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24 October 2017 / leggypeggy

Mongolian homestay is a winner

Mongolian gir

Poor John and Sherry watch as Sharon and Little Miss dance in front of our gir

Mongolian gir interior

Poor John waits as our mattresses are rolled out. Note the stove in the foreground

We’ve had homestays in quite a few different countries, with mixed success.

A few years back there were about 40 people sharing a homestay in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Some were sleeping in bunks in dorm rooms and others were camping in tents in a sodden backyard. I still remember a gal washing her clothes in a sink under a sign that said ‘Don’t do laundry in the sink!’

The Bolivians in a village on the shores of Lake Titicaca tried so hard to entertain 21 of us overlanders for an evening. They arranged a soccer game and a dance, and had us dress up in local outfits. It was fun but with no common language, there wasn’t much conversation. I remember sitting and watching as our hosts prepared dinner. I tried to help but was shooed away.

Our hosts in seaside villages in Papua New Guinea were so shy that except when they served us meals, we hardly saw them.

Living area in a gir

The TV is under the cloth on the timber chest and child’s cot is on the right

Mongolian kitchen in a gir

Kitchen is on the right and the sofa folds out to a bed. People also sleep on mats on the floor

So Poor John was a little wary when we learned that, in Mongolia, we had a choice of staying with a local Muslim Kazakh family or in a tourist camp. Either way, we’d be sleeping in a gir (the Mongolian word for yurt).

In the end, we opted for a family and what a rewarding choice it was.

I suppose the family option can be a mixed bag anywhere, because usually families take it in turn to host. In this instance and from the minute we arrived, we were made to feel at home and part of the family.

We started off with gift-giving, which is the custom when lobbing in on a family. We went shopping before heading out of Ulaanbaatar (had to visit two supermarkets to get the right things), and brought orange juice, applesauce, two pairs of kiddie socks and a 5-litre kettle.

Our gifts were received with great smiles and thank yous, and a certain two-year-old was quick to ask to have both pairs of socks (pink and purple) put on.

Snacks of fried bread, dried yoghurt and milk tea appeared almost immediately, and soon we were shown to the neighbouring gir they had for guests.

They rolled out thin mattresses for us, and the tour organiser had supplied us with sleeping bags.

Kazakh homestay in Mongolia

Welcomed with fried bread, dried yoghurt and milk tea

Mongolian meal

Two versions of dinner

Dinner came soon after and our hostess kindly made two versions of a similar dish—one vegetarian and one for meat eaters. Both dishes included homemade noodles that were delicious.

Lack of language didn’t seem to be much of a deterrent to conversation. Our guide spoke English so could translate as needed, but it’s amazing how much you can communicate with hand signals and simple words (oh, and YouTube).

Dad had his phone out and was keen to have us search for videos of sheep dogs at work. I guess that’s not surprising, given that he herds sheep, cattle and horses. He’d even heard of the video done by LED engineers of sheep wearing lights on their backs. I found it for him and we watched it on his phone. Here’s a link.

Mongolian music

Dad strums some tunes

Then he played a few tunes on his stringed instrument.

We were surprised to learn that their son (who is 18) was going off to the army the next day. He was to begin his year of compulsory service. Apparently he could have done it this year or the next. His dad wanted him to wait, but mum was keen for him to get it out of the way.

But the son was still happy to do his morning chores the next morning. He led the cattle to pasture and fed the sheep before having his breakfast and preparing to go.

I think a certain Little Miss will miss her big brother desperately. It was obvious how much they love one another and how well he helped to entertain and mind her. Even as he was about to get in the car, she made it clear she wasn’t going to let him go to off the army without her going along for the ride. Oh, the tears!

The son hopes to serve on the border between Mongolia and China or Mongolia and Russia. That’s where the army patrols to keep rustlers from crossing the border and stealing livestock that belongs to Mongolians. In fact, most Mongolian farmers round-up their animals at night to reduce the chance of them being stolen.

Cooking breakfast in a gir

Mum cooks breakfast while our driver watches

After the car left, mum set about making a breakfast of eggs, toast, jam, homemade butter and fried lunch meat. I think the photos are a good indication of how the family gir is set out. The family has electricity thanks to solar panels (they even have a TV), and mum cooks on a small gas camp stove. The toilet is an outdoor affair about 20 metres from the main gir. It has a great view across to the hills.

All too soon it was time for us to go.

This homestay will always rank as the best for us.

