The dark side of Mongolia

This is an ugly post. This is a post that hurt to write. This is a post that made me cry. I wished it had had no reason to be written. But it does. One reason is that I want others to be warned, in particular other women travelling solo. The other reason is that I won’t shut up in the face of perpetrators. I know that it won’t be read by those, rather by the friendly Mongolians who helped me. That is unfortunate. But this should not keep me from being honest. So, in all honesty, here are three aspects of Mongolia, that I am glad to have left behind.

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Sometimes, the sun sets and all is forgotten. Sometimes, the pain stays with you long after…

 

(1) Forget about private sphere

‘I haven’t seen her in a while.’
– ‘What do you mean?’
‘I haven’t seen her in at least an hour! She hasn’t left her room since then.’
– ‘Well, she’s probably fine.’
‘Ha, didn’t you know that humans die without the attention of other humans? She is probably in severe danger! It’s called Sudden Death Phenomenon.’
– ‘Who, I didn’t think of that!’
‘Nobody can survive without constant social control. We should check if she’s alive.’
– ‘In fact, it’s our duty! Let’s go instantly.’

Knocking on the door of the cyclist. Nobody answers. Knocking harder. No answer. Kicking on the door with boots. A tired woman opens the door. ‘Yes? Sorry, I took a nap…’
(The two men just look around the room. Look at the woman. Leave without a word.)

‘So she WAS alive. Did we really have to threaten to break in the door? Her hearing seemed to be fine the last time we saw here…’
– ‘You never know. There is also a Sudden Deaf Phenomenon. People go deaf from one instant to another.’
‘Well, at least we know she is doing fine.’

30 minutes later.
‘Listen, I haven’t seen her in a while…’

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Doors and locks – not very typical for Mongolia

This conversation probably never happened. But I imagine that conversations like it MUST have happened, over and over again. Otherwise, I cannot explain why on earth people would come and check my hotel room constantly. Nor have I found any explanation why people almost kick in the door in the process. If there is a door to kick in in the first place – many of the rooms cannot be locked, as they don’t have keys. Some don’t even have doors. Which, admittedly, makes checking a LOT easier. One night, the owner of one guesthouse checked my room at midnight, at 3am and then again at 6:30am. For no apparent reason. Lesson learned: When in Mongolia, forget about private sphere.

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Many nomads camp in stunning locations- one of the most beautiful campsites on my Mongolian journey

I guess this is linked to the nomadic past (and present) of the people: the whole family shares one ger, the door is oftentimes open. Add to this a strong sense of family and the fact that Mongolians do not seem to exist in singular. During the Nadaam festival (mid July), whole groups of families go on a one-week vacation together. Meaning, they travel in convoys of, no, not two or three cars – we are talking about seven to eight cars! The idea of travelling ‘ganzara’ (alone – one of the first Mongolian words I learned), is deeply foreign to Mongolians. And a little strange, it seems.

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Nomads on the move (with the traditional ger on top), but never alone

When I met Mongolians in a guanz (simple canteen), the conversation on the other tables immediately revolved around the word ganzara. I did get thumbs up for crossing Mongolia by bike. But, ganzara, really? Heads were shaken in disbelieve. How does a human surive? I have to admit that there is a point to this, indeed. There is an inherent danger in being away from civilization alone. If I get injured or just fall sick, there is nobody around to help me. I am aware of that and the risks I take. Even though I prepare as well as I can (by taking a Personal Locator Beacon with me to be able sending an SOS signal, e.g.), there are things out of my control (see this post). In the end, it is up to luck. However, it seemed that for Mongolians, the social dimension of being out there alone was considered to be a lot more severe than the physical challenges I might face.

‘Your family must be really tolerant, to let you go on a journey like this.’
– ‘Well, I am a grown-up adult. I am financing this journey with my own savings from having worked hard. I don’t need the permission of my parents.’
– ‘… they must be REALLY tolerant…’
(Said a highly educated middle-aged Mongolia woman, who was travelling in one of said convoys.)

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Solitude in Mongolia? Well, sometimes it rather feels crowded…

I came to Mongolia searching for solitude. In my mind this should have been easy in a country such vast (roughly 1,500,000 km2), inhabited by only 3 million people (half of them in the capital). I knew that those 1.5 million people are spread all over the enormous land mass that is Mongolia – there is a ger in sight almost anywhere you go. You might not always spot it, but rest assured that the nomads spotted you already. And rest assured also that you’ll have a few interested visitors at your tent in the evening and morning. Actually, I camped most of the time – hotel rooms were an exception. Tents do not have doors to knock on. Mongolians find a way around that. If they arrive on a motorbike, they could count on me hearing the engine. If arriving by horse, they would start singing or whistling once they get closer to my tent, making sure I knew that they were coming.

