Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mongolia | Töv Aimag | Mandshir Khiid

Having spent most of the winter holed up in my lair in Sansar I was eager for some fresh air and exercise. Since temperatures in the afternoons had been reaching the mid-teens, unseasonably warm for Mongolia, it seemed like a good time for a short jaunt in the countryside. Highly Esteemed American Red Cap Monk Konchog Norbu was like-minded. He had heard a rumor from a source in the international cult of birders to which he belongs about the exotic winter birds to be found at Mandshir Khiid and thus suggested a trip thither. I arranged for a vehicle and met with Konchog, dressed for the occasion in civilian plumage, in front of the Drama Theater. With him were reporter and photographer Luke “Reuter’s Man in Mongolia” Distelhorst, and Uugan, a zoologist at the Agricultural Institute in Ulaan Baatar and like Konchog a hard-core dyed-in-the-feathers avian voyeur.

Mandshir Khiid is on the south side of Bogd Khan Mountain, the 7441-foot-high massif which looms over the southern side of Ulaan Baatar. Although Mandshir Khiid is only nine miles ATCF south of the southern edge of Ulaan Baatar it is over thirty miles via the road around the western flanks of Bogd Khan Uul. Bogd Khan Uul is one of the Four Sacred Mountains which surround Ulaan Baatar.

19th Century view of Ikh Khuree (current-day Ulaan Baatar) with Mandshir Khiid just visible in the lower right-hand corner (See Enlargement)

19th century artist's view of Mandshir Khiid (See Enlargement)

Current-day Ulaan Baatar from the ridgeline of Bogd Khaan Uul (See Enlargement)

Looking south down the valley from Mandshir during slightly more salubrious weather

Recently erected monument just below Mandshir
Construction of the first temple at Mandshir Khiid began in 1733. Eventually at least ten temples were built, and also a residence for the the Bogd Gegeens, who did retreats here. All but the Serüün Lavrin were destroyed in 1937. The Serüün Lavrin was damaged, but restored in 1989 and now serves as a museum.

Caretaker's ger and the Serüün Lavrin
Serüün Lavrin in slightly more salubrious weather
White Tara, Buddha, and Green Tara in the Serüün Lavrin
Ruins of Tsogchin Dugan
View of Serüün Lavrin and the main ruins

Buddha on the rocks above the ruins
Green Tara on the rocks above the ruins

New stupa marking the beginning of the trail to the Summit of Bogd Khan Uul

Locals claim this is the largest pot in the country of Mongolia. They also claim twenty sheep can be cooked in it at once.