Day 14: When Hitchhiking Really Works Out


We wanted to get out of Ulaanbaatar ASAP because neither Felix or I are big fans of huge overcrowded cities or spending money. Also, Ulaanbaatar is so polluted that I felt like I was getting sick just from breathing. See this article.

We got out of the city center by sunset but only managed to get a few km away, to a wealthy neighborhood called Zaisan. We watched the sunset from a huge monument on top of a hill in Zaisan, which explained perfectly why Mongolians were so nice to me :)

I’m not a fan of hitchhiking in the dark (especially when it’s -10° outside), so instead of trying to get to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, we decided to camp on the outskirts of Zaisan, where we knew there were some small hiking trails.

We paid for a cab to take us 5 km up the road towards the hiking trails *($1/each), and pitched our tent in the dark, in some closed down Ger camp.

The view was pretty cool-

Nobody bothered us at night, although it was funny to see hikers going up these trails in the morning as we were getting out of our tent :)

We walked back down to Zaisan and started hitching east. It didn’t take long for us to find the most epic ride of the entire trip. A young guy picked us up, didn’t speak a word of English or Russian. He understood where we were going (about an hour drive) and offered to drive us all the way there. We confirmed that he was not a taxi driver before we got in the car (by saying “ugui taxi” (no taxi)) so it seemed like a bit of a strange (or overly nice) offer, and we got a bit confused.

Then he called a friend who spoke English and had the friend translate that he wanted to drive us to the national park, leave us there, then pick us back up from the same place when we wanted to go back to Ulaanbaatar! The friend also added that he didn’t want money or anything, he just wanted to help us out. He’s just a really nice guy! We were a little bit shocked by the situation but, of course, we thanked him and accepted.

So he drove us all the way to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park for free, dropped us off, and said that he will come back for us two days later at 3pm.

Now that’s Mongolian hospitality!

We thanked him a lot, waved goodbye, and made our way up some beautiful rolling hills for sunset.

Then we found an amazing camping spot overlooking the valley between two huge boulders.

Set up the tent. Made a fire. Cooked dinner.

I think I need nothing else in life ;)

Total expenses of day 14 in Mongolia:

$1.00 (water and pastries).
$1.00 taxi

*Taxis in Mongolia cost 1000turgik ($0.38) per km. Make sure you arrange the price before the drive because cab drivers (everywhere) love taking extra money from people.

Accommodation: tent

Food: cooked


Total expenses so far of 14 days in Mongolia (including the price of getting to Mongolia):


*Night photos by Felix

Day 12: Dead Sheep Van


Day 12 of hitchhiking Mongolia.

The first people that picked us up were two cops. If I were in the States or any western country, I would have been worried about cops stopping their car for me while I was hitchhiking, but these Mongolian policemen were extremely friendly and helpful. They were happy to drive us to the next town down the road and didn’t even check our passports.

After they dropped us off, we walked for a while longer, then caught a small truck ride with a poor looking couple, then another one in a van. The back of this van reeked because it was stuffed with dozens of sheep skins, some of which still had legs, blood, and gunk on them. The driver threw our backpacks on top of the skins, and told us to get in the back. There were already 3 people sitting in the back seat, but we managed to stuff in with me sitting on Felix’s lap. The driver was heading all the way to Ulaanbaatar and said that we could go all the way with him, but since we were sharing 3 seats with 5 people, we asked him to drop us off at a train station a couple of hours down the road.

We got out in Erdenet, with our necks and legs cramped and sore, and our bags splattered with blood and reeking of sheep. Then this driver asked for money! We gave him 5,000 tugrik, which was the price of the bus. He wasn’t too pleased about that but neither were we. This was the first person in Mongolia that had asked us for money at the end of a ride, and it was the worst ride of the entire trip.

Next, we bought 2 overnight train tickets ($4/each) and some food for the road ($1).

We slept in the train and arrived in Ulaanbaatar at around 6am. We booked into the same hostel we stayed in before ($8) and had 3 things to do in the city: buy gas for my portable stove, get Felix’s Chinese visa, and extend Felix’s Mongolian visa. The greatest piece of bullshit that any traveler has to deal with is visas. It is so sad that we live on this incredible beautiful planet but we restrict our own species from seeing it, all because of modern day tribalism. I mean, it’s not like you choose where you’re born, but as soon as you’re born you get assigned some papers that tell you which tribe you belong to, and where you can and can’t go. If you’re lucky, you get assigned a piece of paper that gives you access to most of the Earth, if you’re unlucky, you might not even be able to leave your tribe. And the funny thing is that all of these papers are based purely on imagination.

