The Return of Ghenghis Khan


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, August 15, 2004 was originally posted on August 19, 2004.

DAY 302:  “Between the National History Museum and the Natural History Museum, which one is better?” I asked Tatiana at her Legend Tours’ office after arranging an excursion to the nearby Mongolian countryside the next day.

“I think the Natural History Museum,” she answered.  “But I think you have time for both.”

The Natural History Museum was “just okay” (for me) with its taxidermy stuffed animals of a polar hare, an indigenous two-humped camel, lynxes and wolves — plus a really cool painting of primitive man slaying a saber-toothed tiger.  The main attraction was its paleontology wing’s big skeleton of a tarbosaurus, one of the several types of dinosaurs that roamed the nearby Gobi Desert to the south.  While learning about the time when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I was more impressed with learning about the time when Ghenghis Khan pretty much ruled it on my visit to the National History Museum.

The National History Museum’s exhibition was a chronological history of Mongolia, starting from the Stone Age and onto the Ancient States period — when the Huns ruled from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st AD — but the most interesting part of Mongolia’s history (for me) came in 1162 when Ghengis Khan (picture above) ruled the Mongol empire, the largest empire in the world at the time, which stretched as far west as Eastern Europe and the Middle East and as far south as where Vietnam is today.  The Mongol empire lasted for about two hundred years under Ghenghis Khan’s democratic philosophies of government:

  • government is participatory

  • rule by law prevails

  • all are equal before the law

  • personal freedoms are honored

  • chocolate milkshakes for everybody!

Actually I made that last one up, but seriously, how great would an empire be if everyone got frosty chocolate milkshakes?  Anyway, milkshakes or not, Ghenghis Khan was the Mongols’ greatest (and possibly lactose intolerant) ruler, never to be forgotten. 

However, in 1308, the great democratic Mongol Empire fell to the hands of the aggressively expanding Manchu Dynasty from China.  Mongol battle gear was no match for Manchu battle gear.  By 1691, the Manchu Dynasty took over the land of the Mongolia.  Chinese people were even encouraged to intermarry the Mongols (in their traditional Mongol clothes) to wipe out their pure lineage entirely. 

Enter Sükhbaatar, the “Axe Hero,” who formed an army to combat the Chinese before it was too late.  In 1919, with no acceptance in a cry for help to Russian, Japanese, American, French and British governments, Sükhbaatar turned to the Bolsheviks who were leading the revolution in Russia — which led to the rise of the Communist Soviets — who helped defeat the Manchus.  After victory in 1921, Sükhbaatar formed the Mongolian People’s Party of “independent Mongolia,” which soon fell into the hands of the Soviets who had purged their Lamaist religion and introduced the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, still in Mongolian written language today.

The Mongolians never forgot about their glorious past, the days when their Ghenghis Khan ruled most of the eastern hemisphere.  However, along with religion, praise of Ghenghis Khan was also frowned upon by the Soviets, perhaps because of its ahead-of-its-time democratic thinking.  It wasn’t until the Mongolians saw the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that they — along with most of the other Soviet-influenced countries — protested until a free democracy was enstated in the country.  In 1992, Mongolia finally became independent, in the spirit that Ghenghis Khan had 700 years prior.  Ghenghis Khan (also spelled “Chinggis Kaan”), and the public remembrance of him, became in fashion again.  Ghenghis Khan’s face appeared on local currency and Chinggis Kaan Beer and Chinggis Kaan Vodka started to appear on the shelves. 

MONGOLIA’S RELATIONS WITH ITS NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES are fairly stable nowadays, particularly with China from my experience when I went to get a visa first thing in the morning.  I had tried to get a Chinese entry visa at the Chinese consulate in Paris after waiting on line for about four hours, only to be told that I wouldn’t be able to obtain one unless I was in my home country — but there were rumors I could get one in Ulan Baatar.