A quick aside. I forgot to mention that there was an option to ride a horse. I said I wanted to ride, but Poor John, Sherry and Sharon no. The guide said that was fine. She’d call ahead and have the family go catch a horse. It might be kind of wild, is that okay?

Having wrecked my shoulder in Belgium in June, I decided to pass on the horse. Sometimes my common sense kicks in.

Feeding animals in Mongolia

Feeding time in the morning

Leading cattle to pasture

Leading cattle to pasture at sunrise

102 Comments

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  1. klmalcolm2014 / Oct 24 2017 2:12 am

    I recently had a similar experience in Mongolia, there on a 10 day horse ride through the steppes. The Mongolian nomads were lovely. We asked “how long does it take to train a horse?” The response: “About a day.” But we did find these “wild” ponies were incredibly sensitive to us, never challenged us and were great partners in all ways.

    https://kimmie53.com/category/mongolia/

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 2:27 am

      Nice to know I could have risked a horse ride. I’ll know for next time. I bet your trip was amazing. Must check out your blog.

      Like

  2. Shiva Malekopmath / Oct 24 2017 2:30 am

    This is a real beautiful Home Stay. I would love to stay.
    Shiva

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Always a Foreigner / Oct 24 2017 2:49 am

    This looks like a fabulous place to stay, and an even better experience. I got very hungry looking at that big bowl of noodles. Yum.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 2:50 am

      It really was a fantastic homestay. Highly recommended.

      Like

  4. pvcann / Oct 24 2017 2:58 am

    How different, how amazing, would love to visit that country. And how good was that – spending time with a local family.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Midlife Dramas in Pyjamas / Oct 24 2017 3:45 am

    Isn’t it about time someone gave you a publishing deal to write a travel book? Seriously! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:13 am

      Thanks, but writing a book would interfere with my lifestyle. This way I can write when I have the chance, not when I have to meet a deadline.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. beetleypete / Oct 24 2017 3:56 am

    An interesting experience, to stay with a local family. The food looks delicious too. I must say that poor John does look a little fed up in the first photo though. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:16 am

      Haha, Pete, Poor John isn’t so much fed up as tired. He likes to be early to bed. Every now and then I remind him it’s courteous to stay awake. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. doodletllc / Oct 24 2017 4:01 am

    So glad I found your blog…what a life-changing travel experience. Just fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 10:20 am

      Thanks so much for finding me. Hope you enjoy spending time here.

      Like

  8. Susan at FindingNYC / Oct 24 2017 4:04 am

    This sounds like a wonderful experience. We’ve always enjoyed getting to know local people when we travel, and being able to stay in a yurt, especially with such accommodating hosts, would be great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:17 am

      Definitely an experience worth repeating. I wonder how soon I can convince Poor John to revisit Mongolia?

      Like

  9. Victo Dolore / Oct 24 2017 4:16 am

    What an adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. IreneDesign2011 / Oct 24 2017 4:37 am

    It seems like you had many great experiences Peggy 🙂
    Wonderful photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Monica Graff / Oct 24 2017 4:48 am

    What fun! Reminds me of our old yurt-dwelling days here in Montana. Little Miss is adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:18 am

      Oh wow, you lived in a yurt in Montana. Tell me more please.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Monica Graff / Oct 25 2017 5:13 am

        Well, it was quite an adventure, to be sure. I blogged about it at polebridgeyurt.com. You have to click on the category “Yurt Living.” We had lots of escapades with grasshoppers, a leaking compost toilet, outrageous heat, outrageous cold. But we were in love (still are) and had a lot of fun!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Oct 25 2017 9:05 am

        Thanks for the link. I’ve had a quick look and will enjoy a thorough explore when I’m home (and have a decent connection).

        Like

  12. Osyth / Oct 24 2017 5:04 am

    My dear Peggy, this warms my heart and swells it to bursting. This is how the world should turn … with people humbly sharing what they have and their guests humbly accepting simple and decent hospitality. Getting along despite cultural and language differences – opposites almost. The love in this family shines out – Little Miss has me captivated and her brother’s dutiful acceptance not just of the Army but of his role in his family and the need for him to do his share of the chores, just shines in a way it shouldn’t really but that simple acceptance of what is and what will be is so often missing in Western life. I would have said yes to the horse but, like you, might have balked at the idea of a wild one these slightly older days I live now. Thank you so much for being the pilgrim soul you are and thank you so much for sharing your journeys … I learn SO much and I mostly learn that the world is not a black place after all but rather, as I have always held dear, there are true and good souls living their lives out in decency the world over x

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:25 am

      You are absolutely right Osyth. This is the way the world should be. I feel so reassured when people figure that out, especially those who try to paint the world blacker than it really is.