Unfortunately, Felix screwed up a little with this visa bs and as a result, we had to be back in Ulaanbaatar just 5 days later, which meant that we couldn’t go too far from the city. So we decided to go to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, just an hour from Ulaanbaatar, instead of Central Mongolia.

Total expenses of days 12-13 in Mongolia:

$2 dead sheep van
$4 train
$1 food for train
$8 hostel
$5 gas for camping stove
$9 groceries

Accommodation: Overnight train, hostel (one easy way to save money is to take overnight transport)

Food: Cooked


Total expenses so far of 13 days in Mongolia (including the price of getting to Mongolia):

* Of course visas will add to your expenses, but there’s not a whole lot you can do about that…except not go to the countries that require expensive visas, which was what I did this time.

Day 11: Buddy and Bottomless Salty Milk Tea


We started hitching from Tosontsengel at around 11:00. We didn’t get so lucky this time. Waited in one spot for over an hour before we decided to walk. The next town over was about 50 km away, so we weren’t planning on walking there, we just walked to keep ourselves warm.

But walking worked quite well! A young guy picked us up within the first 10 minutes of our walk, asking us what the hell we were doing (well, miming that since he didn’t speak English or Russian). We tried to explain that we were hitching to Ulaanbaatar, but I think he understood that as “we are walking to Ulaanbaatar”, which is over 600 km away️ :). Maybe he thought we were crazy. He mimed a bunch of stuff that we didn’t understand and then took a right onto a dirt road and brought us to his friend’s yurt.

There were a few young guys in the yurt, none of them spoke English or Russian so we couldn’t communicate much, but our new buddy clearly told them that we were walking to Ulaanbaatar. They laughed a little bit, and gave us salty milk tea and white bread.

Then our buddy (whose name we can’t pronounce or remember- so we’ll just call him “Buddy” :)) drove us to his grandma’s house in the village of Ikh Uul. It was a little larger than a yurt, but was still just one room and seemed to be colder. Everybody in the house was really nice, they gave us a cup of salty milk tea and white bread, then laughed about us walking to Ulaanbaatar :). His grandparents even called a friend who spoke Russian and had the friend translate that there was a bus going to Ulaanbaatar at 7am the next day.

After the salty tea, we got back in the car and Buddy drove further down a dirt road, away from the town and main highway. We had no idea where we were going, but the drive was spectacular. There was a beautiful winding river, light brown mountains sprinkled with bits of snow, dozens of dried out trees with wilting branches, and a few white yurts here and there.

Our next destination turned out to be his mother’s yurt, where we had yet another cup of salty milk tea and more white bread. I think he had fun showing everybody these foreign morons who were walking to Ulaanbaatar :). His mom spoke some Russian and told me about the bus again️.

The family yurt was really warm and cozy, and was placed in the most incredible location.

Check out the view from their toilet!

Yep, that is the toilet. Imagine pooping there when it’s -45!

Buddy’s sister, her two kids, husband, and a few other family members were all hanging out inside this yurt. Buddy’s cousin was cutting the meat of a whole sheep and his sister was cooking meat on the fire.

We were never exactly sure what was going on or where our buddy would take us next, but we got back in his car together with his cousin and drove down the dirt road again. He brought some kind of tool with him this time- a thin, shovel-like instrument with 2 rods. He stopped the car at a shack and walked out with this tool. Felix and I had no idea what that tool was, and the first thing that came to my head was, “he’s gonna kill a sheep!” We went to the back of this shack, where I was expecting sheep, and then used this shovel to dig garlic out of the ground :). Actually, it wasn’t garlic, I don’t know what it was, it looked just like garlic but tasted sweet. And we didn’t kill a sheep :).

Next, Buddy caught his own horse and brought it back to the yurt. He saddled up the horse for Felix and me to ride on it. We didn’t go very far, since neither one of us knew how to ride a horse, but we were pretty impressed by Buddy’s horse riding skills!

He seemed like a really happy and funny person in general, even though we couldn’t understand anything he said.

