We are standing in the dark at the base of a giant golden Buddha at 4:30am. The Buddha is framed by mountains and a wooden pagoda. I’m wearing six layers of lightweight cotton, unprepared for the near-freezing temperatures we will endure for the coming hour. Shaking, I find myself trying not to wonder why I thought staying at a temple in the mountains was a good idea.
I am a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t know Mongolia was a country until I decided to visit. I guess I assumed it was a region that was part of China and part of Russia. But Mongolia is a democracy with a president and – since the Soviets pulled out in 1991 – it has a mixed economy. It is unlike any place I have ever visited. Continue reading