Mongolia’s not Egypt in terms of cool vacation destination. Or is it? Because we certainly seem to fill a niche. So, what kinds of people come to Mongolia? While writing the part two of this article, we veered off to a Russian proverb that says an uninvited guest is worse than a Mongol horde. And this got us wondering, ‘What kind of people come to Mongolia?’ We here at SWyM wanted to find out the types of people who come to Mongolia, with some historic generalizations, of course.
William of Rubruck was a Flemish monk who came to Karakorum in 1254, and Guillame Bouchier built the famous silver tree there. Bouchier was a Parisian silversmith captured by the Mongols. Not much is written about him, except for by Rubruck, which is why we’re merging these two. According to his account, Rubruck was a grumpy guy on a mission for Louis XI of France, who got called by Mongke Khan to do an epic rap battle of religions with the Khan’s Muslim and Buddhist scholars. We’re guessing Rubruck lost, because he left Mongolia soon after and griped about our savagery elaborately.
If you’re a Rubrouchier
For one thing, you’ve visited Mongolia for only a week, as part of a Trans-Siberia railway tour. Mongolia disappointed you because you thought it would be something else. Maybe you had a really bad interpreter. Maybe the people talked like they were reprimanding you, so you hightailed it out of here, thinking you’d never come back. When people ask you how was Mongolia, you like to note how much we like to drink. But at least you’ve built something for this country. Haters gonna hate, right?
Back in the early 1300s, Rashid Al-Din was known as a physician in the Ilkhanate. But now he’s known as the writer of Jami al-Tawarikh; people know it as “Sudryn Ikh Chuulgan” in Mongolian, and although the original English translation is “Compendium of Chronicles”, we like to call it Medieval Wikipedia. You know, because it’s the single most important source of Medieval Middle East history. The dude served for several Mongol khans of the Ilkhanate and gathered all kinds of scholars to pursue science, before being executed. He’s charged for poisoning the king, but nobody knows if it was true.
If you’re an Al-Din
You’re an artist and a scholar. There’re very few people like you. Part of what satisfied you about living in Mongolia is how you’ve climbed the ladder so fast. But you’ve seen some of the craziest shit in your life in Mongolia. You know the true ugliness of Mongols, yet you stuck around. Now we know your dream has been to gather the greatest minds you could meet and run philosophical discussion and/or draw a comic book. Just don’t get angry or begrudging if people criticize your book, okay?
Giovanni de Carpine was an Italian monk on a mission for the Pope to visit Guyuk Khan. When Guyuk said, “Hell no! You should bow to ME!” he brought the message back to the Pope, which is still preserved at the Vatican. Carpine’s account, Ystoria Mongalorum, is famous for being very diplomatic and impersonal, but a Mongolian can see how scared he was of the ways of the nomads. If you make Sadness from “Inside Out” a bald guy, we believe you’ll get Carpine.
If you’re a Carpine
Your visit to Mongolia terrifies you. You told them you were a vegan many times–but they’re slaughtering a sheep in front of your eyes to honor you. You’re all smiles, but you refused the traditional cuisine several times in a row to no avail. Honestly, the boiled internal organs of the sheep look like the facehugger from Alien and the dried curds might as well be stones the hosts planted to secretly break your teeth. And geez, don’t these people know anything about cholesterol?
James Gilmour was a Scottish Christian missionary (boy, we got a lot of Christian missionaries) in Mongolia between 1840 and 1891. He came to convert the Mongols from a distant land, but he didn’t really reach Mongolia proper (If you disagree, let us know in the comments). He saw Mongolia as being a desolate land between China and Siberia, so his path always detoured on That’s right, the places he lived in where Kalgan, Beijing, Kyakhta and Tianjin, and he published a book called “Among the Mongols.” Hell, the dude never visited Urga, the present-day Ulaanbaatar.
If you’re a Gilmour
You like to tell people you visited Mongolia, but you mean Inner Mongolian in China. Maybe the Internet didn’t make much distinction between the countries when you googled it. But anyway, it was a nice trip and when people ask you about that, you say, “There’s just more stuff to see in the Chinese part.” You want to visit Mongolia proper some day, but it just sounds too outdoors-y to you, so you fall back to Nei Menggu over and over again.
Roy Chapman Andrews was an American anthropologist and an explorer who visited Mongolia between 1922 and 1925. He originally wanted to trace the origins of mankind when he visited Mongolia, but he ended up discovering lots of dinosaur bones, the first dinosaurs eggs and mythical creature stories. His books made him famous and he was also one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones.
If you’re an Andrews
You like the rugged outdoor nature of Mongolia, so you don’t bother with the capital city, you just go straight to backpacking or jalopy driving across the plains. Case in point, you also know that Mongolia is not just plains, that there’s mountain ranges in the west, desert in the south, and forests in the north. You also like to document your travels with photos and other stuff.
You probably heard of George W. Bush’s reputation, the mispronunciation, the shoe throwing incident and the dubious war campaigns, etc. But when President Bush visited Mongolia in 2008, good things started to happen. OK, it wasn’t that good, but it wasn’t that bad either. The American government gave us 280 million USD to reduce poverty. We were in the international media more. George Bush, despite all his notoriety in the world, actually did some
good nice okay things here.
If you’re a Bush
You made some stupid mistakes back home. You did some pretty bad things. Time to grow up. Or time to start over. Or time to go on hiding, if you’re running away from something. And this remote country with 3 million is the perfect place, you think. For better or worse, you can take a good breath in Mongolia, because no one recognizes you, acknowledges your flaws or emotional baggage. Does that mean you’ve become wiser since you were here? No.
Anastasia Ivanovna Filatova, Russian wife of Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal, who was the Prime Minister of Mongolia between 1952 and 1974. While some people dislike her for the interference in the politics and lack of appreciation for Mongolian culture, she’s famously attributed to bringing several major innovations to the city for the children, especially building of several schools, kindergartens, hospitals and the amusement park.
If you’re a Filatova
You’re a spouse of a Mongolian. You may or may not enjoy relocating to this country, and it’s not just because it’s where your in-laws live. You find yourself at odds with many things here in Mongolia–the culture, the language, and sometimes you don’t feel welcome here at all–but you’re going through it for your better half.
Marco Polo, the greatest traveler and inspiration to so many historians of his, really just great PR guy for Mongolia. When he came to the Kublai Khan’s court in 1275, he not only learned the Mongolian language, but he also enjoyed a long and privileged position at the Khan’s court, getting sent for missions in the Southeast Asia and even Africa. After Kublai Khan’s death, he eventually returned to Europe and writing a fantastic account of the Kublai’s empire and Asian and African geography. The only downside was that the people of his age didn’t believe his tales and called him a liar.
If you’re a Polo
You’re surprisingly fluent in Mongolian and when you talk with Mongolians, you leave them awed and intrigued. For elder Mongolians who are not great with the Internet, you’re their ‘eyes and ears’. When you get back home, you talk about Mongolia in such awesome detail that make your friends and family’s minds blown. But it happened just once, ever since that they’ve been just rolling their eyes.
Natso Baatarkhuu lives in Mongolia and writes in English. His works have appeared in Cracked.com and The UB Post, and he started this website. He dreams of publishing novels and selling screenplays someday.