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A lovely morning greeting from my nomadic neighbors: milk tea and a delicious dairy speciality made mostly from butter and sugar (yes, it tastes as fantastic as it sounds!)

Meeting nomads was usually a nicer experience than having visitors at your hotel room all the time (and having to fight for the right to lock the room I paid for). Many nomads seemed concerned that I was doing well and if I camped close to a ger, the family often brought tea to my tent or something to eat. I was moved by their concern and grateful for the food or tea. There was one thing I could not get over, however…

 

(2) Sexism and Chauvinism

‘Sex?’

I cannot remember how often I was asked this question in those two months I cycled through Mongolia. Usually, I was asked without any prior introduction, without any ‘hello’ or ‘sain bainuu’ (hello in Mongolian). At first, I believed that there must be a Mongolian word that SOUNDS like ‘sex’, but actually means something different. My doubts were unnecessary, as the question was oftentimes followed by very obvious gestures. And a facial expression that seemed to say: ‘Hell, this stupid foreign woman does not even understand the simplest question of human mankind! What else could I possibly want from her?’

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My tent seemed very inviting…

The first times, I was simply speechless. These were nomads coming to my tent, sometimes late at night, to ask me for sex? Seriously? I did not and still do not understand. Beggars beg because they have experienced success with that, they begged and got money. These men? I cannot imagine a woman in this entire world who would say ‘Sure, come on in!’. I really cannot (but maybe I am just lacking imagination). I saw real disappointment in the faces of some of the men when I sent them away. They sometimes even brought a second horse for me, motioning that I didn’t have to ride my bike to get to their ger for getting laid – how considerate.

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Bringing a spare horse to my tent… really? (not this Mongolian, though)

And it was not only the nomads. This phenomenon seemed to encompass Mongolian men of all ages and all living conditions. I was asked for sex by boys barely 12 years old up to men of about 60, out in the steppe as well as in villages. It doesn’t make it any better to be asked for sex in the street when you buy water from a shop. But at least, the guy then didn’t know where I was sleeping – and I didn’t have to worry about him coming back later that night to get what he wanted by force. Fortunately, that never happened, but it still made for some very uncomfortable nights. I am sure they did not understand my swearing at them in English, but I am also sure that they got the tone.

Why all the sexism? I don’t actually know. Usually, I feel safe in that regard in Asia – tall and athletic women usually don’t fit the bill for being considered attractive here. My guidebook explicitly states that women ‘have no trouble travelling the country alone.’ Well, yes, I haven’t been raped. But I find the question deeply insulting. I guess it is caused by a mixture of chauvinism and probably Russian pornography (or pornography featuring Caucasian looking women, at least). In any case, something, somewhere must have instilled the thought in the heads of Mongolian men that Caucasian women are just waiting to be laid by them. Anywhere, anytime.

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Central Mongolia. Nice landscapes. But…

The sex question seemed to be related to Central Mongolia. At least, that is where I encountered the question most often, sometimes more than once per day. Then, I spent five days cycling through no-man’s land – terrain so hostile and arid that not even nomads live there. No men, no sex question. My daily routine was grueling (see this post), with scarce water and armies of mosquitos, but at least, I was left alone. Somehow, I was starting to hope that this topic was over. That it was related to a particular region of Mongolia. That the upcoming 1000km of Mongolian roads would see no horny man.

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Finally off to where nobody would assault me. Or so I hoped…

After those five days, I finally arrived at a ger cum guanz (canteen) in Uvs province which, according to my route notes, sold water. Finally! I had made it through this hostile terrain! I was safe! I got water bottles and started refilling my dromedary bag. After you have just spent such an enormous distance where you ration your water, counting every milliliter, handling water becomes a task of utter concentration. Don’t spill precious water, don’t spill… And then, I felt a hand from behind, grabbing me hard between the legs. This is a moment I will never forget. It was not the first time this happened to me. But even though all of those incidents have left their mark, this one shattered me to the bone. All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by a tiredness deeper than anything. I had just survived the no man’s land. I had made it through a physical and mental challenge that was unsurpassed by anything I had encountered on this journey before. I had been so much looking forward to making it to civilization, to get somewhere safe where humans can live. And the second human I meet is assaulting me. Is using, no ABusing my mental and physical exhaustion for his perverted idea of sexuality. It felt as if he had trampled out my inner fire that had kept me going through all this. Suddenly, I was all ashen inside. I had nothing left. No air for shouting, no power for slapping. I just turned my bike around and cycled over the next hill, out of sight. Once I felt a little safer, I just broke down over my handlebar and cried. Cried for the first time after the last truly horrible thing that happened to me, an attempted gang rape in Iran.