      I’m sure you noticed I slipped in the fact that the family is Muslim. They certainly don’t convey the scary images the West often use to depict Muslims. Kazakhs are generally Muslims, and among the kindest and warmest people we have ever met.

      Thanks for thinking of me as a pilgrim, but I am always humbled by the many who have gone before us.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Osyth / Oct 24 2017 4:18 pm

        The Muslim stereotyping absolutely infuriates me. Ignorant knee jerk reactions to the actions of a few extremists who are entirely unrepresentative of the religion. It would be wise for the ignorant scare mongers to read their history books which effortlessly lay out countless examples of a few zealous had pennies causing devastation. But the ignorant gaining wisdom is something of an oxymoron I fear.

        Liked by 2 people

      • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:25 pm

        Gaining wisdom is such an insurmountable challenge for many. Why do people feel the need to target Muslims when there are dangerous characters out there from all religions and from no religion at all. Scare mongers need to be put in their place—preferably in a box in the back of a cupboard.

        Like

  13. Lynz Real Cooking / Oct 24 2017 5:10 am

    Wow amazing Peggy!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Robert Parker / Oct 24 2017 5:44 am

    This looks wonderful, and so glad you had such a positive experience of hospitality and friendliness. Little Miss is a cutie. Looks like the family enjoyed your visit as much as you did. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Curt Mekemson / Oct 24 2017 5:58 am

    A great tale, Peggy. Thanks for giving us an inside seat with this delightful family. I’d be a little slow on the intake for riding a wild horse as well, or even a half-tame horse. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:47 am

      A fellow traveller (in another group) rode two horses. One was tame and the other was quite wild. Sobering thought for me.

      Like

      • Curt Mekemson / Oct 26 2017 10:18 am

        One hopes he was a good horseman!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Oct 26 2017 10:25 am

        He’d never ridden a horse before, but survived to tell the tale.

        Like

  16. Gilda Baxter / Oct 24 2017 6:05 am

    Such a delightful family…their “gir” looked very colorful and cozy. Was it warm enough to sleep? Great adventure😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:48 am

      Warm enough to sleep? We were roasting. Each gir had a wood stove in the middle. Ours was stoked up before we went to bed and the whole gir was super warm. I even kicked off most of my sleeping bag.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Dorothy / Oct 24 2017 6:33 am

    Great to see how self sufficient people can be, solar is certainly a great boon when you are not connected to services but must be hard for them in winter when the sun is not shining. People with huge power bills should take note. Hope their son is happy to return after seeing other ways of life in the army.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:51 am

      Apparently Mongolia is quite sunny in winter, so the solar works most of the time. You’re right about people with big power bills—we’ve seen solar on almost every roof in China, Mongolia and now Russia. As for the son. I suspect a year patrolling the borders will make him keen to sleep in a warm bed in a toasty gir.

      Like

  18. Ken Berry / Oct 24 2017 6:43 am

    It would have been extra special if the horse had been a Przewalski horse — a special breed native to Mongolia.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Dymoon / Oct 24 2017 7:36 am

    that was fun, I enjoyed that!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Amanda McInerney / Oct 24 2017 7:38 am

    What a fabulous opportunity to experience such a different lifestyle – so much more exciting than a chic little apartment in Paris. I’m glad you passed on the horse, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:53 am

      There’s a lot to be said for a chic apartment in Paris, but we loved every minute of this experience—even the outhouse.

      Like

  21. Anthony / Oct 24 2017 8:41 am

    That looks completely awesome. You may have sparked a travel plan for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:53 am

      Oh I hope so. Every day flooded with special moments.

      Like

  22. Phyllis / Oct 24 2017 8:44 am

    A beautiful experience..thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 9:54 am

      My pleasure Phyllis. Maybe we can do this trip someday together.

