Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mongolia | Dornogov Aimag | Sainshand

From the Big Dumpling I winged into the Big Buutz, then with historical consultant Mönkhnyagt in tow I backtracked south by catching the 9:35 a.m. local train from Ulaan Baatar to Sainshand, capital of Dornogov Aimag, arriving there at 7:30 in the evening. My ultimate goal was nearby Khamariin Khiid.
Downtown Sainshand
Suburb of Sainshand
The next morning under slightly overcast skies we headed east across the featureless Gobi to Khamariin Khiid. Monkhnyagt’s friend in Sainshand had arranged for the jeep and driver; the driver turned out to be an off-duty cop who said he was quite pleased to have the opportunity to visit Khamariin Khiid on what he deemed to be an auspicious day. It was the day of the Full Moon; the exact moment of the Full Moon was at 3:52 this afternoon. I had planned the trip to be at Khamariin Khiid at this time.

As is so often the case in Mongolia with distances in the countryside I got wildly different estimates of how far it was from Sainshand to Kharmariin Khiid. I had been told by various people in Ulaan Baatar that the distance was either 60, 50, 40, 35, 20, or 17 kilometers, and one otherwise knowledgeable person, apparently mistaking the Gelug monastery in town for Khamariin Khiid, claimed it was in Sainshand itself.
On the road to Khamariin Khiid
Along the way, we saw several ger camps plopped down on the vast expanses of sand. Our driver said they are quite popular with Japanese tourists in the summer, although I can’t imagine what people actually do there all day, especially in what must be the ferocious heat of summer.
Ger Camp
Recreational facilities at ger camp
Desert near Khamariin Khiid