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Ulaan Baatar's Gandan Monastery

by Tyler

I was pretty disappointed by Ulaan Baatar's Gandan monastery. Between the hawkers trying to sell us cheap crap, the strong warning in our guidebook about pickpockets, and the monks texting and talking on their cellphones during the chants, I spent much of our visit trying to ignore the distinct lack of reverence I felt for this supposedly spiritual place.

That isn't to say the site wasn't worth visiting. There were still plenty of nice things to see:

Flock of Birds Feeding the Birds Bird Seed for Sale Monks & Monastery

…and if you ignored the monks on their cellphones, the chanting was still pretty cool:

Monastery Chanting

Inside one of the buildings was a HUGE golden Buddha. The feet alone were several times our height!

Giant Monastery Statue

There were a lot of little ones as well, shiny and gold in little fabric outfits:

Little Buddhas

My favorite part of the visit was easily the prayer wheels situated all over the site. There were loads of kids running around, laughing their heads off, and spinning them like crazy. If I felt anything resembling spiritual intension here, it was from them.

Girl Spinning Prayer Wheels Prayer Wheel

More than anything the monastery had to offer, I enjoyed the nonstop conversation we shared with our new friends Rob and Neisha. While Tara and Neisha swapped travel stories, talked about mountain biking, and volunteering in Nepal, Rob and I talked about shit. Literally. When he isn't cycling around the world, Rob is a wastewater treatment engineer.

I spent the latter half of our visit asking him a million questions about the projects he has worked on, and also how waste water treatment works. There are few things I enjoy more than learning about a subject of which I know little or nothing from an expert. Totally fascinating stuff!

Sightseeing complete for the day, we walked back towards our hostel with Rob and Neisha, stopping occasionally to check out the shops and buy donuts at a bakery. Now, it's time to get back to our to-do list. Next up, making boxes!