Frederik and Alicia van Thiel and their 2-year-old daughter Isabelle.
Over Dragon Boat Festival weekend, the Van Thiel family flew from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia via Air China. The flight took just under two hours. They arranged transportation, lodging, activities, and meals through Tuul Riverside Lodge (www.tuulriverside.com) and stayed in a Mongolian “ger” (similar to a yurt) for three and a half days.
Direct roundtrip flights from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar cost RMB 12,704 for the entire family. The overall cost of accommodations, travel, food, and shopping for the whole family was RMB 5,181.
The Best Part
For the Van Thiels, the best part of the trip was the experience of staying
in their own Mongolian ger for almost four days surrounded only by open fields and hills with the Tuul River nearby. A solar-powered hot shower and Western toilet was connected to each ger. A wood stove in the middle of the ger kept the family very warm during the cold summer evenings. Breakfast was included with the accommodations and served each morning in the dining ger, where they met other guests who shared their adventures traveling in Mongolia.
The Worst Part
There were no bad parts. However, one inconvenience was waiting for transportation. That being said, the chance to see open green fields and the Tuul River running through the countryside was worth the bumpy ride. Hot water and electricity weren’t consistently available. The Van Thiels typically showered in the morning as a result, while electricity was turned off by 9.30pm every day.
The family enjoyed spotting the occasional eagle flying overhead and Mongolian marmot scurrying in the distance. For Alicia and Frederik, watching their 2-year-old daughter happily pushing the limits of her endurance during their hikes in the surrounding fields was a highlight of the trip. The wide open fields offered the perfect playground;
Isabelle amused herself by picking wild flowers and tossing rocks in the nearby Tuul River.
The staff was very helpful and the food from the dining ger was delicious, with a mixture of beef dishes, potatoes, and Mongolian dumplings. During the day, guests can walk in freely to find snacks and drinks. Camping with a 2-year-old was fairly easy, according to Alicia and Frederik. Isabelle slept easy with a mosquito net provided by the lodge and enjoyed hearing all the cows and sheep in the distance. While she took her afternoon nap, the adults would sit outside the ger in lawn chairs and watch the clouds roll by. The camp is good for all ages; available cultural activities include visiting a Mongolian family in their ger, yak cart riding, and horseback riding.
Organize activities in advance, because there is no mobile or landline service. As a result, communicating with the nearest village for equipment takes time. A cell phone signal is only available by climbing a nearby hill, but this didn’t affect the Van Thiels’ stay.
Most of the staff doesn’t English. Accommodations and activities were arranged with the English-speaking director of the Mongolian camp.
Bring rain gear if you are traveling during the summer, as July is the wettest month. Temperatures drop significantly by mid-August. During the Van Thiels’ visit, the weather was usually sunny and breezy with highs of 24°C during the day and lows of 8°C at night.