The Chinese embassy in UB was far less crazy than the one in Paris, with a courteous staff and a line of only about five people and one-day service for $80 USD ($60 if I wasn’t American).  It’s funny how I had come to Ulan Baatar to get my Chinese visa at the Chinese embassy when France’s wouldn’t because the two friends I made on line, Antoine and Elodie, were French citizens that couldn’t stand the craziness at the embassy in Paris either — and they did live in the home country.

LONELY PLANET HAD LED US IN THE WRONG DIRECTION three times in a row for three different things that morning when the three of us wandered around, running errands and looking for some sort of tour together at the Legend Tours office: 

“Thank you Lonely Planet,” Antoine said after the first dead end.

“That map is Lonely Planet,” Elodie said when we were lost, looking for Legend Tours.  “Lonely Planet is not so sure.”

“That book is old.  That place has moved many many times since then,” Tatiana told us, when giving us directions to a popular cafe.

The young French couple had more time in Mongolia than I did and so we split up.  They went off to find a bigger tour group while I booked a solo three-day excursion to the countryside outside of Ulan Baatar, before heading out to the museums and learning about Mongolia’s glorious past of Ghenghis Khan.

THE NEW DEMOCRATIC SPIRIT of Ghenghis Khan prevails in modern Ulan Baatar and it has opened the doors for foreign business — there’s even an IKEA.  One such place was the Modern Nomads Cafe, which served Westernized food to locals, ex-pats and tourists like me.  For me, nothing celebrated the return of Ghenghis Khan more than the good ol’ fashioned chocolate milkshake I had there.  I’m telling you, if only Ghenghis had that chocolate milkshake policy, perhaps the Mongol Empire might have taken over the entire world.

Next entry: Little Yurt On The Prairie

Previous entry: Surrogate Parents

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Comments for “The Return of Ghenghis Khan”

  • TD0T:  Thanks for the donation!  Wow!  Send me your postal address and you’re on the new postcard mailing list!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/18  at  03:12 PM

  • HEY ALL:  I’m back in UB, but I’m headed off to Beijing on a long, long train ride (most of that is the border crossing formalities) in the morning.  Here’s three to keep you tied until I can type up more!  Stay tuned!

    Can anyone look into the terrorist situation of Kathmandu (i.e. Everest)?  People told me the Maoist rebels just killed a bunch of tourist there or something…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/18  at  03:15 PM

  • First again? Wow! This is what happens when you have grandchildren staying over for 4 days - you get up extra early to have a little peace and quiet - before the games begin!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/18  at  03:42 PM

  • Erik: Found this dated Aug. 17/04

    Blasts heard at Kathmandu hotel
    A series of blasts have been heard in a luxury hotel in Kathmandu that had planned to defy Maoist rebel demands to shut down, police and witnesses said.

    “We heard four deafening blasts one after another,” said Ram Baidya, who lives near the Soaltee Crowne Plaza hotel.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/18  at  04:06 PM

  • damn!  i was expecting some “shitty mongolian” references from south park!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/18  at  04:53 PM

  • KATMANDHU - Looks pretty bad getting into the city right now:

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/18  at  05:40 PM

  • Paraphrased from BBConline today..
    Rebel blockade of Kathmandu enters second day, which has stopped food and other supplies from entering the city..major roads are deserted as drivers fear rebel attacks.. Nepalese journalists are protesting the blockade following the death of a radio reporter and threats against other journalists..many businesses are closed.. authorities are trying to negotiate.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/18  at  05:44 PM

  • Erik-  Here is the latest news:  from what I understand, flights into Nepal are running on time but tourism in general has declined about 50% this year.  I guess getting into Nepal is still quite easy but this blockade will cause prices for everything to skyrocket.  They say there is enough fuel to last about a month, but after that you can expect the entire capital to shut down.

    We were considering Nepal on our trip (depart Aug 29 for Sydney), but things have deteiorated to the point that it’s not worth it… besides Lhasa is still available.

    Maoist road blockade fuels food price hike
    US condemns ‘tmrrorism’ in Nepal
    AFP, Kathmandu

    A blockade by Maoist rebels of the Nepalese capital, being enforced through psychological fear rather than physical force, entered a second day yesterday, leading to price rises and a heavy deployment of troops.
    Home Minister Purna Bahadur Khadka said the government had increased security around Kathmandu but that there had jeen no major incidents on Wednesday, the first day of the first Maoist blockade of the capital.