After the horse riding, we went back in the yurt and his sister made us the best meal I had in all of Mongolia. It was mutton roasted on a fire (from their own sheep herd, of course), along with fresh tortilla shaped softly cooked dough, boiled potatoes, spicy sauce, and some kind of mystery thing that we hoped was pickled vegetables. We ate using just our hands and a knife.

Next, we got back in the car with Buddy and cousin, and started driving eastward, down another long dirt road. We still had no idea where we were being taken but we were excited about the adventure. Luckily, we didn’t have any plans for Mongolia, or any specific place to be at any specific time, so we could just go with the flow. And Buddy didn’t seem to be very concerned about our time management either :).

We drove up a mountain and got stuck on the way, but managed to dig the car out with sticks after about 20 or 30 minutes.

The destination was quite impressive- we went up to the top of the mountain, where there was a huge black boulder. It was clearly a sacred place for the locals. There was a big ovoo (shrine) facing a fantastic view of the tan and white rolling hills and mountaintops.

Not many tourists get to see this place, but surely if somebody advertised it enough, it could be turned into one of these “must see” sites of Mongolia. So I’m not telling you where it is! :P

Buddy did the expected ritual, walked around the shrine in circles, spraying fermented horse milk for the spirits of the mountain. Then we walked around the top of the mountain and admired the incredible views.

Buddy also brought dry horse poop with him, along with some kind of powder that he lit up in a cave. It turns out that horse poop burns very well! It smoked up the cave where Buddy sprayed the remainder of his fermented horse milk.

Buddy was so stoked about this stuff that he even brought a second bottle of horse milk for Felix and me to spray! :D

You see, when we were back in the yurt, his mother (who knows some Russian) asked me how old I was and whether I had children or not. I told her 29, and that I don’t have children. And I suppose that all villagers (everywhere) think that you must want children! And fuck 29 is old! :D

I don’t want children

So Buddy called another friend who knew Russian, passed the phone to me, and had this friend tell me that we were at a very sacred place where you should ask for babies!

I sprayed fermented horse milk on the rock and asked for an RBE and no babies.

After the rock, we drove back to the family yurt, where more fire roasted sheep was waiting for us. This time it was served with the dough chopped up into noodles, and some broth on the side.

We figured out that Mongolian villagers basically eat the same thing every day, just chopped up in different ways. That seems quite harsh since that basically means eating little else but sheep, flour, milk, cheese curds, and a potato here and there.

Even though Buddy doesn’t speak a word of English, he became our ultimate tour guide. He took us around on his motorcycle and kept on showing us all kinds of things, from his tractor, to his dog, to his pile of wood. He even let Felix drive his motorcycle through the beautiful valley. And in the evening, his mom invited us to sleep in her yurt.

We felt very honored to have this experience. This is the kind of experience that you could never pay for. Because if you did, it would be fake. But this family was so real and so genuine. They welcomed us into their home and shared everything they had with us. They didn’t do this because they wanted something in return, they did this simply out of kindness, understanding that we are all human, and in a sense, we are all family. This cultural attribute is common in many traditional cultures, but is quickly fading due to the influence of our trade-based global economy.

Of course, you can always pay for a tour where you can sleep in a yurt, eat fire-roasted mutton, ride a horse and a motorcycle, and see some nice landscape. But when you pay for such a tour, you miss out on the most important part of the experience, which is this genuine trade-free hospitality, based simply on kindness. That is something that no amount of money can ever buy.

We slept by the fire in the yurt. It stayed warm all night and in the morning, there was hot salty tea waiting for us. I started to get used to the tea at that point :). We shared the only stuff we had, which was jam and chocolate spread, but the family seemed to like it. Mom also made us some amazing fried noodles with sheep and potatoes before we took off.

After breakfast, Buddy’s uncle drove us back to the main road on his motorcycle. Another amazing drive.

We thanked him and started waking to Ulaanbaatar :).

Танай гэр бүлд маш их баярлалаа!

When it’s -15° and you’re hitchhiking Mongolia


We stayed in the cabin in Hatgal for one more night because there was another snowstorm and it would have been difficult and dangerous to hitchhike. Our original plan was to head to a village called Khankh, in the north of Lake Khovsgol, and then see if we could climb a mountain called Munku Sardyk (3,500 meters). This is a pretty popular trek among Russian hikers, that’s how I knew about it. But, after the second snowstorm, we realized that not only did we not have enough equipment for such a trek at this time of year, but also that it would probably take us weeks just to get to Khankh because the only road going north is a small dirt road- meaning snow-covered road with nobody on it.

