Why I Love Mongolia
By Daniel McCrohan, Writer
If you love the outdoors, you'll fall head over heels for Mongolia. I did. What's not to love about a country that's so vast, so remote, so naturally beautiful? How can you fail to adore the hiking, the horse trekking, the camping? You can't. But it's more than just that raw, physical attraction. Centuries of nomadic living have given Mongolians a natural bond with travellers. Break down in the countryside, and the next driver to pass will stop to help. Stuck for a room, and a family can often find you a bed. And break at a herdsman's ger for directions and you'll end up with tea, snacks and a fascinating glimpse into the daily routines of a remarkable culture.
An Open Country
For most of the 20th century, Mongolia was sealed off from the world; seemingly so distant that the very name of the country became a byword for remoteness and isolation. The 21st century promises the polar opposite as Mongolia has opened up to the world, its citizens are travelling the globe and outsiders are arriving by the planeload for business and travel opportunities. Visas are relatively easy to acquire; a handful of nationals won’t even require one. Authorities see tourism is a key growth sector of the Mongolian economy and an important revenue earner for local communities. Despite the warm welcome you will receive, Mongolia is not a pleasure cruise. This is still a developing country with rudimentary infrastructure and mostly basic facilities outside the capital.
Not Just Grass & Horses
There are few countries in the world with such a stark difference between the rural and urban populations. While nomadic Mongols live the simple life, their cousins in Ulaanbaatar are lurching headlong into the future. The capital is changing at a dizzying pace and many Mongolians have bought wholeheartedly into the global economy, capitalism and consumerism. Urban hipster or nomadic shepherd, however, both share a love of democracy. The country is often held up as a model emerging democratic state, despite being surrounded by democracy-challenged countries like Russia, China and Kazakhstan. Mongolia is eager to be part of the global community; by visiting you are contributing to the remarkable developments in this extraordinary land.
This article is reproduced by kind permission from Lonely Planet