Saturday, November 6

Working Abroad: Mongolia & China

My last job took me to Mongolia and China. Talk about going to the far reaches of the planet. It was a 15 hour direct flight from Washington, D.C. to Beijing and then another 2.5 hours to Ulaanbaatar. The time difference between DC and UB was exactly 12 hours. It's hard to get any farther from home than that, in fact the Mongolian staff called UB the end of the line. Everybody off the train, there are no more stops after this.

In front of the Peace Corps office in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
UB is a rather gray and gloomy place that has a distinct industrial type town feel to it. There wasn't much to do or see there and in the middle of October it was cold. There were snow flurries almost everyday while we were there. You'd think a place like this wouldn't leave much of an impression but after having my credit card stolen, getting booted off my flight from DC (even though I had a confirmed ticket) and having to walk to work each day despite the sub freezing temperatures, I will not soon forget my time in Mongolia.

The winding path that lead up the mountain to the Great Wall of China
My colleague Rajiv and I left Mongolia a few days early to spend some time in Beijing before we had to report for work in Chengdu. It was one of the best decisions I made because we wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to see the Great Wall, Ming Tombs or the Forbidden City.

Atop the Great Wall of China in the driving rain
The Ming Tombs where emperors of the Ming Dynasty were buried
These guards were all smiles until we asked to take their photo
The visit to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City was the highlight of the trip for me. If you've ever seen the movie The Last Emperor you will remember how magnificent the expansive courtyard looked and in real life, it didn't disappoint. Oh and by the way, I dropped my camera in Tienanmen Square and didn't have a camera the rest of the trip. Luckily my colleague did and the rest of the photos were taken with his camera.

Tienanmen Square

The courtyard of the Temple of Supreme Harmony
My colleague Rajiv
In the Forbidden City

Checking out the Temple of Medium Harmony
The architecture of this place was amazing
Rajiv and I took bike taxis from the hotel
You'd think things in China would be cheap but everything was overpriced. Apparently you are supposed to bargain for everything. Even in department stores. For people who aren't used to this concept, a trip to China could end up being very expensive. My dad would make a killing there though, his bargaining skills would surely have come in handy in a place like this. On top of that, everyone seemed to want to swindle us out of our money. For example, the bike taxis in the photo above advertised a ride for 50c but tried to take us for $50. The thought of spending time in a Chinese jail prevented me from wrapping my hands around their necks.

Visiting China's most adorable ambassadors to the world
At a popular tourist spot, Jingli Street in Chengdu
How do these guys survive in the wild? All they do is eat and sleep all day.
The HQ crew; Rajiv, me, Umar and Rob
I hope to take Rach and Maddy to China one day. The Chinese have such a rich and long cultural history, unlike any I've experienced before and I'd love to share that with the family.


  1. Hey Matt, what an awesome blog entry. Man, you've been to some of the best places in the world. We definitely want to go to China too some day - there and Japan, so let's plan a trip.
    Was cacking myself laughing at the part about how the bike taxi tried to charge you $50, did you ever think it was because the driver was charging you for excess baggage?!? lol
    Can't believe you walked on the Great Wall...sooooo jealous!!

  2. MaddysDaddy11:39 AM GMT-5

    The thought did occur to me. He kept saying, "but this is very hard work!" to which I replied, "the taxi from the damn airport cost me $12 and you want $50 for 300 meters?". It took all my patience not to choke the crook right there in the middle of the street lol

  3. Lani Young3:37 PM GMT-5

    Hi Matt - Great journeys. Wow! Im learning about the world from yr blog ( and my sister Pele's.) Jst wanted to say that my parents have many fond memories of UB - they visited there when they were missionaries in Siberia and were quite nostalgic when i told them about yr visit there. My mum said the people in some places reminded her very much of Samoans ( and that my dad fit right in...)
    Happy travels.


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