Temples of Cold

We spent the last day in Mongolia visiting two Buddhist monasteries, the Natural History Museum and having a final meal at our favorite Korean restaurant. Our first stop was Gandan Monastery, the oldest monastery in Mongolia built in the 1800s. Most temples were destroyed or shut down during Soviet times but they left one alone apparently as a showcase to westerners of their religious tolerance. The Gandan monastery is actually a working monastery so we saw monks praying, chanting and just hanging out. There were also many people there praying and spinning the various prayer wheels. Inside one of the temples Connie and I started spinning the prayer wheels that lined the inside walls building but were immediately warned that we were going the wrong way. We corrected our direction but did not make it all the way around because the wheel were very cold and our hands soon got numb even with gloves on.

We did a bit of shopping at the monastery store. I bought beads, some small bells and a couple of gifts.

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We then headed to the Choijin Lama Temple Museum, a monastery built in the early 1900s. There were about 6 or 7 temple buildings. We went into two of them and saw many intense statues of gods and demons and some interesting artworks - including two representations of hell - one with fire and the other with ice. I chose not to pay for taking pictures which was twice the price of the admission but I really regret that decision. There really was some amazing things. The temperature outside was less that 10 degrees and it was even colder in the temples so we did not visit all the buildings. I hope this temple complex remains intact. High rising housing construction was circling it like wagons in the old west.

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The Natural History museum was interesting for its amazing fossilized dinosaur bones and eggs. My favorite items were a fully intact pelvis the size of a flattened VM bug and a claw as big as me. Unfortunately photos were not allowed.

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A final shot at Happiness Land next to the Korean restaurant and a history lesson at the Ulaanbaatar airport

The highlight of the trip home was 12 hours in Beijing but otherwise it was long and uncomfortable. We arrived in Beijing (the airport is beautiful), checked into a crappy hotel very near the airport and then arranged for two taxis to pick us up at 12:30am and drive us around for a couple of hours. We then slept for 3 hours and headed back to the airport at 7:00am. Needless to say there were no tourists at Tiananmen Square so it was us, the many surveillance cameras and the military guards. We walked around the square and outside the wall of the Forbidden City, which was closed. We encountered two guards in an underpass, one seemed thrilled to talk to anyone and practice his English, the other did not say a word but did not seem to mind Connie posing with him for a picture.

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Beijing airport

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Tianeman Square and the underpass where we talked to the guard. Note the cameras.

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Near the Forbidden City

We flew through Tokyo but felt no real sense of trauma from the earthquake disaster in the short layover. It was just another busy airport. Miyako had been worried the whole time we were in Mongolia and was able to talk to her family a couple times there and at the airport before we headed to the US

Take a look at my entire Gallery of Mongolia pictures