After a lazy, beautiful, hilarious, and challenging week or so in the Khatgal area, we decided to head south. Again, an arduous overnight minibus ride. This time there was an American guy and his Australian girlfriend, the foreigners may have outnumbered the Mongols at one point.
When we got to the town,in the middle of the night, there was nothing resembling a hotel in site. There were a couple listed in the guidebook. One was closed for the season, and after dark the other two were not recognizable. The driver went around dumping everyone off at their homes. Then he stopped the van, turned it off, jumped out, and disappeared. Did he expect us to sleep in the van? Were we supposed to leave? He was gone for at least ten minutes while my four foreign compatriots and I just kind of stared at each other and started speculating. There were no lights on in the town. Finally, what seemed like a lot longer than it probably was, the driver came back with his wife who spoke a bit of English. “Where are you go?” We showed her the name in the guidebook, which unfortunately was not written in Cyrillic, and tried our best to pronounce it. She said ok. Said something to her husband. Then looked at us and said, “Where are you go?” in the same exact tone of voice. Sigh. We tried again. Again she nodded and said, “yes, yes.” Then two minutes later, “Where are you go?”
It was too cold to just pitch our tents. I was tempted to ask if we could just go to her house. After trying the fifth different possible pronunciation for this strange Mongolian hotel name, her eyes lit up, and she got it. And we were off. To this place.
No running water. No shower. Pretty comfy beds, (except for the Spaniard whose bed was on a 45 degree incline). No toilet, except an outhouse. It was pitch black outside, and something jumped out at me next to the outhouse, so I decided to just go behind the woodpile instead. It’s a good thing I did, because without a flashlight, I would have absolutely fallen into the outhouse. It had a few slats over a giant pit, and even in daylight was quite a balancing act.
On the second night, we decided to venture into the bar attached to the hotel. This was the kind of place where people still wear traditional clothes on a daily basis and ride their horse to catch a couple of drinks. We bought a bottle of vodka for the table and proceeded to enjoy as each group of extraordinarily drunk Mongolian men came over to share a shot with us. I had the distinct impression that I was the only woman for about 20km. I had given my chapstick the day before on the minivan to a guy with severely cracked and chapped lips. He was there, and seemed quite proud to already be friends with the foreigners. But then he passed out.
The American seemed to be quite jealous of the attention I was getting from the locals and at one point was yelling at a Mongolian guy, “yeah, she’s got big tits, so what!” and the next thing I saw he was lighting a horse ring the guy was wearing with his lighter, and proceeded to brand his own arm with it much to the shock of us and the locals. Some people need all the attention I suppose.
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