Woody Packard

Words + Pictures


Ulaangom sits near Mongolia's largest lake, in the northwest corner of the country. The surrounding ground is table-flat, barely sloping from the lake a few miles away to the mountains to the south and west. Although it had more of them at one time, it has practically no trees now. On the road to Red Mountain there are stumps, signs of the possibility of trees. We heard a story of a Russian military leader who was camped in the forest that once occupied the flat green plain below the mountain. When someone fired a shot and he couldn't discover the source, he had his men cut down every last tree to prevent such a thing from happening again.

Because of this, Ulaangom looks kind of gray now, though from the altitude of the mountain you can see lots of green from irrigated agriculture. It seems about the same size as Khovd, though its public market seems larger. And its mountains are much farther away.

We stayed with the parents of our neighbor and colleague at Khovd University, Tsagaana, and her husband Ojo, who stayed for a few days and then left us with her parents, who speak practically no English. Tsagaana had arranged for her brother-in-law to get us to the airport, and to take us to the mountains for an overnight camping trip. We also spent some time with one of my Khovd University freshmen—a tour of Ulaangom and a dinner with her family, and a senior who just graduated—an overnight trip to a nearby mountain camp, both of them translating for us on different tours.

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Ulaangom's Plain

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Between Uvs Noor and mountains to the south and west, the plain is green.