    Maoists rebels, who have been fighting since 1996 to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and install a communist republic, have said they would enforce the siege until their various demands are met.

    While they have not physically prevented vehicles from entering and leaving Kathmandu, fears of reprisals kept trucks and heavy vehicles off major highways Wednesday and Thursday

    Witnesses and officials said no rebels had been seen policing the highways nor have the rebels set up any physical barriers, although few were willing to challenge the blockade.

    Khadka said the Maoists were trying to create a climate of fear in Nepal, where the Maoist insurgency has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.

    “It was called mainly to create psychological terror,” the minister said.

    “The army and armed police have been deployed for the safety of the people,” he added.

    Khadka said the authorities were trying to ensure residents start hoarding food, and were also keeping a watch on traders to ensure they did not push up prices unrealistically.

    However the president of the Nepal Consumers’ Forum, Harendra Shrestha, said that market prices, mainly of vegetables and fruit, had already increased by some five to 10 percent since Wednesday.

    Supply ministry officials said Thursday the government had stockpiled essential commodities which would be enough to last at least a month.

    Buses, meanwhile, continued |o operate sporadically between Kathmand} and other town{, Khadka said.

    Meanwhile, the US State Department on Wednesday decried acts of “terrorism” by Maoist rebels against civilians in Nepal, after the leftist insurgents cut off roads to Kathmandu and bombed a luxury hotel in the Himalayan country’s capital.

    “The United States firmly rejects the Maoist intimidation, terrorism, and threats of violence against civilians,” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said in a statement.

    Posted by Szlachta  on  08/18  at  11:51 PM

  • That looks like soap around the bunny! And were the camels shorter than they were in Egypt?

    Wow - gadzooks about Kathmandu… I hadn’t heard - what kind of cavern am I living in?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/19  at  02:00 AM

  • Chocolate milkshakes…have you ever thought about going into politics.  A policy like that ought to get you elected.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/19  at  09:22 AM

  • 10 months or 302 entries ago, one young (at heart) misadventurer set out from his New Jersey home on a grand trip around the world. Despite the emptiness of the air plane seat next to him, he was not alone as he embarked on the Global Trip 2004.

    Knowing that his friends and former coworker would kill for the chance to spend the next 16 months circumnavigating the planet, he devised a way to take them all with him. Thus, Blog was born!

    Blog has grown from a small ?cult following—you know, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, only without Tim Curry in women’s clothes or a time warp? to who knows how many SBRs and a dedicated bunch of Blog Hogs.

    Blog has become so many things to so many people. A FAQ about travel, a message board for friends, a rondez-vous point for travelers, an Amazing Race chat room, a sanctuary within ?Office Space,? a connection between brothers, and most of all seat next to Erik for the entire adventure!

    Congratulations to the misadventurer turned Super Hero to the oppressed office workers the world over! 10 Months, 300 entries!!!! Thanks Erik!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/19  at  08:57 PM

  • TDOT - so how long did that take you to write? wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/19  at  09:40 PM

  • Markyt

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/19  at  10:28 PM

  • That 1st part was supposed to read;

    Markyt - is 2 funny…but seriously, nice write-up Tdo0t

    ...and yea, thanks Erik!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/19  at  10:34 PM

  • MarkyT: From 9 till 5!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/19  at  11:03 PM

  • AR5 (markyt don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode).  What’s up with the silence on this episode?  Wow.  So deadbeat Mirna is gone.  I feel badly for Charla cuz she rocks.  Chip and Kim are turning into an awesome team.  Love how they are just in awe of everything and take time to enjoy.  Lake Manyara *sigh* Can’t wait to get there myself.

