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Mongolia, story ideas with images, video, and words

Inner Mongolia, China. It's the closest thing I have to Mongolia

With a two day drive from Beijing to Ulan Bator a little more than 36 hours away, I have compiled a list of stories with short explanations in the prospect that some industry professionals will visit this blog and have an interest in publishing one or more of them.

All of them in some form or another will include a written story, accompanied by photos and video.

They are in no particular order right now, if there is an interest, the production focus will shift accordingly.  Of course, if serendipity chooses to rear its head, it must be obeyed. If interested, please email me for more details.

Geh Shantytown-Over 25% of Mongolians now live in a makeshift town north of the captial without adaquate infrastruture or support.  Climate change, exceptionally cold winters, and desertification have forced many to come here from the countryside, displacing more than 700,000 people.  More can be found at a Guardian article here.  This is one of the more important stories I will focus on because it involves helping an NGO and locals, I also have an interest in possibly extending this into a long-term visual project.  This will coincide with two more stories-one is to help promote an NGO (New Choice) working in the area with a mobile clinic, and also doing a “Day in the Life of a Volunteer“, shadowing them as they do work in the shantytown.

The Gobi Desert, driving/camping in Mongolia (Beijing to Ulan Bator)-This will cover things needed before, during, and after the trip, driving tips, customs when encountering nomads, where to go and what to do. The Gobi is the ultimate goal, but might not be achievable given the time we have, it will also require a guide and more gear.  Substitutes will be Gorkhi Terelj National Park and Khustain Nuruu National Park, both of which are close to Ulan Bator and offer fantastic scenery, natural beauty, and unique wildlife.

12 hours in Ulan Bator (or around that)-The premise here is that most travelers who come to Mongolia only use the capital as a hub- spreading out on arrival into the various grasslands, deserts, and sights that permeate the country.  This will cover the “highlights” or “must-see” attractions of the city, possibly in timeline form, with different breakouts for unique or curious sidelines so the reader can have a more customizable feel and be able to better plan their stay in the city.

It will have the normal requirements of location, time for visit, how to get there, and costs.  There will also be a brief description and history of a place, and anything else of interest near it.  A map with the route taken and offshoots can also be created, with photos and video accompaniment. A Google map of the locations listed below can be seen here.

Possible places include:

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Hutong Project-culture, development, and self-determination

A section off Yangfang Hutong

“Hutong” is the Chinese word for the cramped, winding alleys that thread between main roads in the heart of the city. “Hutong” is also used to describe the neighborhoods and communities connected to those alleys.

They are, for the most part, confined within the 2nd ring road, and are considered an important part of Beijing’s cultural history. It is often used as an example of the dilemma China has with its rapid development-destroy the old, ugly, and unsafe hutongs in favor of the new, pretty, higher density apartment blocks that can house more affluent citizens.

Some say it is a question of history, culture, and self-determination. Hutongs are part of what people call the “Old Beijing”, are historically and culturally significant, and therefore should be preserved at all costs.  Wandering the Hutongs is a great way to relax and see the quiet side of the city.  Life is slower here, as I can attest by living in one.  Kids running between cars, playing hide and seek in courtyards, their dripping ice cream creating a trail of colors on the pavement. People on short stools and tables, discussing the latest news and gossip over warm beer and bbq.

They are romanticized in books, paintings, and photographs. Tours of them are given by drivers chirping “Hello!  Rickshaw!”, and once getting you in, start to race others in a can-you-make-it-without-clipping-another-person-or-car. Issues of self-determination appear, with locals fighting government over who has the right to destroy or preserve, who has the right to remake, and who has to move-or more precisely when to move.

A residence under construction


Yarn hanging out to dry

Others say it’s a question of planning, economics, and safety.  The alleys were created with bikes in mind as the main form of movement, and therefore the roads at the widest are maybe 8 meters (24 feet) across.  Add parked cars and bikes, chairs, tables, plants, bricks, dead appliances, more bikes and the space shrinks. Most Hutongs consist of a single floor, haphazardly cobbled together, with roofs and walls at differing degrees of dilapidation. Because of this, the population density is low compared to other areas of the city.