So we gave up on that plan, stocked up on groceries ($7.50) and prepared to hitch back to Moron :D

It was a good thing that we didn’t even try to hitch to Khank, because it was quite difficult just to get a ride to Moron- on a paved road. The road was covered in snow and there were hardly any cars going by. After about an hour and a half of hitching in the cold, one couple agreed to drive us to Moron for 15,000 tugrik ($3/each). We were quite cold so we took the offer.

The couple dropped us off at the Moron Bus Station :), which was close to the eastern exit out of the “city”. From there, we walked down the road for a km or two, then started hitching east.

Basically, at this point we decided to go to either Central Mongolia or the Gobi Desert, but in order to get to either one of those places, you basically have to go through Ulaanbaatar (the capital). There are a few dirt roads going through other parts of Mongolia, and I think that hitching through them would be doable, but we didn’t have enough camping gas left to risk being stuck in the middle of nowhere for weeks (which is a risk you should account for if you plan on hitching through those roads in October/November). Plus, it was getting real cold. Like -15, -20° cold.

It was so cold that as the driver approached the village he planned to stop in, we started scouting out abandoned buildings where we could possibly pitch our tent. We figured that an abandoned building could at least protect us from the wind, and offer a tiny bit of extra heat if it had a roof. It was getting dark too, and we were quite far from any city, so we didn’t want to continue hitching.

The small village where we were dropped off is called Tosontsengel. We walked around the village and checked out a few abandoned looking houses, but everything was locked. Eventually, we ran into a Buddhist temple. I had heard of people sleeping in churches and temples before, so we gave it a try and asked the monk if we could sleep there. The monk said no, but pointed us in the direction of a dodgy looking motel.

The motel looked like something you would find in the Wild West 150 years ago… or maybe today in a dodgy area in Reno :). There was no reception or anything, just a small grocery store on the first floor. We weren’t 100% sure that this actually was a motel when we first walked up to it, but we figured that the people in the shop would tell us. We asked the cashier about the hotel (by signaling the “international sleep sign”), and she opened up a dusty looking drawer and found a set of keys. One for the building (the hotel), one for the room. Looked like we had no neighbors.

The sheets were dirty and it didn’t have running water, but at least it was warm and only cost about $5.

We cooked dinner and breakfast on our camping stove in the motel room, and did some great people-watching in the morning :D

Total expenses of days 9 and 10 in Mongolia:
$8 cabin + $5 motel
$7.50 groceries
$3 ride to Moron
= $23.50

All food was cooked.

Total expenses so far of 10 days in Mongolia (including the price of getting to Mongolia):

Days 7-8: Lake Khovsgol, Mongolia


It was so peaceful and beautiful by Lake Khovsgol that we ended up camping in the snow for 2 more days. Khovsgol is quite similar to Lake Baikal- crystal blue water, white mountains in the distance, no noise, no one in sight. Just the wind brushing up against icy little waves, snow falling gently from the trees.

It got down to -12°C at night, but it was still worth going outside to see such incredible stars twinkling over the mountains and shimmering lake.

We ran out of food after 3 days of camping and decided to walk to a village called Hatgal, just south of Lake Khovsgol. We walked around this small village for over an hour, looking for a café or restaurant, but everything seemed closed! The locals seemed to understand “restaurant” and pointed us in some direction, but since it was “off-season”, all we could find were little grocery stores and empty cafes with locks on the doors.

Then finally, a white guy in a truck stopped and greeted us. He was an American missionary who was doing some volunteering in Hatgal. He told us to hop in his truck and drove us a block away, to the only restaurant that was open. We would have never known that this place was a restaurant without this man. There was no sign of food, or the words хоол (food), зоог (meal), ресторан (restaurant), кафе (cafe), picture, or anything that would give us a clue that this was a restaurant. But that’s great because it meant that it’s real local (i.e. it’s cheap!).

This is what the place looked like:

“Сарнай цайны газар” translates to “rose tea shop” :)

And then try ordering from this menu:

Lucky I can at least read the Cyrillic alphabet (that’s usually what they use in Mongolia), and was familiar with a little bit of the food since it’s similar to ethnic Siberian food.

