My brother took his wife there as a prerequisite to their getting married (the idea being, if they could survive traveling in Mongolia together they could survive anything). He was interested in the area and wanted to travel there to find people making native handicrafts (his long-time mentor in life has been one of the world’s yurt-building experts, who lives in Maine on 500 acres and travels the world building yurts and exploring native handicrafts). My brother’s wife is a super high-powered executive, former class-president at Dartmouth, who was headed to Beijing to participate in the International Woman’s Conference. So they decided after her conference she would stuff her skirts and nylons in a locker in Beijing, put on her levis, and head off into the Mongolian hinterlands with my bro. . . which is exactly what they did.
Although she passed the test and they got married, I don’t think she would describe it as a pleasant experience. She’s a vegetarian with strict dietary restrictions, but in most of Mongolia, apparently, the only food available is mutton, cheese, vodka, mutton, cheese, vodka and more mutton. She brought along a stash of powerbars but they didn’t last long. And, from what they said, it’s a very traditional society, where women do all the hard work and men sit around drinking. I think that troubled her too. Nonetheless, it does look like a beautiful and interesting place. Reminds me of Tibet (I once went overland from Katmandu to Lhasa), which is also a vast, dusty plateau whose people are also very-brown skinned from all the sun and don’t seem to have much variety in their diet.