      Like

  23. Brian Lageose / Oct 24 2017 9:35 am

    Dinner looks delicious. I’m suddenly less than enthused about the frozen pizza on my own menu this evening… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  24. lexklein / Oct 24 2017 10:04 am

    Wonderful, wonderful! My time with a Mongolian family on the steppe was one of my best memories of Mongolia. They all seem to be so innately accommodating and friendly – natural hosts, I suppose, because it’s in their culture to welcome any and all to their homes. And how nice that they made some vegetarian food in that meat-centric place!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 10:10 am

      Yes, the vegetarian option was especially gracious. We had to laugh—the serious meat eaters took a bone and a sharp knife and cut off bits as the meal progressed.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Vicki / Oct 24 2017 10:42 am

    It looks (and sounds) just like I’ve read and imagined – only the girs look larger inside with more furniture than I thought. I also thought they’d sit on a mat on the floor. Was surprised to see you sitting on a bench with the large table looking like our ‘coffee table’ size. I love the colours and decorative detail on the cupboards etc.

    It looks very barren around the camp, so can well imagine the animals being taken up to a green pasture somewhere.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 11:31 am

      Oh wow, the landscape is very barren and they had a poor summer season for rain. The gir had two sofas and both folded out to beds, which makes sense. Others slept on the floor. Most of us sat on low stools.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. gerard oosterman / Oct 24 2017 1:05 pm

    Just as I thought the yurts would be like, basic creature comforts and sparsely furnished. A great post, Peggy.
    What did they make out of the Australian sheep dog herding the sheep? Is Mongolia where the beef- tartar comes from? You know, the Mongolians ride a horse all day with a piece of beef under the saddle which with the pounding it gets all day becomes tenderised enough to eat raw.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 8:42 pm

      They especially loved seeing the sheep dogs run across the backs of the sheep. Not sure about the steak tartare, and not sure if the meat in our meal was tenderised ala horseback.

      Like

  27. Alison and Don / Oct 24 2017 1:22 pm

    Oh what a fabulous adventure! I wish I could have been there, so thank you for this wonderful virtual experience. That Little Miss sure is a cutie.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  28. afterthelasttime / Oct 24 2017 2:19 pm

    Great story, Peggy! There are a number of yurts/girs here in Colorado, many that are hike in, stay, hike out. I suspect both cross-country ski or snow shoe access.
    From memory there’s a Yak Ranch near Gunnison that also has girs for rent. Did you eat Yak in Mongolia?
    Little Miss is a cutie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 8:44 pm

      I had no idea yurts and girs were popping up in the USA. They are so cool and very practical—and much warmer than you’d expect. We didn’t eat yak this time, but we had it in Tibet in 2012.

      Like

      • David / Oct 25 2017 2:26 pm

        They’ve been in the Rocky Mountains for well over 25 years, mostly as a unique high country experience.
        My favorite Japanese restaurant, DOMO, here has a large Japanese garden where they erected a gir/yurt a few years ago, it looks much like the inside/outside of the one you stayed in just smaller I think. They also have a full scale Japanese farmhouse inside adjacent to a large (half basketball court at least) Aikido Martial Arts Studio.
        Oh! Their food ranks consistently in the top U.S. Japanese restaurants!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Oct 25 2017 8:54 pm

        Thanks Dave, We ate at DOMO with you, so I remember how fabulous their food is and how gorgeous their restaurant and surrounds are too.

        Like

  29. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Oct 24 2017 5:10 pm

    This is the kind of experience I would love to have, were I a traveler. To be invited to stay with a local family and immerse yourselves in their lifestyle – what a wonderful experience. The little girl is a doll, and your hosts were generous. Great pictures – thank you, Peggy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 8:45 pm

      Our hosts were so gracious. We couldn’t have asked for a better family. An experience to cherish.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. thewonderer86 / Oct 24 2017 5:43 pm

    I am loving reading these posts. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. thewonderer86 / Oct 24 2017 5:47 pm

    May I ask, how did you find this place?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 8:47 pm

      Our train travel and accommodation were organised by a company called Lupine Travel. But it is important to remember that families take it in turn to host guests, so no one family does it all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. amindfultravellerblog / Oct 24 2017 9:09 pm

    Little Miss is very cute indeed. Wonderful traditional family values here. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience here Peggy. X

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Oz's Travels / Oct 24 2017 11:23 pm

    Awesome, would definitely chose a family in Mongolia, my Mongolian friends are always friendly and generous.

