Saturday, December 27, 2003

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Arrived last night, Christmas Eve, in Lhasa at 7:00. There was room in the inn so we did not have to stay in a stable. Did not see hide or hair of the Three Wise Men. Instead of sending email greetings to everyone I will just give Season Greetings to All here . . .

Friday, December 19, 2003

Now in Tsedang City. Internet connection is slow here. Will post more later . . .

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Flew to Tibet this morning and drove on to Samye Monastery near Tsedang. Founded in the 770s, this is the oldest monastery in Tibet. Staying today in the guest house here.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The Giant Buddha at Leshan, 245 feet high, carved out of a solid sandstone cliff

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Currenty in Chengdu, China, after a whirlwind trip through Hong Kong. Will have more news as soon as I find a better internet cafe . . .

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

In case you missed "Visit Mongolia 2003", the big government sponsored drive to attract tourists to Mongolia, you will have a second chance. They've decided to do it again, as in "Visit Mongolia 2004". It seems "Visit Mongolia 2003" was more-or-less a bust, mainly because of the Killer Virus Thing (remember that?). Government tourism officials hoped for 200,000 tourists in 2003 but got only 168,300, down 10% from the year before. Japanese make up the biggest group of tourists to Mongolia, with 6997 visiting in 2003, compared to 9424 in 2002. And don't forget, the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Mongol Empire, is coming up in 2006. Many dignitaries from all over the world are coming, but presumably not Saddam Hussein.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Well, yesterday I said that Fahreinheit and Celcius scales were equal at 39 below zero, but the Weather Service seems to think differently, as indicated in this morning's temperature. People, it is frosty out.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

People, it's getting cold here! We are soon approaching that magic number of 39 below zero which is the same in both C. and F. scales.

Friday, December 05, 2003

I woke up this morning thinking about Tibet; perhaps because the end of the year is approaching and I spent last New Year's Eve in Lhasa.

Steps leading up to the Potala in Lhasa

Drepung Monastery in Lhasa

The ruins of the old Fortress (center) in Shigatse

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Altai Mountains in Bayan-Olgii Aimag
Speaking of glaciers (see post below), here's a photo I took several years ago of the Potanin Glacier in the Tavan Bogd (Five Gods) Mountains region of Bayan-Olgii Aimag, the western-most province of Mongolia:

The belief held by many people in the Mongolian countryside that shooting stars make sounds has apparently been confirmed by scientists. See Meteors Go Pop In The Night.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

For an Iraqi view of Bush's visit see Girl Blog.
Saddam Hussein famously referred to Americans as the "New Mongols" and implied that George Bush was a reincarnation of Hulegu, Chingis Khan's grandson who sacked Baghdad in 1258. Now the man-in-the-street in Iraq seems to have picked up on this idea. Here's a comment from a story in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) about Bush's daredevil Thanksgiving Day visit to Baghdad: "Some Iraqis were unimpressed. 'To hell with Bush,' said Mohammed al-Jubouri. "He is another Mongol in a line of invaders who have destroyed Iraq." This guy better read And Will Chinggisism Flourish, the newly released book by Mongolian scholar Balin Bat-Ochir, which includes a chapter entitled "Chinggisism Is The Ideology Of Taming The Terrorists." "Chinggis" ("or Chingis") is, by the way, the Mongolian spelling of "Genghis".

Thursday, November 27, 2003

People, it’s getting serious. Just when you thought the sun was getting back to its regular rhythms after the recent burst of sunspot activity, the beloved center of our solar system is acting up again. This photos shows the latest series of sunspots taken through four different filters. What exactly does this portend? Anyone out there like to prognosticate?

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Monday, November 24, 2003

"A bowl of tea, a plate of sheep ribs, and thou . . . (to paraphrase Omar Khayyam)."

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Ninety-two year-old Lama Gombo isn't fazed by the cold.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Meanwhile, it's still winter in Ulaan Baatar. Here's Oyuna bundled up against the cold.

Lovely Rahila (May you always be Blessed!) from Urumqi in Xinjiang

Famous temple complex of Bezeklik, near Turfan

Young Uighur Girl

Maybe it was the cold weather here that got me thinking about Turfan, in Xinjiang Province, China. This is probably one of the hottest places on earth. I visited here three years ago. The city itself is several hundred feet below sea level. Even in May, when I was there, the temperature in the afternoons was over 100 degrees F. No one goes outside in the afternoons, as can be seen from the photo of the city’s main street. In the evenings, after the sun goes down, thousands of people promenade on this street, which is lined with restaurants, cafes, and night clubs featured discalced, bathukolpic dancing girls. The majority of people here are Uighurs, not Chinese.

The Mosque in Turfan

The main street of Turfan: grape arbors provide some shade.
Winter has arrived in Ulaan Baatar:

Monday, November 17, 2003

People, get ready: the Leonid Meteor Shower is fast approaching . . .
100,000 Deaths Expected in An Imminent Attack Against the U.S. What are we to make of this? Rumor-mongering or legitimate warning?
Camels Compete In Beauty Contest: Here's my entry; the trusty white camel which carried me 167 miles through the Gobi Desert. (Note about linked story: the sub-headline refers to a "dromedary," which is the one-humped camel found in the Mid-East, although the story is about a camel beauty contest which took place in China. The text of the story correctly refers to Bactrian, or two-humped camels, such as are found in China and Mongolia. Also the stock-photo which accompanies the story incorrectly shows dromedaries.

