The People of Mongolia
An overlanding cultural experience
Let’s get this straight, Mongolia is empty!
Mongolia is the 19th largest country in the world but has a population of around 3 million people. Of which about 45% are located in the capital of Ulaanbaatar. So like I said, it’s empty. To put this into context the population of London alone is around 9.5 million people!
Buddhism is the main religion in Mongolia with just over half the population practising it. In the west of the country, you will notice a big proportion of the population are Kazakhs. Although the countries do not share a border it’s about twenty-three miles between the two. As we crossed into the country from the West we did notice the differences between the two nationalities.
Arriving in the city of Ulgii we felt a slight hostility. We heard stories of locals trying to deceive the travellers arriving as this is a popular stop for resupply before heading into the heart of the country. We noticed and experienced a few things but nothing major.
We were prepared and by this point, we had been on the road for while now. The Mongolians and Kazakhs are not great friends depending on who you speak to, the others always seemed to be the problem. It became a common observation as I travelled further on this journey around the world.
Once out of the towns you get a feel of the nomadic life they live. Everywhere is open and they use it all for grazing their animals. It’s fantastic to see these nomads living a lifestyle that hasn’t changed in centuries. The countryside is where you will meet the true Mongolians and they’re an amazing group of people. Friendly and inquisitive. And their faces are incredible to look at, so many stories in their worn skin.
Riding my motorbike through Mongolia was an experience for sure. You’re always more open to the elements. The smells, the weather, and most of all, the ease of communicating with the locals. As soon as you stop anywhere populated the motorbike draws in the attention of the locals. Whether you like it or not.
I noticed that people in this part of the world are intrigued by anything different and new. But something you need to get used to is they also like to look with their hands. They will touch everything and want to know more about it. It’s not a problem here in Mongolia.
Once into the countryside, I didn’t worry much about thieves. They’re just so fascinated about the different bikes and want to know how it works. Even more so when you have all the adventure ‘farkles’ strapped to it.
I feel like education is getting better in this country. Everything does seem to revolve around the capital of Ulaanbaatar. The good schools and colleges are there. Children want to get there when they are of age to get a better education.
It is great to hear but it does make me think about what will happen to the nomads if all the children disappear to the big city and get sucked in by the modern world. Could something great like an education system destroy a cultural lifestyle that’s been around for centuries? Only time will tell I guess.
Once in the city of Ulaanbaatar, you can see the differences. The western world has made its mark here for sure. There are shopping malls, restaurants and markets selling all sorts of things and services. It seems people make a pilgrimage to this city to get supplies before heading back out.
The people were a lot more focused on business here. They know the tourists have the money. English is spoken a lot more here and I think it’s a city moving forward in the world. A real contrast to the rest of the country.
Overall I thought the people of Mongolia were a fascinating lot. Full of interest. This is why I wanted to visit this country. They smile, they’re affectionate and passionate. A very strong person is a Mongolian. And the whole family contributes to the home lifestyle which is incredible to experience.
At the time of travelling through Mongolia, I could only obtain a tourist visa for 30 days. Is this enough time to explore the country fully? No. However, it is enough time to get a real good taste of what this incredible country offers and spend quality time with the locals. Mongolia has a happy mixture of everything and the people that reside here make it a pleasure to travel through.
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