Darhan, Mongolia / Ulan Ude, Russia
Date: Lodging: Distance: Total:
03/08/1999 Hotel Geser 371 KM 31517 KM

Young Mongol boy in 1999

Mongol family in 1999

Mongol family invited us into their yurt.

Surprisingly this Darhan yurt was in town. Most we've seen are in the countryside; people in cities and towns tend to opt for permanent wooden homes.

I spent an hour or so with this family inside their yurt. The mother prepared lunch, applied make-up, played with her youngest son and answered my questions during the visit.

The mother of these boys served me salted tea, which is a Mongolian traditional drink. The salt helps the Mongols to retain much needed water during the hot summer months. I genuinely enjoyed the broth-like taste of the tea.

I couldn't help but notice the missing wheels on the back of this tricycle.

The ‘kitchen’ in the Darhan yurt

The television in this Darhan yurt shocked me. The husband and wife who live here painted the detailed, bright colors on the furniture over a three-month period.

Inside of a Darhan yurt

3 August 1999 - Jim came barreling in the room, “You've got to come with me and try Mongol salted tea.” A few minutes later we arrived at a small yurt, about 20 feet in diameter, where Jim knocked on the colorful, painted wooden door. A tall, thin, gorgeous woman with long, dark, silky hair invited me inside. Her eldest son, about 13, moved a chair into the center floor for me. I sat quietly, accepted the hot clear tea, which tasted like broth, and watched Anya, her sons and the surroundings.

Immediately I noticed a television and electric skillet, cooking beef stew, in the middle of the circular home. Yurt living has to be easier with the addition of electricity! I saw painted furniture, covered in intricate swirls and strokes of red, yellow, blue and green. My eyes roamed the room seeing a tricycle with two wheels missing, old photographs stuck into nooks of furniture, chests and luggage holding modern clothes and traditional robes and hats. Linoleum covered the floor and a couple of chairs were scattered around the only table, which held two black kettles of salted tea. Three beds, covered with camel hair blankets and hand-made stuffed animals, were built into the arch of the yurt. The beds became chairs when several people entered. A pile of potatoes sat in the kitchen area. In the bathing area, a razor balanced behind one of the wooden beams holding the yurt upright. A handmade toothbrush holder was tacked to the wall over a sink. Every once in a while Anya stirred the meat in the electric skillet.

I felt a bit like an intruder, but Anya did not seem to mind me, and I delighted in watching the workings of her home. Imagine if the people I know had this as their residence. Would they make it this special or feel bitterness over cramped conditions? As I drank more salty tea, Anya applied moisturizer to her rosy cheeks, black pencil to her eyebrows and red color to her lips. Her husband entered, moved to a chest and took keys from a blue-glazed pitcher. Every drawer was locked in the yurt. He unlocked one holding his cigarettes and Anya’s slimmer ones. They smoked and sipped tea with me.

Jim and I were behind schedule for Ulan Ude, but I knew my time with Anya would never be replicated, since she, and others like her, will probably live in a house by the next time I get to Darhan.


  Flat tire led us to Chinese owned shop (Jim)
  Getting a car from Mongolia back into Siberia (Jim)
  Observations on Mongolia (Jim)
  Life in the Mongolian countryside (Jim)
  Salted tea and life in a yurt (Paige)