Camels . . . you can't help but love'em.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

OK, you people, you have been hounding me about what time the sun comes up, what time it goes down, and so on and so on. Contrary to what you apparently believe, Mongolia not near the Arctic Circle and we are not about to plunge into six months of darkness. Here's the current data:

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Cafe Blog in Tehran: for a blog from Iran see Persian Blog

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Sitasamvara statue by Zanabazar, First Bogd Gegen of Mongolia. For more see Zanabazar's Art Works.
Ulaan Baatar may be one of the few cities where "Smoke" is a common weather condition. The smoke comes not only from the big coal-fueled power plants but also from the thousands of gers - the round tents many Mongolians live in - each of which has its own stove burning wood or coal.

Today's Weather

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Our merry little band at the Ja Lama Ovoo on the outskirts of Ekhin Gol Oasis. For more photos see The Gobi Desert

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

If you are looking for the perfect meal to break the Ramadan fast see Is Something Burning?!, a sister-blog of The Virtual Sheik.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

See more photos and information about Amarbuyant Khiid

Shar Khuls Oasis: The 13th Dalai Lama camped here in 1904.

It was a long, slow slog 104 miles south from Amarbuyant to Shar Khuls Oasis.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Speaking of luscious cheesecake, here's Zolzaya, translator on the Gobi trip, in one of her few unveiled moments - she was determined to protect her "sweet cream" complexion from the ravages of the Gobi air.

New Fronts in the War on Terror: To digress from the Gobi for a moment, here is the newly selected Miss Afghanistan. For details see Afghan Beauty Queen Makes History.

Quick, all you linguists out there: how do you say "luscious cheesecake" in Pashtu?

Friday, October 24, 2003

The old caravan route to China and Tibet. This is the way the 13th Dalai Lama came to Mongolia in 1904.

Our little caravan sets out from Amarbuyant Monastery for Shar Khuls Oasis, 104 miles to the south.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Tumen-Olzii, cook and disiplinarian on the Gobi trip. Mother of eight children, she knows a thing or two about cooking (and discipline).

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The debonair Davakhoo, one of the camel-handlers on the trip.

Eighty-three year-old Gonchigjav (left), currently the oldest monk at Amarbuyant, with his son-in-law and grandson.

Another view of Amarbuyant Monastery. In 1904 when the 13th Dalai Lama visited here there were about 1000 monks in residence. In 1937 the monastery was largely destroyed by the communists. The older monks were shot and the younger ones drafted into the army and sent to fight against the Germans.

Amarbuyant Monastery in Bayankhongor Province, on the edge of the Gobi Desert. From here we traveled by camel 172 miles to Ekhin Gol Oasis, near the Chinese border. There were only two wells on the way, one 51 miles south of Amarbuyant, and the other 104 miles south of Amarbuyant, at Shar Khuls Oasis, so we had to take along 60 gallons of water. We bought two sheep in Amarbuyant, which provided the food for the six of us - three camel handlers, one cook (wife of one of the camel handlers), translator, and myself. We followed the route used by the 13th Dalai Lama when he fled from Tibet to Mongolia following the British invasion of Tibet in 1904. The 13th Dalai Lama stayed at Amarbuyant Monastery for ten days.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Just returned from a grueling camel trip in the Gobi Desert. Details to follow . . .

The Mummy Returns . . . Oh my God No! Run for your life!

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Great blog (Monday, Sept. 29) on Iraqi Family Ties from the "Virtual Sheikh." Very informative (if the blog doesn't come up the first time click on it again or reload).

Monday, September 29, 2003

The Twin Pagodas

Although its residents never tire of pointing out that Taiyuan is 2500 years old very little of the old city remains. Taiyuan is now a gritty industrial hub centered around coal mining and other heavy industry. One oasis of tranquility amidst the skyscrapers, immense blocks of apartment buildings, and huge billboards touting not socialist slogans but women’s undergarments is the Shuangta Si, or Twin Pagodas Temple Complex. This consists of two 160 foot high, 13 story pagodas, several temples, and nicely manicured gardens. The complex was built in the years 1699-1716 by a monk named Fu Deng.
For news from Baghdad see Girl Blog from Iraq . . . Let's Talk War, Politics and Occupation.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Young Chinese woman (she liked to be called "Michelle") who happened to be on the bus from Taiyuan to Wu-Tai Shan. Although she had been born and raised in Taiyuan she had never been to Wu-Tai Shan, one of the area's most famous attractions. The night before I arrived in town she had a dream that she was going to meet a foreigner. The next day she quite by accident happened to bump into the bus driver who said that a foreigner had signed up for the trip next day to Wu-Tai Shan. She decided to take three days off work (she teaches English to kindergarten students) and also go to Wu-Tai Shan. We ended up spending three days in Wu-Tai Shan together. A more delightful and charming person could hardly be imagined.

Wu-Tai Shan in Shanxi Province, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in China

Friday, September 26, 2003

Thursday, September 25, 2003

More Beijing Street Action: Why are the two young women smiling?

She's Everywhere, She's Everywhere!

Hillary Clinton's new book is for sale in every book store in Beijing. And on the plane to Taiyuan I noticed two Chinese women reading it. And it was even for sale in the little book stall in my hotel in Taiyuan. But the Chinese version appeared to have been edited: for the story see Hillary Gets Chopped; for the censored portions see Hillary Longer and Uncut.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Six Beijing Residents After Reading Hillary's Book
Just got back to Mongolia this afternoon after a short sojourn in China.

Ground Zero in China: the entrance to the Forbidden City on the north side of Tiananmen Square

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Just returned from Wu Tai Shan, one of the four sacred mountains of China, in Shanxi province. Photos to follow. Spend two days in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi. Now in Beijing. More to come. . .

Sunday, September 14, 2003