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Amarbayasgalant monastery (khiid)

The monastery was a short drive, maybe 7km, from our ger camp. On the way we spotted a pair of cranes and some ground squirrels — both of these were to become so common as to be almost unremarkable, but Mike managed to be on the wrong side of the van again and missed the cranes a second time.

At the monastery we waited while Chinzo went to fetch the monk to let us in and guide us around. It was overcast, cold and windy, with a few drops of rain, and the talk he gave seemed to drag on, especially with Chinzo having to translate. He was gorgeous and spoke beautifully, with elegant hand movements, but no one wanted to break the mood by taking a photograph.

Amarbayasgalant monastery was built around 1730. Of all Mongolia's monasteries, it best survived the 1937 communist purge of Buddhism, but around half of its temples were still destroyed. It's among the most important Buddhist centres in Mongolia. See the official website for more information.

He guided us around the monastery, with a young monk running around unlocking and relocking all the buildings for us. The architecture was very Chinese - just how Chinese only became clear to me later, after we visited Beijing - but the interior decoration and religious art were Tibetan Buddhist.

the forecourt
a protector deity (paper mache)
a monk
an incense burner
interior decorations
a pavilion

Lingering too long to take photos from the second story of the biggest building, I managed to get locked out on the balcony and had to call out to be let back down. But that gave me time to try taking a panorama sequence.

a splendid setting

We had a late dinner - in a huge plush "restaurant ger" - and discovered that the camp staff would light the stoves in our gers just before we went to bed and again in the morning before we woke up.

Half a dozen of us climbed a small hill behind the camp, where I used my tripod for the first and only time on the trip, to take photos of some cacti in the evening light. We had an impressive sunset and moon.

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