We were starving by the time we entered this restaurant and ended up ordering so much food that we could barely move after ($3 each).

Then we decided to stay in a cabin in Hatgal ($8) so that we didn’t have to move, and also so we could take a shower ($2).

Apart from in Ulaanbaatar, most houses (and yurts) in Mongolia don’t have running water. That’s also the case in most Russian villages, but the difference is that in Russia, almost every house in a village has a banya if they don’t have running water- that’s a sauna where you can also wash yourself. But in Mongolia, banya’s are just not a “thing”. They have public showers instead. One building with running water and a few different stalls where people take showers individually or with their little kids. Mongolian villagers go to a public shower once every week or two (or three), but we’ve been told that nomads will go 2-3 months without a shower in the winter. Despite that, I’ve never met a smelly Mongolian :) Maybe because it’s too cold to sweat over here.

We searched for the public shower for about an hour (in like a 200 sq meter “block”), but it was closed in the middle of the day on a weekday. We waited around for a while, hoping that somebody would show up. Then when we gave up, we went to a little shop where we ran into two Swiss girls who happened to be looking for the public shower as well. Someone in the shop understood English and found the keys to the shower, then opened it up just for us.

I wonder if the locals think that white people have an obsession with showering :)

Total expenses of days 7 and 8 in Mongolia:
$8 guesthouse + $3 restaurant food + $2 shower

Accommodation: tent and guesthouse
Food: cooked and restaurant

Total expenses so far of 8 days in Mongolia (including the price of getting to Mongolia):


More pictures of Hatgal and Lake Khovsgol:

Day 6: Camping in a Snowstorm


A huge storm came in right after Thunder left. We laid in the tent listening to the sound of the wild wind, the rain, hail, snow, and huge waves crashing on the Khovsgol shore. The waves were so powerful that it was almost frightening, I never imagined that a lake could sound like that! I felt like I was back on the North Shore of Hawaii, not in northern Mongolia.

I also got sick that night. Rolled around the tent for hours, feeling nauseous and wanting to throw up. It must have been the fermented horse milk.

In the morning, there was about 15 cm of snow outside. It was still windy and stormy.

Perfect day to spend under a big puffy sleeping bag :)

Khovsgol photos by Felix (he takes way better photos than me :D):

Oh and do you remember Mushi Pushi?! Actually, Mushi Pushi left during the snowstorm, but when we went on a little walk around the lake, another dog decided to tag along with us… So we named him “Mushi Pushi II”. He stayed with us for 2 or 3 days, even though we never even fed him (we didn’t have enough food for him :( ).

Total expenses of day 6 in Mongolia: $0.

Accommodation: tent
Food: cooked

Day 5: Camping with Thunder


We woke up to the sound of uncle’s 12-year-old son chugging down fermented horse milk. He must have drunk half a liter of that stuff in the time that it took us to get out of bed. The horse milk has about the same amount of alcohol as beer does, so it was no surprise that this 12-year-old looked a bit cross-eyed and red in the face. At least it was a Saturday :D

We hit the road at around 10:00. It took us about a half hour to get our first lift, which brought us an hour and a half in the right direction, to a village called Ikh Uul. The driver dropped us off outside of a truck-stop cafe. The place was buffet-style, so we could finally somewhat understand what we were ordering. The choices were basically: meat and eggs, meat and fat, or meat soup. We chose meat and eggs. It was massive and tasted pretty good! ($1.50 each).

After breakfast, we walked up a little hill to get a nice view of the landscape, then got back to hitching.

Our next ride was with 2 Ulaanbaatar guys. The driver knew English and said that they were going to Khovsgol Lake, which is actually where we wanted to go! (Moron was just on the way:)). We got to stop in Moron anyway, because the driver stopped there for lunch and invited us to join.

We had lunch at his great-aunt’s apartment, which was similar to an old apartment that you would find in Russia. His great-aunt treated us with (surprise) salty milk tea, white bread and butter, and Mongolian noodles with sheep meat. It was exactly the same dish that uncle gave us the night before, but it was much tastier. She also gave us some kind of home-made Mongolian alcohol, which apparently was also made from milk. As you may have guessed, it tasted like a cow’s ass :) But, again, it was a very nice gesture coming from a stranger.

