August 7, 2009

Mandshir Khiid

Last Sunday, Tsetsgee showed up at the center with the whole family in tow. "We're going to Mandshir. Can you go?" she asked. I asked when and she said "Now!" Ah, what else was I going to do but play on the computer, so I grabbed my shoes and off we went. Besides Tsetsgee and myself, there is Ichkaa, Tsetsgee husband, Baska, her college-age daughter who is also one of my English students, her boyfriend, and of course, Tsetsgee's son Amgalan.

We drove about an hour outside of Ulaanbaatar to Mandshir Khiid, a monastery complex that was destroyed in the purges of 1937. One building was restored in the 1990s but that's all. It was a pleasant drive along the highway until we reached Zuunmod (means '100 trees') but from there it was dirt road inside the 'Strictly Protected Area'. At the base of the mountain, a beautiful area next to a stream among the trees was the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. After that, the family and I trekked uphill to the monastery while Ichkaa took a nap in the shade.

Jim, Tsetsgee & Ichkaa

Only a few of building remains can be seen. Once you get higher up, you can see why this would have been a perfect place for a monastery, nestled in this valley. Above the monastery were three Buddhist carvings in the boulders on the mountainside. Some effort had been made to protect them from the elements but it made photographs very difficult to take.

Looking down on the ruins

Carved and painted in the stone

It was a beautiful valley

Climbing down is always more difficult than climbing up. [smile] We then stopped at what is now a 'nature museum'. I think the original monastery museum pieces have been moved to the one monastery building standing. Mostly this museum was filled with stuffed animals typical of Mongolia.

Now we have to climb down

Baska, don't touch the bear!

It was amazing how many other people were here taking the day off in the sun, and very few foreigners. We drove a short ways down the mountain to another huge grove of trees for a second picnic lunch were I got to play a little soccer with young Amgalan. Finally, tired but content, we drove back to Ulaanbaatar, the city of work. [smile]

Everyone sleeping on the drive home