    Disappointed you did not try the fermented mare’s milk? It is a drink unique to Mongolia, might have fixed your shoulder, more likely dulled your commen sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 24 2017 11:32 pm

      This is our second time in Mongolia and we’ve had fermented mare’s milk before. Can’t say I love it, but it didn’t occur to me to use it as a shoulder cure! 🙂

      Like

  34. mistermuse / Oct 25 2017 1:55 am

    The part about Little Miss and her big brother really touched me. The innocence of little children everywhere should make us all realize that they shouldn’t have to grow up in an often ugly world. It doesn’t have to be that way, and those who make it so must be exposed and opposed at every turn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 25 2017 8:46 am

      What a perfect comment. Children should know innocence. They should not know an ugly world that condones and encourages racism and violence of all kinds. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. Nancy / Oct 25 2017 2:55 am

    How fascinating. The colors in their homes are stunning. In Outer Mongolia, I saw a documentary of a man on a horse pulling a cart. The weather was bitter cold way below freezing. He traveled about three miles to a frozen lake or river. He chiseled a hole (which took quite a while) in the ice and dropped a fishing net, then he rode his horse back home. Three days later, he took the trek again. Pulled up the net which was full of fish. Took it home and buried it in ice. It was to be their meals for the next few months. It broke my heart. We take so much for granted in the U.S.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the humility of the family. Thank you for sharing this with us. Another journey for me that touched my heart.

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Oct 25 2017 8:49 am

      You are most welcome Nancy. I find it amazing how so many people live through incredible struggles just to survive each day. It pains me when people cannot find a way to open their hearts to those who suffer.

      Liked by 1 person

  36. Catnip Blog / Oct 25 2017 11:24 am

    How wonderful a glimpse into another world. Great post, wonderful pictures

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 25 2017 7:17 pm

      Thanks so much. It was such a fantastic opportunity. Would do it again any day.

      Like

  37. adventuredawgs / Oct 25 2017 1:16 pm

    Those colours in the gir are incredible. I can’t get over how large it looks. Some of our provincial parks have yurts but they seem so much smaller, maybe the drab fabric makes the walls seem closer. I LOVE that last photo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 25 2017 7:19 pm

      Other than the pics of the interior, that last one is my favourite too. And I agree, this gir was quite spacious. Maybe seven or eight metres in diameter.

      Liked by 1 person

  38. David / Oct 25 2017 2:07 pm

    By chance have you seen the 2016 film, The Eagle Huntress? It’s a beautiful film about a young Modagolian girl who becomes the first woman to compete in a traditional male sport of Eagle Hunting to become a Master Eagle Hunter, in her case Eagle Huntress. I highly recommend it and I’m certain it’s available through NetFlix or maybe on demand services.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 25 2017 11:39 pm

      It’s a wonderful film. We saw it a couple of months ago on the big screen. Fabulous.

      Like

  39. Sartenada / Oct 25 2017 6:46 pm

    I never could imagine this. Thank You for this post. Have a wonderful day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 25 2017 7:20 pm

      Thanks for your lovely comment. We’ve had a great day exploring Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal. Hope to post about it soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  40. Phil Huston / Oct 26 2017 1:17 am

    The commonality of life for native peoples that stretches across continents and around the globe is truly an amazing thing to see. One world. One day. Because, sans dogma, it already is. If we all knew each other’s stories hate would become a thing of the past. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 26 2017 9:33 am

      You are most welcome, Phil. It confounds me that people lose sight of the fact that we all want pretty much the same things—a roof over our heads, enough food, opportunities for our kids and so on.

      Like

  41. Dave Ply / Oct 26 2017 3:15 am

    Traveling is always more interesting when you get to hang out with the locals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 26 2017 9:34 am

      Yes, spending time with the locals gives you a real sense of being there.

      Liked by 1 person

  42. artandkitchen / Oct 27 2017 6:01 am

    Oh! I wish I’ve been there as well! Great report!

    Liked by 1 person

  43. jeanleesworld / Oct 27 2017 1:03 pm

    I’ve often wondered about what it was like to stay with a family of a completely different culture. Clearly you were blessed with this visit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 31 2017 4:20 am

      I highly recommend it. I must remember to write about our homestay in Morocco, which was also very rewarding.

      Liked by 1 person

  44. Brenda / Oct 27 2017 11:03 pm

    I can’t add anything the the superlatives in the previous comments, but I really loved this.

    Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks

  1. From a homestay to an art deco hotel | Where to next?
  2. Enjoying the views from a Mongolian temple | Where to next?
  3. Mongolian homestay is a winner — Where to next? – Living Life Fully, Confined to Bed – Author of Wildflower: An Abducted Life by Nancy Jean Walker

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