    Posted by Liz  on  08/20  at  05:56 AM

  • Regarding Nepal, I got an article in my email yesterday about a Nepali missionary getting abducted.  I also know of a western missionary who recently had to leave Nepal for a while, but I’m not able to remember the reasons. Not sure if she was in danger, or if the government kicked westerners out because of the trouble.  Either way, things seem to be getting worse over there with time.

    Posted by Alyson  on  08/20  at  10:19 AM

  • Hey you forgot one other rule that the Mongolians taught the rest of the world; “Those with the weapons, make the rules.”

    They took over most of Asia and Eastern Europe in a short period of time, so there must be something to that…

    Word Life.


    Posted by Moman  on  08/20  at  11:08 PM

  • LIZ:  checked your blog out for a while, I’m in Edmonton, you’re from where?  Also “uh oh, it magic..”  you’re thinking of “Magic” by The Cars.. smile

    80’s Pop Junkie - Darcy

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  03:29 AM

  • TD0T:  Wow, thanks for the Tribute! 

    Background story about my Exodus from my last day at work…  For years there were always rumors that one would get laid off (it was a NY dot com after all)...  The on-going joke with me and my coworkers was that I’d never get laid off, because I survived the crash of 2001 for so long.  Secretly, I was planning to quit October 2003 anyway, but they laid me off in June 2003.

    The morning of my last day, my art director called me in privately into his office to warn me that he just got word that I’d be laid off by noon.  11 a.m. rolled around and I was called into the COO’s office for my “surprise” exit interview.  I was all smiles though, even confusing the COO by telling him it was “the best day of my life.”

    There were three of us who got the boot that day—resulting in the somber melancholy office mood that it normally got on a lay off day—and as we packed up our desks, everyone still left at the office convened in the conference room for a meeting with the COO.  I packed up my boxes and contemplated how to go out with a bang; and so I left my packing for the next day, sent the “Would You?” slideshow to every email address in the company and quietly slipped away…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  05:27 AM

  • THANKS for the NEPAL research!  So, let’s have a vote:  Should I go or not to try and make it to Everest on my b-day on Oct 18 (and Oct 20, The Global Trip 2 One-Year Anniversary)?

    Is the situation really that serious, or just hyped up media?  When I was in Ecuador, everyone told me that going into Bolivia was impossible, but everything settled by the time I got there…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  05:30 AM

  • ARABELA:  Thanks for the donation!  That one from “L.Rios” was from you correct?  Email me your address and you’re on the new mailing list?

    Anyone get the Egypt postcard yet?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  05:32 AM

  • NICOLE:  Thanks for the pledge too!  (Sorry, had to mention it!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  05:37 AM

  • GREETINGS FROM BEIJING (formerly known as Peking):  Yes, I’ve had the Peking Duck already (first night out) if that’s what you’re wondering…

    So far, Beijing ROCKS… It seems all the hostels here are affliated with (or even physically connected to) big four-star hotels…  I am in such a place, built inside the Workers’ Stadium surrounded by a beautiful park—it’s like being at the 2008 Olympics, just four years early, and for just $6!

    Blog entries to come; there’s a small laptop culture here at the hostel; I may even bring it out to work on it…

    Stay tuned!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  05:43 AM

  • Kathmandu - are you flying in or ground transport?

    Within 2 months a lot can happen…so we’ll monitor the situation…if you fly in, should be no probs…but if you drive in, might be no probs too…

    read this:

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  05:53 AM

  • DARCY - thanks!  Ah, yes, The Cars.  I’m terrible at matching bands and songs.  I’m currently in Tokyo, but originally from Windsor, Ontario.

    Posted by Liz  on  08/21  at  06:36 AM

  • Erik, if I hear anything new about Nepal from my friend who has an American friend living there, I’ll let you know.

    Posted by Alyson  on  08/21  at  09:18 AM

  • I was planning to fly in (from Tokyo)...  Sure, I can get into Kathmandu, but how is terror alert on the trails up to Everest?

    I had heard in the past that encountering Maoist rebels are not unheard of on Himalayan treks…  they are actually sort of polite; whatever they take from you, they give you a receipt so you can claim it on your insurance… (so I’ve heard)...

