Mongolia – The Gobi Desert – Part 7
It was a long day of driving through the flat, gravely landscape, but it was worth it when we finally rolled up to the fabled ruins of Ongiin Khiid in the late afternoon. This complex is actually two monasteries across the river from each other. The one we explored was called Bari Lam Khiid and dates from 1810. Rather than go into a long, involved explaination to set the context, I’ll just quote from the LP guidebook:
The bend in the pretty river here marks the remains of two ruined monasteries: Bari Lam Khiid was built in 1810 on the north bank. Khutagt Lam Khiid was built in 1760 on the south, but can only be accessed when the water level of the river is low, or iced over in winter. Collectively they’re known as Ongiin Khiid. Formerly one of the largest monasteries in Mongolia, and home to over a thousand monks, the complex was destroyed in the 1937 communist purges when over 200 lamas were murdered. Since 1990 a small but growing contingent of monks has set up shop amid the ruins, completing a small temple in 2004, using some original beams from the old ruined monastery to build it. Two monks live here full time, in summer their numbers swell.
Locals claim that to reap the curative qualities of the spring (which apparently runs warm in winter and cool in summer), you must drink from it before sunrise. The ger beside the temple houses a small but interesting museum showcasing some artifacts found at the site, many of which were hidden by monks to save them from the purges. Look out for the only remaining drawing of the original monastery, plus the drinking cups made from the skulls of revered monks.
After that we made our way to the Ger Museum, where they had a nice display of artifacts discovered near the ruins.
Many ruined buildings also had bits and pieces of carvings that the Russians couldn’t completely destroy.
There was one large ruin of a stupa that was a short hike up the hill. That’s where I headed next.
I really enjoy strolling through old ruins, so I spent quite a bit of time just aimlessly wandering.
There were a few new stupas on the site as well. One up near the old stupa and a few down towards the river.
After thoroughly slaking my addiction to wandering in old ruins, we drove down to the river and found a pleasant campsite.