“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chasing Ghengis Khan: Mongolia and Beijng

One theme that is common throughout most of my travels is ancient hisotry and archaeology.  I can't pinpoint what the allure is, but I as a kid who dreamed of seeing the world, Marco Polo had fascinated me.  Namely his encounters with the Mongols.  A very proud, strong horse-driven culture that conquered most of Asia.  Their relentless pursuit of territorial domination had led the Chinese build the Great Wall.  And this is where our journey begins, on either side of the Wall.

I've spent over a year researching assorted tour companies that operate groups our of Ulanbaatar, Mongolia's capital.  Spend a week in Mongolia treking, a day of horseback riding in this traditional horse-dependent nomadic land (if you don't like horses, you can hike that part), treking to a waterfall, visiting the ancient Mongol capital of Kharakorum, visiting with nomads and experiencing their daily life, and spending some evenings in traditional Mongolian gers, along with some sightseeing in the capital.  We could opt to spend a couple extra days in Ulanbaatar after the tour, and nearby in the national park riding horses, exploring the hills, streams, and wildlife. This weeklong tour in Mongolia includes hotels, get lodging, transfers, meals, transportation, and admission. 

Then we return to Beijing to unwind. Visit the Great Wall, Forbidden City, shopping, eating, and exploring for a few more days.  Or you could head back to the US sooner if you like.  In all, I figure this will be about 14-16 days away.  Costs in Beijing are on our own. I figure with the Mongolia tour group, airfare, insurance, visas, and lodging in Beijing may be about $3500/pp.  I'm flying there on frequent flyer miles (70k-92k-110k r/t depending on class) so if you can swing that, it'll knock about $1500 off for the plane ticket.

For the Mongolian tour, if we have at least 3 people on board, we could either join a scheduled group, or have our own private group.  With 8 people, the tour price drops.  This is the group and tour under consideration, affordable, a good length (but not too long), and a good selection of Mongolian sites:

Timing is about August 2014.  I can't get away from work before then, but it's still nice weather in Mongolia.  If we had enough people for a private tour we could go in September, but keep in mind it can get really cold in Mongolia at night during that month.

Chicago to Beijing r/t: ~$1500
Beijing to Ulanbaatar r/t: ~$550
Mongolia tour: $990 general group (3-7 ppl private: $1100, 8+ ppl private: $950
Chinese visa: $140 (no Mongolian visa needed)
Trip insurance: ~$100 (strongly advised)
Beijing lodging: TBD - I like to stay in little B&Bs like a traditional Chinese hutong, so looking to keep costs low here.
Beijing sightseeing: TBD for Great Wall and Forbidden City

I have airfare alerts set up for Beijing, so hopefully some fares will drop.
Nearly 3 years ago Carrie and I spent 16 days in South America for $2000 each, inclusive.  It was absolutely an amazing experience. Once again I want to have another adventure, and would love to have company!

Since I will be flying on FF miles, I need to fly when the free seats are available, so I will be booking my ticket just after the new year.  You can fly with me, or we can meet up in Beijing if you findf fares on better dates.  Let's keep talking...