August 20th, Bogdkhan Ulul Strictly Protected Area and Manzshir Khiid Monastery

Ulaan Baatar has nearby National Parks and other beautiful natural areas. I decided to go visit the Manzshir Khiid Monastery, which is accessible using public transportation. I first learned that the minivan to Zuunmod, the nearest town, leaves from the Dragon terminal, which is 7km from the center of Ulaan Baatar, so I took a bus to the Dragon Terminal first. The minivan was packed. I guess they only leave when they are full.

Zuunmod is an interesting small town, including a ger-shaped building.

Manzshir Khiid is another 5km from Zuunmod, so I took a taxi. The driver quoted me 8,000 togrog (about $8). I didn't have exact change, so I gave him 10,000T and asked him to pick me up at 3pm. I was a little worried he might decide to keep the extra 2,000T instead of coming back for his remaining 6,000T, but much to my pleasure, he was there at 3:00.

Mandshir Khiid was also destroyed during the communist area. Most of the ruins are still that, just ruins.

The hillside is extensively terraced.

There is one building that has been restored. I found it quite nice. In the first picture, it is the building with the yellow roof.

The building has a nice view.

Above this building, inside little sheds, are rock paintings of Buddhist art.

There were two other interesting buildings. I am not sure if they were old or recent, I am guessing at least the second one is original. The architecture seemed inspired by the shape of a ger.

Speaking of ger, I found one here that had a satellite dish.

In a mountain meadow above the second ger-shaped building, I found a large number of wildflowers. Some were familiar, some resembled alpine flowers such as gentian and edelweiss, but did not quite look the same, and others were completely unknown to me.

This abundance may have something to do with the fact that Bogdkhan mountain, which is behind the monastery, was declared a protected area back in 1778. This means it is older than the U.S. constitution, and more than a hundred years older than Yellowstone National Park.

I took a nice walk up from the meadow. The map showed two rest stops and the peak, called Tsetsee gun, at 2,258m. Unfortunately, due to the time I had agreed with the taxi driver, I only made it to the second rest stop. Altogether I hiked for about 2.5 hours, and if I had had 4 hours, I guess I would have made the summit.

Hiking in the Bogdkhan Mountain Strictly Protected Area reminded me a lot of hiking in the Swiss Alps, except, unlike Switzerland, I could not find any stumps of trees that had been cut. All the stumps are from trees that had fallen.

There was a large number of black squirrels with a white belly.

On the upper parts of the trail, shortly before I turned back, I found thin wet snow on the ground and on the trees.

The day before had been cloudy and rainy in Ulaan Baatar, and I am guessing that here it snowed instead. Snow in August! When I was back down in Zuunmod, a thermometer showed 10C. Here it must have been closer to 0C, though above freezing since the snow was all melting.

Near the top of my hike I found a rough shelter built by stacking logs over a fallen tree. It did not seem practical as a real shelter -- it would not keep the rain away -- but with the addition of a tarp it would be. So I don't know if it was seriously built as a shelter, or if somebody just built it for fun.

There were also lots of mushrooms around. Since mushrooms grow in association with specific kinds of trees, I am guessing the abundance of mushrooms also has something to do with this being an old-growth forest.

And finally, there were several nice birds, some of which I was able to take pictures of.