Days 16-18: Perks of Couchsurfing
Remember the guy that picked us up hitchhiking from Ulaanbaatar and drove us an hour out of his way so that we could camp in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park? Well, he promised to come back for us and drive us all the way back to Ulaanbaatar for free as well :)
So we packed up our tent and walked back down to the road where he said he will meet us, and surprise surprise- he actually came! Picked us up with a nice smile and drove us back to Ulaanbaatar for free. This means that he spent 3 or more hours of his day just helping us out. And- even crazier- on the way back, he stopped in a Khuushuur House and bought US a bunch of khuushuurs (meat pastries)! We tried to pay for them, but he didn’t let us!
And these were the best khuushuurs we had in all of Mongolia. Khuushuur is like Russian chiburekk (if you know what that is) or an empanada with different spices. Basically minced meat with onions and spices, wrapped in fried dough. The ones in this Khuushuur House (which was just a tiny little shack on the side of the road) were super fresh. And super tasty ;)
A tourist bus would never stop in a shack like this…
Sadly, we couldn’t communicate much with our friend, since he didn’t know English or Russian, and we don’t know Mongolian. But we understood that he said he was a shaman and he drank a lot of vodka the night before.
He dropped us off in Ulaanbaatar city center, where we found an Airbnb for $5. This was kind of a funny night too. The Airbnb host was an interesting girl named Ulegma, she was originally from Ulaanbaatar but lived in Holland and Greece for a long time, and just recently came back to Mongolia. She was reconnecting with some old friends and they were just getting hammered :D Her friends were super funny and they all knew both Russian and English very well! They even sang Russian songs to me :D And on top of the very nice hospitality, Ulegma made an amazing dinner for us and her friend gave us a giant beer. In many countries, you would pay double the price of our entire stay, just for the beer.
Total expenses of Day 16 in Mongolia:
$5.00 (this includes transportation, accommodation, food and beer)- Thank you to the wonderful people we’ve met!
The next day we had to deal with visas again. We would have left Ulaanbaatar right after all the paperwork was finished, but a couchsurfing friend of mine texted me saying he was back in Ulaanbaatar.
This guy’s name is Javkhlan and he’s pretty badass :D He likes to travel around on a dirt bike, so that if he sees an interesting looking place (like the top of a mountain or sand dune), he can just drive there. No road needed! Talking to him really made me want to get into dirt biking…
Javkhlan’s from Ulaanbaatar but lived in Japan and Ireland for a while, and has also traveled extensively. So he looks Mongolia, but sounds Irish :) He stayed in my place in Irkutsk about a year ago, when he was traveling through Russia.
That’s really what couchsurfing is all about- meeting such interesting people and connecting with them on a true human to human level. No trades, no money involved, just people helping each other out and learning from each other. I would say that couchsurfing is one of the best tools that any real traveler can (and should) use.
So we spent the night in his super nice (huge) apartment in Zaisan, cooked dinner and shared some drinks and stories. He even had two spare bedrooms for guests! (When he stayed with me in Irkutsk, he had to sleep on the floor of my shitty old cockroachie studio apartment :)).
Javkhlan said that he had some friends who were building a climbing wall and a zipline in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, and invited us to join him to check it out the next day.
These fun activities were located in an incredible spot, just down the hill from where we camped 2 nights before.
We even got to ride some quads :D
And Javkhlan cooked up some awesome Mongolian BBQ
We spent one more night at Javkhlan’s and then hit the road to the Gobi Desert the next day.
Big thanks to Javkhlan for everything! You’re an awesome dude :)
Total expenses of Days 17-18 in Mongolia:
Total expenses so far of 18 days in Mongolia (including the price of getting to Mongolia):