Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let's talk about yurts.

It's another Friday morning in Phnom Penh.  I had a lovely morning. Heather and I made it to another 6:30am yoga session (I'm so proud of myself), where friend and amazing-woman Lee was also in attendance.  After the yoga session, Lee and I shared coffee and muffins at Brown Cafe.  We chatted for several hours and were later joined by her colleague, who shares my love of brogues, vintage eyeglasses,  brightly patterned scarves, and weathered cognac -hued briefcases. (Those interests, especially among colleagues, are so rare in Cambodia, and such a treat!)

It's also the beginning of the Pchum Ben holiday, a (for me) nine-day holiday that empties the streets of Phnom Penh and creates longer than usual travel routes to the rest of the country.  This is a time for Cambodians to visit their families in the provinces and to offer prayers at the local pagodas.  Last year, Connie and Spence visited me to find a near empty city, with very few restaurants open.  That feels so long ago.  

This year, Ethan and I are taking a short trip to Bangkok, Thailand.   We leave tonight.  I'm going to search for beauty products at the shiny malls and hunt for items at Topshop.  But mostly, we're going to eat, and wander.  I'm not taking the entire holiday, however, as I need to write.  (Stress levels just shot up.)

Oh, but this post was intended to be about yurts - or gers, as Mongolians say.

In August, after Kashgar, we traveled south to Karakul in western China, to a Kyrgystan lakeside village that sits about eight hours from the Pakistan border.  As we drove along, the scenery climbed up and up, dotted only with  road construction and military checkpoints, where we were questioned about our nationality and our intent to travel through the region.  Prior to the Kashgar incident, one could travel independently to Karakul via a cheap bus ride and then find a family to stay with.  That was not the case at the time of our travels.  We were required to hire a driver and to purchase a permit, which we flagged about at each and every checkpoint.

Once at the lake, I realized that the elevation was much higher than I had expected - I had slight altitude sickness.  It was also much cooler - I slept under 6 thick blankets, though I was severely underdressed (skinny jeans, button down shirt, 3.1 Lim bag, scarf). The yurt smelled of camel or sheep, or some smell that brought me back to my travels in Mongolia.

And, the morning after: bright and crisp, with an errant goat making trouble.  I snuck out of the yurt and drank all the images in.  


  1. The view and the pictures are amazing. Definitely something I want to experience in this lifetime. Is it difficult to get to these places you've visited recently (in terms of transportation)?

    I hope you have a great time in Bangkok! Sorry I wasn't much help - I didn't know you were coming so soon, but I'm sure you'll get a chance to stop by again. You can find the Juice Beauty, along with many other brands, at Paragon. For eating, have you been to Chinatown at night? There's lots of street food and everything's really good.

  2. Wow, what a beautiful place. I hope you have a great time in Thailand. Also, you are such a champ for going to yoga at 6:30am...I wish I had that kind of will power.

  3. What beautiful raw photos! I love the ruralness of the area and how untouched everything looks.


  4. Tee: A last minute change of plans and a cheap AirAsia flight brought us to Bangkok for a few days for the holiday. I think I spent too much time in Paragon and Centralworld, which feels strangely like being in a US or Brit mall.

    It isn't really difficult to get to these places. They are more out of the way than, say, Shanghai, and the biggest headache will probably be the several flights you have to take to get to that part of the country. (I started this trip in Kazakhstan, so I took 3 flights from Bangkok to Guangzhou, to Urumqi and then to Almaty, though I could have paid much more and taken a direct flight.) After that, you can choose to travel in the region by plane (expensive), train (not a centralized booking system and therefore really annoying sometimes - but an experience), or bus. For example, from Urumqi to Kashgar, we took a 24 hour train ride and it was pleasant. We had a couchette and we spent a day in between reading, eating, sleeping and watching the scenery go by. Strangely, we didn't see many Western tourists, but there were many independent Chinese travelers at the guesthouse we stayed in. And, I felt safe - that's the most important thing.

    Thanks, Jennifer, Renee, and Teresa.

  5. Wow, amazing pictures. It must have been an incredible experience...I wish I could take time to travel to remote places. And Money.

  6. that ger is fabulous! i have always wanted to attempt felting panels for one. beautiful images

    1. Right, the felt patterns were interesting.


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