calculation.

When I say ‘a quick mental calculation’, I mean, … in the end, I had to use a calculator on my phone to help me.

Then I laughed.

I laughed not because I wasn’t convinced but because I already had enough savings to cover the costs of that 6-month trip and a few months after that in case I couldn’t find a job after the trip.

It wasn’t really a lot.

What would you do for travelling? Quit my job, use my savings. That’s how passionate the backpackers are. 😊

I recently read a blog by the author of ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, in which he said millennials should earn money first and then buy the experience instead of having it the other way round. I agree. But when do we know we have ‘enough money’ for a trip like that? When do we know we are ready? We never, until we meet an expert like this couple or…

…until it’s time.

Back then, I was working for a work bully. Every day I went to work, she kept pushing me to resign. The reason was obvious. The department I worked in was established solely for a project. The project came to an end and most of the tasks had been turned into BAU (business as usual) so the management wanted to fold that department. They terminated the contracts of all the contractors in that department except me because I was a permanent staff. They could either transfer me to another department or make my role redundant and pay me a severance payment. My supervisor gave me an option to transfer to another department. However, while I was working for this department, I also worked on another task of another department. That was also part of my job duty. So, basically, I played dual roles and my time was divided into two parts – one on the large project, another one on the daily governance tasks. During my interview for this company, I asked about the future of this role after the project was completed. The hiring manager said, ‘you will then join the governance team.’ My hiring manager left the team around a year after I joined the company. And this work bully came and took over all the hiring manager’s responsibilities. When the work bully gave me the transfer option, I said, ‘I’d like to return to the governance team. I have been working for them since I joined and that is what the hiring manager promised me during the interview.’ The work bully nearly yelled at me, ‘how can you work in that team? You DON’T have the qualification!’ Look, as I said, I had been working for that team after I was onboard. If I didn’t have the qualification, how could I handle all those tasks? Because I insisted, she started to bully me every day. Whatever I did, she criticized. She gave me negative feedback on everything I did. She even asked me to sign a piece of paper to acknowledge that I had been delivering ‘poor quality work’ when even her boss and another team head complimented my work.

I wanted to resign but I still liked what I did. I constantly got positive feedback from my colleagues from the region (I was in a regional role) and because of that, I was motivated to go to work, until I met this couple in Mongolia. I realised I should really resign. There was no point for me to continue to deal with this kind of mental stress.

I should just move on and do what I had always wanted to do.

When I finally gave her my resignation letter after this trip, the work bully smiled triumphantly. She invited me to have a chat and asked me what I’d like to do next and even offered me a book about travelling. (Yes, all of a sudden, she became very nice to me…at least, superficially). Around two weeks before my last day of work, I was sent to another city for a business trip for two weeks. I came back one day before my last day with that company. On that very same day, I received an email from the work bully addressing the HR department asking if I could leave that day. Remember, it was just one day before my last day. Apparently, she hated me a lot. When she realised that she sent it to the wrong person, she sent me an email saying that it was a mistake and she just wanted to ask the HR about the handover of my tasks, etc. I replied to her email, ‘No problem.’ She thought I was a one-year-old who’d believe her lie. When HR conducted the exit interview with me, the HR lady asked me if I had addressed my problems or issues with the work bully during any of our one-on-one meetings. I asked, ‘what one-on-one meeting?’ The HR lady was shocked, ‘you two didn’t have any regular one-on-one meetings at all?’ I answered, ‘No. The only one-on-one meeting I had was the time when she asked me to sign the acknowledgement.’ The HR lady knew about the ‘acknowledgement’ but she didn’t know there had never been any such regular one-on-one meetings. I didn’t know I needed to have that kind of meeting too. After I left the company, my ex-colleague told me the HR lady had a meeting with the work bully. The work bully was pretty upset after that. My ex-colleague then asked me, ‘were you unhappy when you left?’

I knew I made a good decision but I was very busy doing my research on my next trip which was going to be a life changing one so I didn’t have time to explain to my ex-colleague that I was actually very happy to leave that company and that it was indeed a relief for me. The research on my trip took me around one month because it was going to be a trip for… 6 months. 😊

Stay tuned. 😊

8 – 13 August 2012

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