Burning Down The House
Arvayheer Travel Blog› entry 26 of 80 › view all entries
One of the aspects we encounter regularly whilst travelling in Mongolia is the persecution of the Buddist monasteries that happened in 1937-38 under the Communist regime. At this time virtually all the buddist monasteries in Mongolia were destroyed and the monks either killed or sent into hard labour in Siberia.
This morning Moogi gives us a choice. We can stop overnight at the site of one of the abandoned monasteries or have a longer drive and reach the regional capital Arvaikheer where we will be able to shower and charge camera batteries. As it has been 6 days since we left UB and we had our last shower we are unanimous in voting for Arvaikheer and I think Moogi is quietly happy with the choice too.
It seems to work out well as the morning drive up to the monastery is generally on a easy track and Bayaraa is able to make good time. This is typical stony desert terrain and one of the more sparsely populated areas we have visited. The monastary is on the banks of a river in a lovely setting. Though this river is often dry at the moment there is plenty of water in it. This river is also unique in being the only river of any size in Mongolia that flows south; all the other rivers flow north and empty into the arctic.
The monastery here was once one of the largest in the country but only one temple has been rebuild and the remainder is still in ruins. It is obviously a popular spot in the summer as there is a huge ger camp 500m away, but all looks quiet at the moment.
We lunch by the side of the river a few Kms after the ruins and then push on heading NW for a further 130km to the town. As usual the town is not pretty but the ger where we stay is comfortable enough. Moogi tells us the town has a population of close to 50,000 which must make it the 2nd largest place in the country. We leave our bags at the ger and are driven to the bathhouse in the centre of town. It has 3 shower cubicles and for 1500 T (about $1) we each have a hot shower. Other options on offer include a shave or massage; inviting though they sound I stick to just the shower.
Moogi takes us to explore the market and tells us to be careful for pickpockets. This is one of the constant warnings we are given while in Mongolia and though I know it must be a problem it is probably no worse here than in most major european cities such as London. The majority of market stalls here are actually old shipping containers, lined up next to each other to make a row of shops. Bayaraa seems to be in his element here as it is a good place to buy car parts. After dinner he goes off into town and returns with a whole new set of van brake drums. Though we are in a town it seems that every family still has a couple of dogs. After dark there seem to be hundreds of dogs barking away which makes for a restless night for anyone who is a light sleeper.