Tag Archives: mongolia

Mongolia: The Wild, Wild East

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Mongolia has long been an exotic, enigmatic destination. Explored for centuries only by the most daring of pioneers, traders and surveyors, all that has changed since the country opened its doors to tourists two decades ago. Relatively untouched by modernism, most people still live in yurts and practice a pastoral lifestyle.

Want something more than Paris or London? As one of those destinations that’s very unique and off-the-radar, Mongolia is a perfect country to cross off your bucket list!

Did You Know? In the early 21st century, many spies and refugees fled to Mongolia to escape the Soviets.

photo by Diego Giannoni

In Mongolia, you can check out some or all of these exciting activities:

–         Visit the cosmopolitan city of Ulaanbaatar with a professional guide. Take a tour of the Ganden Monastery and its gorgeous 75-foot copper and gold Buddhist statue

–         Ride through the Jalman Meadows on horseback

–         Stay in a ger camp with nomads

–         Visit the pristine waters of Lake Khovsgol, and its national park that is home to reindeer, yaks, bears, ibex, and mooses.

–         Wander the ruins of the Uushigiin Uver, a bronze-age burial site

–         Access Hustai National Park via the Khongno Khan Mountain ranges. Spy Neolithic graves in the slopes, and if you’re lucky the Mongolian gazelle.

–         See the Bayanzag, the “Flaming Cliffs,” the site of dinosaur excavations since the 1920s

–         Evening game drive to see wild and rare Przewalskii horses

–         Camel safari in the vast and endless Gobi Desert

–         Watch a Mongolian throat singing performance

–        Visit the UNESCO site of Karakorum, and its towering Erdenezuu Monastery.

Photo by Karunakar Rayker

We work with many vendors who specialize in Asia and Mongolia. Asia Transpacific has had 25 years’ experience as Asia/Pacific specialists. Have you dreamt of riding the Trans Orient Express? MIR Corps organizes long-distance train travel from Mongolia all the way to Moscow and back.

Call us for more details on this fabulous destination! 503-224-0180, or email info@wittravel.com.

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Vendor of the Month: Melitour

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Melitour is a family business run by Meli and her daughter Asli, offering private and group tours that combine sightseeing and trekking with cultural education. Most of her tours feature her homeland of Turkey, but she also coordinates travel opportunities throughout Central Asia, Mongolia, China and the Arab World.

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Ephesus

Meli has spent 39 years working in guided cultural tours, her experience and efforts have culminated in some incredible, authentic and exciting tours. Her genuine, gracious, and erudite guides are selected for their years of experience and all possess deep appreciation for their country. And there’s a bonus: tips, excursions and bathroom entrance fees are all-inclusive!

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Pamukkale

Meli goes an extra mile making sure her guests are welcome and well-educated. She helps you understand modern Turkey, its unique blend of old world tradition and up-to-date values, and is well-versed in Anatolian history, Islam, Sufism and Turkish cuisine. If nothing else, her clients’ feedback are praise enough: “If you want to be a traveler, and not just a tourist. If you want to broaden your knowledge and understanding of an ancient people and their fantastic history” (Janice B., CA). She has also worked with Rick Steves on videos in Turkey, and comes annually to the USA and Canada to conduct presentations on her tours.

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Cappadocia

She also offers special interest tours: past themes have included pottery and tiles, cruises, viewing 2006’s solar eclipse in Turkey, riding the Black Train, and yachting on the Turkish Riviera and the Greek islands.

For some firsthand accounts of a Melitour, check out: http://ltburgess.tripod.com/

Willamette International Travel is proud to have been working with Meli for years now. Call us for info or to book a tour, at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Istanbul

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TURKISH SPLIT BELLY EGGPLANT

Meli also holds cooking classes and dinners on her farm not far from Ephesus and Kusadasi. Check out one of the farm’s Turkish delights, Karniyarik—split belly eggplant:

 

Ingredients

1 lb small eggplant, peeled in stripes lengthwise

½ ground meat

2 onions, cubed

½ bunch parsley, finely chopped

1 tomato, petite diced

1 tomato, sliced in half moons

Green banana peppers, as many as eggplants

Ground pepper, salt, 2 tbs olive oil, frying oil

1 cup hot water

 

Preparation

  1. Put the eggplants in salty water for 10 minutes. Heat vegetable oil in a deep pot, dry the eggplants and fry them.
  2. Drain excessive oil by resting them on a paper towel, then place in an oven dish.
  3. In a deep frying pan, heat olive oil. Add onions and stir for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add ground meat, cook until the meat soaks all the juice it releases.
  5. Add diced tomato, stir until cooked.
  6. Turn off heat, add chopped parsley, salt and pepper.
  7. With the help of two spoons, slit eggplants into two, leaving tops and bottoms attached.
  8. Stuff eggplants with ground meat mixture.
  9. Place a slice of half-moon-shaped tomato and a green pepper on top of each split belly eggplant. Pour 1 cup of hot water on top and bake in a preheated oven at 400F until green peppers are nicely baked.
  10. Serve with rice and yoghurt.

 

 

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Filed under Turkey, Vendors, VOTM

Vendor of the Month: MIR Trains

The MIR Corporation hosts private train travel throughout Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China. These customizable journeys are scheduled by Seattle-based experts who work closely the Trans-Siberian Express Co. National Geographic Adventure has rated MIR twice as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth,” and we’re inclined to agree.

Since the fall of the Soviets, this entire region has been opening up, revealing vast histories and complexities. Train is an ideal way to travel through these lands, as many roads and infrastructure have yet to be improved. The train network has existed in this area since the Russians first set down rails in the late 19th century as part of the Great Game political struggle with Britain over India.

The tours will take you on paths as diverse as the Caucasus, Balkans, Silk Route, and the Trans-Siberian Railway. Ride on one of their packaged tours or build one of your own. Their customizable nature allows them to tackle any challenge; within memory they have coordinated with overland 4X4 trips, RTW travelers, and those hoping to catch the solar eclipse in Siberia.

MIR CorporationWhile onboard, you’ll sleep in well-equipped cars, all-inclusive drinks and meals. Stops will be to major highlights on the route, terrific events like the Mongolian horse races or historic monuments like the Kremlin. Wander the Ring of Fire on the wild Kamchatka Peninsula or relish in the rich Mediterranean-like cuisine and wine of Tbilisi.

Your hosts will be English speaking guides who serve as cultural ambassadors. WIT and Mir will also coordinate if you would like to spend extra days before, between, or after you travel. Willamette will also assist you in preparing for all your visas, flight routes, and border requirements before your trip—in order to make sure your trip is enjoyable, authentic and stress-free.

MIR Corporation

For a terrific firsthand report on one client’s tour to on the Trans-Siberian express, check out the link: WIT Client Chet Benson’s train trip from Mongolia to Moscow. He compares Siberia’s green and lush landscape to Oregon: it was “like traveling through an endless series of Willamette Valleys.”

NEW 2012 Space Program: In their recent May 2012 issue, National Geographic Traveler selected Mir’s “Inside the Russian Space Program” tour as a 2012 Tour of a Lifetime. The tour, only available in September, permits guests to witness the manned launch of the Soyuz spacecraft on its way to relieve the crew of the International Space Station. Led by Dr. Steven Lee of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, it will provide exclusive access and insight into Russia’s Space Program. For a fee, you can even attend actual cosmonaut training, ride the world’s largest centrifuge, fly in zero gravity, or climb into a Russian Orlan space suit.

Willamette International Travel is proud work with Mir! Call us for info or to book a tour, at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Photos courtesy of the MIR Corp

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Filed under Asia, Travel by Rail, Vendors, VOTM