The Horde Invades Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia
We always joke about James, Sophie, Valerie and Alex as "The Horde" because of their habit of leaving destruction in their wake. It was interesting to actually visit the land now associated with the Mongols and Chingghis Khan who conquered most of Eurasia during the 13th century. The traditional Mongolian script emblazoned on this hillside is re-emerging to replace the Cyrillic characters that were used after the Communist revolution.
In a strange variant of the old joke "if it's Tuesday this must be Belgium" we arrived in Ulaan Bataar on Tuesday around noon and left the next morning. It was in the high 80s when we arrived. Around noon, the wind came up and a fine dust began to blow through the city which has all the allure of a mining town in Montana after the mine has closed. By 8 am the next morning when we left, the temperature had plunged to the low side of 40 and we raided our suitcases for all the layers we could find. The customs officials patiently waited with bemused expressions.
Since we had only a few hours in Ulaan Bataar, we visited only one spot: the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan. The compound was like the Forbidden City in miniature but with Indian and Russian influences. The eighth Bogd Javzandamba Hutagt was the head of a fourth branch of Bhuddism, the Lamaists. Similarly to the Tibetans, the Mongolian variety of Bhuddists have a main Lhama. Javzandamba was also a Khan, a secular leader, as well as a religious leader. In 1921 he was deposed as secular head of Mongolia but retained his religious position. He died in 1924.
The Winter Palace is mostly in disrepair but the restored pavillion where we took these pictures was an interesting mix of Chinese, Russian and Indian decoration. Many of the scenes look very much like those found in China today, while there are also some depictions of Hindu deities and also some Russian patterns especially in the woodwork.
Definitely a Hindu origin to this many armed statue. There was a pronounced fascination with Kali (drawn in black with many stacks of skulls) in the paintings on exhibit. We also found a nice painting of Ganesh which was somewhat more reassuring.
As is the case with Tibetan Bhuddism, the entryway was guarded by four larger than life statues (in white, red, black and blue). They always have little miserable looking demons being squashed under their feet but otherwise seem to be enjoying their favorite pastimes.
We flew MIAT, the wings of Mongolia from Ulaan Bataar to Irkutsk. Enough said.