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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Mongolia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I was there in 2000 and discovered a partly nomadic people who had suffered the wrath of both Russian and Chinese oppression and yet remained stoic and determined to forge an independent identity. I've always taken an interest in the country because it's routinely ignored in the world press and retains an enigmatic allure for travellers.

Mongolian Matters is a blog that uncovers news and views and is written by a resident of the capital, Ulaanbaatar. New Mongols is another fascinating space with a more political edge.

Mongolia faces many of the problems in developing nations including environmental degradation, corruption and rampant poverty. I never thought I'd be suggesting travel destinations here, but Mongolia is one such example. Its beauty should be discovered.


Blogger Guy said...

How long were you there for? Must have been an experience and a half...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005 10:06:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I was there for just over 2 weeks, in the capital and around the Gobi desert. Truly magical place.
I was travelling overland from Poland to Thailand. Check a map; it was a mad 6 months.
Go now!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005 10:16:00 pm  
Blogger Danny Yee said...

I just got back from Mongolia - check out my travelogue for the details (lots of photos, but also a full narrative, though it's not finished yet).

Tuesday, September 06, 2005 10:51:00 pm  
Blogger Danny Yee said...

Ooops. Here's the working link to
my Mongolia travelogue.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005 10:52:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Antony, nice to find a fellow Mongolia enthusiast. I was there for over a month - didn't manage to see as much of the place as I would have liked, thanks to the average speed of 35km/h along their "national highways". Although I did battle my way up north to check out the mindblowingly beautiful and pristine Lake Khovskol. Anyway, I wrote this piece recently. Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 2:08:00 am  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Interesting piece, James. Many would agree with your assessment of Stalinism's legacy in Mongolia and elsewhere. Oh, and good self-promotion - I hope you get your hits up!

Have you visited Chile?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 8:17:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

My thoughts, James?
Well, this kind of comment really helps instill warmth in your observations: "Mongolian men struck me as particularly useless and lethargic." Mmm...
Communism was a disaster for Mongolia, but as a free market fundamentalist, perhaps you should look a little more closely at the effects of IMF policy on this beautiful country. Not as beguiling as you think.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 10:20:00 am  
Blogger Danny Yee said...

James, your piece doesn't seem very balanced to me.

Sure, Ulaanbaatar is shabby. But compare it with similar sized cities in Indonesia or India and it doesn't come off badly.

High unemployment rates and unrealistic dreams about moving to America? That's pretty much world-wide, and certainly no specialty of Mongolia.

I don't know about "spiritual pollution", but then I don't presume to tell Buddhists what is or is not "real Buddhism".

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 5:50:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

I don't know, Antony, its politicians are particularly adept at singing the free market tune, and in return receive how much foreign aid? I think it makes up about a third of the annual government tax take - one of the highest rates in the world. I'd be interested to hear about these evil IMF policies that seem to have served Mongolia rather well of late.

As for your huffing over what I said about Mongolian men, the full quote included the word "generally". I don't know how many Mongolians you spoke to during your fortnight there - I was lucky enough to sit in on a few English classes at the uni in UB, so I was able to chat and socialise with several. Apparently the laziness of Mongolian men is a bit of a national joke. That's obviously not to say that *all* Mongolian men are lazy. It's just quite a common local theme, and there is plenty of physical evidence around the place (which I went into on my blog piece) that would seem to suggest a lack of motivation is indeed a trait affecting workers in Mongolia. The common perception of America, and how wild riches are easily available, is evidence of this malaise. I discuss this a bit more below.

Danny Yee,

"compare it with similar sized cities in Indonesia or India "

You're not comparing apples with apples. We're talking about the *capital city*. You don't find enormous great holes in the road that runs by the seat of federal power in Delhi, do you? Nor piles of concrete in the footpaths around Connaught Place. Anyway, I don't recall saying in the piece that UB was any more shabby than any other third world city. It was more the glaring lack of maintainence of new infrastructure and property, and the general shoddiness of repair work that stood out. And I have travelled India quite extensively, so I was able to compare the two.

I think you're expecting too much from my post. Like the title clearly noted, the piece was based around personal observations and I am going on what Mongolians have told me. I found their perceptions of America particularly naive, relative to other developing countries I've visited. Many Mongolians see a ticket to the USA is a guarantee of huge wealth. From what I could discern, bloody hard work and sacrifice didn't enter the equation for most.

Re. your sniffy remarks about Buddhism. You only need to have an elementary understanding of Mahayana Buddhism to realise that Mongolian Buddhism is in a degenerate state. Like I said in the piece, this was also reiterated by a number of Buddhist practitioners there. So, off your high horse, bucko.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 7:50:00 pm  

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