Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mongolia: Kharkhorin

Kharkhorin is the city near Karakorum, which is famous for being the ancient capital of the Mongolian Empire. From here, Chengis Khan's descendants ruled most of Asia. But alas, that was over 500 years ago, and today there is little reminder of that era. There is one famous remnant, and that is the Erdene Zuu monastery. It was originally built in the 16th century, but was mostly destroyed by the Soviets. The temple is okay, but I'm not sure if it's worth a special trip. The temple artifacts are impressive, but the remaining structures aren't very spectacular.

Some views of the monastery:

There is also a monument to the Mongolian empire. And near that there is another, smaller temple in town as well.

There are ger camps all over the surrounding countryside. Inside of town, there are very few accommodations. We found one hotel, which didn't have any running water. Rooms were 10,000T a night.

The one memorable moment we had there was on a cold blustery day when the rain briefly turned to snow. The next morning we could still see some snow in the mountains around town. This was on August 25th.

When hiking around the country side, you'll find piles of stones on the top of almost every hill. Some will be small, while some will be rather large. You also find horse skulls and lots of other bones around these piles. We decided to stack some skulls on the pile of stones a take a picture of them. Later, we found out that it is a tradition to put a skull on the pile and face it towards the sunrise. I also just read an article that states 5 was a lucky number for the Huns, and one of their princesses was buried with 5 horse skulls. So I guess there must have been some fate in our arrangement.

The best part of Mongolia is just hiking around the country side. The area around Kharkorin is a World Heritage Site. There some nice rolling hills and a big river valley to hike around.

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