    Keep me posted!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  02:11 PM



    Sometimes I wonder if these warnings make things look a little more dangerous than what they are. Either way, here’s some info. for you.

    Posted by Alyson  on  08/21  at  02:32 PM

  • I’d say they do! I was reading the goverment Health Canada website before I left for Asia… It basically said to stay home!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  08:14 PM

  • I agree, lots can happen between now and Oct 18, my vote is you take the wait & see additude.

    Erik, help a brother out with the name of your hostel in Beijing, I’ll be there mid October and could use a reference…. thanks.

    My girlfriend and I depart on our rtw trip next Sunday (Aug 29th) from LA… first stop Sydney.  Erik, this blog (I hate that word blog… we’ve got to come up for a more appropriate word than blog) has been helped us sustain our resolve and follow through with our plans… thanks Erik.

    Posted by Szlachta  on  08/21  at  08:18 PM

  • Hey E! and Crew! It has been a while, but I’m caught back up. Like Szlachta and his girlfriend, reading this blog the past few months has helped me confront and plan out my goal. I gave my director notice on Thursday that in 12 months I will either take a leave or resign to pursue a travel and self improvement sabbatical!  Thank you to everyone who is on a trip, planning a trip or trying to get it together to pursue your goals too! I have a long way to go, but this community has been amazing, and to think we’ve never met!  Anyway, I sold my house last friday (that was step 1), telling boss was step 2 and now I go into aggressive saving mode.  So, I’ll be asking for advice on where to stay and who to call soon too!

    Take care, Thanks a million Erik and keep up the great work! and Hi Erik’s Mom!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/21  at  11:07 PM

  • Hello to you too, Funchilde….

    I am glad that you are pursuing your dream…. do it now or the opportunity may never come again.. That was the homily at church this morning, opportunity comes once or twice but if you miss them both it may or will not come up again.  there’s a lot of self discipline & a lot of planning but you can make it. erik used to say people save & wait till they retire to do what they want to do but then your body might not be able to cooperate any longer & some never make it to retirement age.  By doing it young, you still have time to save for old age & yet have very good memories .  That made me give him my blessings, he is right…...
    Good luck, I have faith in you….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  05:27 AM

  • BEAR WITH ME GUYS…  Beijing is sort of like Spain, whereas I’m doing things full on, day and night…  Don’t worry, I’ll be back with a batch soon enough…

    BTW, I just got back from a long trek up and down The Great Wall in a remote area away from Beijing… Amazing!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  02:08 PM

  • Beijing is at the top of my list!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  05:19 PM

  • Hi ALL - Since we’re waiting for the next batch of entries, I thought I’d give you all a sneak peek at a picture of Erik at the Great Wall of China!!! 

    It’s amazing!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  05:58 PM

  • markyt - That’s cute =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/22  at  06:08 PM

  • Erik - there’s a Nepalese intern in my org’s DC office that I will ask about Nepal.

    I’m more of the wait and see person, or just cancelling it all together. But, that’s just me…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  09:18 AM

  • SZLACTA:  I’m staying at the Beijing Gongti HI Hostel, inside Worker’s Stadium, annexed to the fancier Sports Inn, also in the stadium… It’s surrounded by a park where locals do Tai Chi and exercises all day…

    It’s not listed in the guidebooks yet (it’s new), which is the only reason I was able to get a space here; the other HI hostels were pretty much booked solid…

    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/23  at  08:08 PM

  • ERIK: I’m also on the wait & see list. I’d hate to give up too early. But then again, if you’ve gotta fly give yourself a “drop dead date”—no evil foreboding intended—to make your final decision. That way if you do decide not to go, you’ve got some time to get used to the idea AND find something else cool to do!

    I’m SO behind. Feel like I can’t catch up!

    TdOT: Great synopsis. That’s the kinda write-up that needs to go to some publishers!

    MARKYT: I had no idea that the Muppets had invaded China! Hehe!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/30  at  01:44 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

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Little Yurt On The Prairie

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Surrogate Parents


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

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