We drove another hour or so before the guys dropped us off by Khovsgol Lake. From the lake, the plan was to walk up the NW road until it ended, then up the trail until we found a nice camping spot. A kid and dog joined us for the walk. The kid said he was 12 although he looked more like 9 or 10. We couldn’t pronounce his name so we just named him “Thunder” :) And the dog we named “Mushi Pushi”.

It took us a couple of hours to find a camping spot away from the resort/ fake yurt area, but both Thunder and Mushi Pushi stayed with us the whole time. Thunder was super keen on camping, as soon as we found the spot, he helped us set up our tent and made a nice fire pit. We cooked some extra food for our new family :) Mushi Pushi didn’t really like buckwheats, but Thunder made him eat it. Thunder didn’t speak much English, but gestured that he wanted to sleep in the tent. We asked him several times about his parents, but he didn’t seem to want to go home. Since it was already dark and cold, we made some space for him in our tent. Mushi Pushi slept outside.

At 1:30am, a strange voice woke us up. It was a man calling somebody. He came to our tent, saying something in Mongolian. It scared me at first, but when we opened up, the man didn’t look drunk or threatening. He repeated the word “baby” and gestured that he was looking for someone. At first, we were like, “no, we don’t have a baby…” Hmm, but we do have a kid! :D Sure enough, he was looking for Thunder. We showed him the kid and this man was soo happy with relief. He was very thankful that his son was okay, and pointed to himself saying “papa”, and to the woman behind him saying “mama”. We all laughed and went back to sleep after Thunder left.

Total expenses of day 5:
$1.50 -truck stop cafe

Accommodation: tent
Food: truck stop, auntie’s apartment, cooked.

More Ikh Uul landscape shots by Felix:

Day 4: Hitching to Moron


We stepped out of our tent (somewhere in Mongolia) when it was sunny and warm outside. Made rice porridge on the gas burner and took off for the road by midday. The first ride we caught was with two older men who didn’t speak a word of English or Russian, but seemed quite humble and nice. The fun thing about hitchhiking is that you never really know exactly where you will go (especially if you don’t speak the language) :D After an hour or so of driving, the driver made a left onto a dirt road and brought us to a yurt. This was awesome- exactly what I was hoping for! A real yurt! Not a bs one made for tourists, but a real one :D

Inside the yurt was a woman and a very cute 2-year-old in a traditional Mongolian coat. The woman treated us with disgusting salty milk tea, white bread, and what we thought were rock-hard fermented horse milk cookies. They were cheese curds, apparently, and they tasted worse than the tea. It was great :). We tried to communicate a bit using a translator and the few Russian words that she knew, but communication didn’t go far beyond “Canada” (Felix is from Canada), “Russia”, and figuring out that the child was a girl.

It was clear that they were nomadic sheep herders and quite poor. You could see the ground (the earth) in some places inside the yurt, and the “walls” looked pretty thin. Inside the yurt was one small bed, a stove, one cabinet, and a few decorative items. It must be hard to keep a place like that warm when it gets down to -45 in winter.

After we finished the tea, the two men drove back onto the main road and dropped us off at the next village.

We stuck out our thumbs and caught another ride within 5 minutes, this time with a truck. This was better than watching any movie, as the Mongolian scenery was getting more and more spectacular by the minute. Big wide-open fields sprinkled with sheep and goat herds, yellow naked mountains in the distance, rivers weaving in and out of the side of the road, spotted with creepy looking dried out trees. I didn’t want it to end!

The truck driver dropped us off in a dirty little town called Erdenet, near a Costco-like shop. We ordered some random food from a Mongolian fast food joint inside that Costco place ($2) and bought some more groceries ($5). See, if you’re not picky with what you eat, money can go a long way. Plus, you get to try some interesting stuff :D

We walked through Erdenet for about a half hour before we both felt like we were suffocating from dust, then took out the “Moron” sign to hitch another lift.

We didn’t even wait 10 minutes before a guy from Ulaanbaatar stopped to pick us up. This guy knew English quite well and laughed about us being Morons :D. He was nice to talk to, we spent more than 2 hours in his car, talking about global problems and things like how cockroach-like humans are. This guy used to be a scientist but hated his job; he quit only a few years ago to follow his real passion, which is “shooting moving targets”. It gave me a little fright when he first said that. Slim chance that he’ll want to practice on real people, right? :D

It was getting dark as he was driving, and it seemed like he didn’t want to leave us in the middle of nowhere in the dark. So he called his brother-in-law and asked if we could stay with him, in a village called Khutag-Undur. The driver dropped us off and didn’t spend the night there himself, but his brother-in-law and his kids were extremely nice.

