From Hustai National Park, we drove east to Terelj National Park.
The road from Hustai National Park, located to the west of Ulaanbaatar, passes right through the heart of the city.
Because the urban infrastructure of Ulaanbaatar hasn’t kept up with the city’s explosive population growth in the last five years, It took two hours of bumper to bumper driving to finally get across the city.
The Terelj National Park lies just to the east of Ulaanbaatar.
We saw many people picnicking and camping along the Tuul and Terelj rivers.
The National Park area is very impressive, with massive rock formations set among scenic valleys and hills with a winding river and groves of trees.
Many nomads still live within the park boundaries, where they have grazing land for their animals, but the majority of the gers that we saw belonged to entrepreneurs and business people who somehow got the government’s permission to fence off large portions of land, and then opened either a hotel or a tourist ger camp.
We could see that the fences, often right next to beautiful rock formations, restricted access by foot or by car for hikers and sightseers.
Without a doubt, the Terelj National Park, which can be reached by a short drive from Ulaanbaatar, is heavily marketed to the tourist industry in Mongolia.
Everyone, and I do mean Everyone who travels to Mongolia, goes there at one point or another.
We drove through many ger camps to find our camp.
By a famous rock formation called “Turtle Rock,” we saw a large group of backpackers sitting and waiting for a bus back to Ulaanbaatar.
Some were riding horses or camels and others just sat by the road, playing their drums and guitars and singing songs.
Our ger camp did not look fancy, but it had electricity and hot water and it was located in a quiet part of the park, tucked away on the slope of a forested hill.
Unfortunately for us, the fancier ger camp across the road, which had buses of people in its parking lot, played loud party music into the wee hours of the night, and the sound carried across the National Park for many miles.
On our first night there, our ger camp had many Mongolian tourists.
On the second night, a large group of Korean tourists arrived and occupied almost all of the gers in the camp.
The camp owner requested that we make sure to lock our yurt’s door every time we leave the yurt, and, pointing to the Mongolian people around, she added that she does not know all those people and cannot vouch for their honesty.
The camp’s restaurant seemed to accommodate every group of tourists with their own special food.
On the first night that we stayed there, they made a whole roasted goat for the Mongolian group, who seemed to be employees of a company on a corporate retreat.
The roasted goat was served on huge plates with boiled whole carrots and potatoes.
The whole affair got louder and louder as one of the men opened a bottle of vodka and walked around the tables, trying to get everyone sufficiently drunk.
Some of the women got mad at him for forcefully pouring vodka in their glasses, while others accepted it politely.
The next day, when we went for a hike, we heard that this man had gotten into a fist fight with another employee, proving once again that employee bonding on a corporate retreat where alcohol is involved and where there is no motivational speaking of any kind, simply does not work.
We spoke to the cook about our food choices, and she was very willing to make us anything that we wanted.
We discussed with her the menu options for our next meal after every meal that we ate.
Since the cook only had carrots and potatoes on hand, and I still had a lot of dried vegetables that we had brought with us from home, we handed the bag to her and asked her to make us a pea and asparagus soup along with our main courses.
She made us a delicious vegetable soup with some added carrots and cubed potatoes.
The next day we decided to explore the park by foot, instead of by car.
We started with a long hike through the forested hills towards Turtle Rock.
It was a beautiful walk up the hill and through the forest, but it took us hours to actually get to Turtle Rock because we had walked into a huge area of marshland.
The mangroves growing in the muddy waters were a bit thorny, and we had to make our way through by jumping on top of patches of dry soil, trying to avoid the murky brackish mud which seemed to swallow your foot whole, if you stepped into it.
We laughed a lot, but when we finally made our way out of the marsh, Jules and Tuya’s shoes and socks along with their pants were soaked and covered in mud.
I felt guilty for urging them into this adventure through the marshland, because I ended up being the only one who who didn’t get wet or muddy.
We hiked through the park past many beautiful rock formations, among them a rock called “A Monk Reading A Book,” for the obvious reason that it was shaped like a monk wearing a robe reading a book.
The Aryabal Buddhist meditation center temple is located on a steep hill.
It was built in the shape of an elephant’s head.
The set of 108 stairs leading up to the temple symbolizes the elephant’s elongated trunk.
From the entrance to the temple’s grounds, there is a long walking path leading to the steep set of stairs which climbs to the temple.
This long walking path was not designed just to lead to the temple, but also as a path for walking meditation and reflection.
72 signs with 144 Buddhist teachings, written in English and Mongolian, lined the sides of the path.
We took a long time to walk this meditative path, because we stopped every few meters to read each sign and to contemplate the truth in it.
We found much of the teaching to be timeless and smart, reminding us to focus on the spiritual life instead of looking to find eternal happiness in the impermanent world.
The small temple up the mountain has a tiny meditation cave on its left side called “Kālachakra Cave.”
The rocks above the temple are decorated with paintings of gods and guardians.
The main temple hall has beautiful carvings on its wooden posts and beams, and the walls of the interior space are decorated with paintings and stories from the lives of famous Arhats.
Arhats are described in Buddhist Doctrine as enlightened masters.
They can be compared to the Christian concept of saints or sages, only in Buddhism they are masters who have attained freedom from the cycle of suffering and rebirth.
While ordinary people may be delighted to find out that they will be reincarnating again and again into better circumstances, to the realized masters it is clear that better human circumstances do not lead to happiness, nor do they lead to self mastery, enlightenment and liberation.
A better career, lots of money, smart loving parents, a great marriage or the perfect body will not immunize you from disease, death, delusions, self criticism and hurt, nor from mental suffering, weakness of character or from a narrow bodily identification.
The life we live here on earth is meant to be used to achieve liberation from ignorance and to help you realize who you TRULY are.
You are ONE with God.
You ALL there IS, all that ever was…
You see yourself as a small human, because you dare not identify with the larger part of your SELF who has created it all.
You are a POWERFUL spiritual Being having an earthly experience.
You are Love and LIGHT.
It is fully possible to unleash the bright light from within your True Being, so you can live in full awareness of your true nature.
It is also fully possible to give up your small false identity and to unite your mind with the Universal Mind.
The word “Arhat” is derived from the Sanskrit verb “Arahati,” which means “to be worthy.”
Among Indian spiritual seekers in the Buddha’s time, the word was used to denote a person who had attained the ultimate goal.
The Tibetan word for Arhat means “one who destroyed the foes of afflictions.”
Some writings describe the sixteen original Arhats, and there are later mentions of thousands of Arhats who live in solitary mountains and helped humanity by raising the vibratory rate to assist the human evolution.
We spent some time walking around and admiring the art and reading the stories.
The high vantage point of the temple offered beautiful views of the valleys surrounding us.
The landscape was drenched in the afternoon sun, and the rocks and the wildflowers seemed to pulsate and glow…..