Now just imagine this conversation happening in a “normal” family in the US, Canada, or any other western country:
Brother: “I picked up 2 foreign hitchhikers, they don’t speak English. Can I drop them off at your house so they can spend the night there?”
How would your uncle respond to that question? :)

We can’t remember any Mongolian names because they’re so freaken hard to pronounce, so we’ll just call this guy uncle :). Uncle was very nice and funny to try to communicate with. He knew a little bit of Russian, mostly nouns, so we mainly just stuck to that.

He gave us Mongolian noodles with sheep and fermented horse milk that night. It was all pretty disgusting but a really nice treat coming from a stranger. The fermented horse milk is apparently alcoholic, like 4-7%, and tasted a bit like kafir or ayran. We were a bit surprised at how the uncle’s 12-year-old son was chugging it down glass by glass :D.

The three men (uncle, Felix and uncle’s son) slept on the floor, while the daughter and I slept on the two sofas. The entire house was just one small room.

Total expenses for Day 4:

$2 Fast food cafe + $5 groceries from Costco-like shop =$7

Accommodation: uncle’s house
Food: cooked + yurt + local fast food + uncle’s treat

Days 2-3: Hitching to Moron


We found out that there was a town called Moron in Mongolia :D So of course, we had to check it out.

Flying there sounded a little dangerous.

So we decided to hitch :D

First we prepared by making a nice sign while we were still in Ulaanbaatar.

Then we stocked up on some food from the supermarket (buckwheats, oats, noodles, nuts, dried fruit, water ($5 each)), and bought a bus ticket from Ulaanbaatar to Darkhan. Hitchhiking out of a big city is always a huge hassle, so since the bus to Darkhan was only about $5 and took us more than 3 hours in the right direction, we thought we would save ourselves the hassle.

We took the city bus from Ulaanbaatar center to the Dragon Bus Station and caught the 1pm bus to Darkhan (this bus goes every hour). We asked the bus driver to stop a few km before Darkhan, where the main road intersected with the road that goes northwest, towards Moron. There are only about 4 roads in Mongolia so it’s not too hard to find your way around :D.

We walked down that road for about a half hour without trying to hitchhike, and then a car stopped and a young local guy offered us a lift. We didn’t even have our thumbs out :) He was very nice, knew a tiny bit of English and loved Russian rap. He told us that his girlfriend was beautiful and that she liked to take selfies. When we got out of his car in a village called Khutul, his girlfriend was waiting for us to take a selfie :).

After the selfie, we walked down the road for a little, but since it was already getting dark, we decided to find a spot for our tent and forget about hitching further. We walked past Khutul (which didn’t take long) and then walked off the side of the road for 50 meters or so, behind some small sandy hills and pitched the tent there. The cool thing about Mongolia is that it’s almost all nomad’s land (and there’s a lot of open land), so you can basically pitch up a tent anywhere and you don’t have to worry about people bothering you about it.

We cooked buckwheat on a gas burner and rested up for the next day of hitching to Moron.

Total expenses: $5 groceries + $5 bus= $10
Accommodation: tent
Food: cooked


(Photos by Felix)

Is hitchhiking dangerous?


Someone recently asked me if I think that hitchhiking might be dangerous, especially for a woman.

This is my reply: there are risks to hitchhiking of course, but I honestly think that the biggest risk is getting into a car accident. And that, of course, is the risk you take any time you step into any car, whether you’re hitchhiking or not. See this book on transportation:

I think the risk of say, getting raped, murdered or robbed is quite low- but that also depends on what country or area you’re in. As a woman, I personally wouldn’t hitchhike alone in most Muslim countries or many developing countries, and after this incident (my last blog) I didn’t want to hitch alone in Mongolia. But having said that, there are also some really wonderful things about hitchhiking that you rarely hear about, like the kindness that strangers share with you and the variety of interesting people you get to connect with. I will try to demonstrate all of this in my upcoming blogs :)


(Photo by Felix)