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At the shore of Khyargas Nuur. I only realized how beautiful it was after I stopped crying.

As I learned, Mongolian men in Uvs province don’t waste their time asking. They just do. And the sexual assaults continued, with men touching me against my will – thighs, breasts, .. you name it. These were no accidents. They usually waited until I was busy trying to steady my bike, filling my water, talk to a child. They waited until they knew that I could not react or at least: not react fast.
I got mad, as I did when asked for sex. I shouted. But I also realized that I was getting tired. Tired of having to fend for my private sphere and my dignity all the time. Tired of being considered an easy prey. In most cases, I was very certain that I was stronger than these guys, physically, mentally. But I was tired to the bone, tired of this bullshit.

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There were times when I so much wished to be alone in this country, just me and the herds of animals

So far, I have lived in six different countries and travelled in more than 50. I have experienced sexual assaults in many of them (and many of them actually in my home country, Germany). But frankly, never have I experienced anything like I did in Mongolia. Never this frequency. People speak about Muslim countries and how tough it supposedly is for women to travel there. They have no idea. In the seven Muslim countries through which I cycled so far (all of the countries of this trip before Mongolia), I was treated with respect, mostly. I had some really bad experience in Iran (among them the mentioned rape attempt). Yet, 99% of Iranian people I met were friendly and hospitable to me beyond belief. I knew that the truly bad experiences I had were exceptions, the few bad apples. But the wonderful majority of the people made up for it. Don’t get me wrong, women are not treated equally there, by far not. But even though I was treated as worth less than a man, I seemed still be to considered to have some worth, some dignity.

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Erdene Zuu monastery, Kharkhorin

Mongolia is predominantly Buddhist. And chauvinism and sexism are prevalent beyond belief. I don’t want to suggest that to be the cause, but it seems not to  reign in sexism either. I find it hard to endure sexism in my own culture, but mostly, I know that it is a minority. And I am optimistic enough to believe that those sexists mostly know that their behavior is condemned by the majority of society. This creates at least some mental barriers that might hinder some to act. Bad enough that some men think this way. But while women have to endure sexist actions way too often, at least this does not happen ALL the time.
In Mongolia, there seems to be no such barrier. Sexism is absolutely common and open. If I met a man in the steppe or in the street, I could almost flip a coin to find out if he was going to be okay. If he was going to ask me for sex, whistle, call me ‘sexy baby’ or assault me.

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Some chance encounters were a lot nicer than others

I cannot change this society. I cannot and will not. The only thing I have a handle on is my own reaction, how I cope with the events. I was trying to learn. To be loud, to react physically. And also, to forgive myself. To forgive myself if, after an exhausting day of cycling on challenging tracks in the summer heat, I was too tired for a notable reaction at all. On this bike journey, I have traveled through countries were women have a hard lot. However, my status as ‘foreigner’ saved me from quite a bit of the discrimination. In a way, I was oftentimes treated as ‘honorary man’ – worth less than an actual man, but more than a local woman. Now, I experienced the very bottom of the pecking order. It did not feel very comfortable there. To be more precise: I got to the absolute limit of what I could possibly bear. I might have gotten out of this stronger than before. At the same time, I kept asking myself how much more shit I would need to go through. And why.

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This is not about me – any woman could be sitting here.

One thing I really did learn: It is not about me. It is not my fault. It never is, in no country. Yet, in other places, sexual assaults occur less often, making you wonder whether you made a mistake (if only that you went to the wrong place). Rest assured: you did not. Mongolia was really pounding that into my head. It is not me. It is a fucked up society (excuse me) that teaches even young boys that it’s fine to assault women. Or, at least, a society that does nothing to KEEP them from assaulting women. Sexism in the culture I come from is surely prevalent, but it is, in many cases, comparable to a sickness that only breaks out occasionally. Bad enough, but somehow bearable. Mongolia is a chronic patient in comparison. In a way, this may be linked to the following…

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Mongolia has some ugly sides – and this is not only about industrial ruins

(3) Alcoholism

A simple zhooshid buudal (hostel). I am sitting in the common room, eating the usual staple of Tsuivan, fried noodles with fatty meat in it. The task needs some concentrating, as I am trying to find the bits of vegetable in there and to avoid the lumps of pure fat. From the corner of my eyes, I see a man walking up to me. He seems drunk. Nothing unusual here – alcoholism is prevalent and when you cycle through a village, it is not uncommon to see one or a few passed out men lying in the street. What I don’t expect, though, is the blow I get, a blow that almost fires the fork out of my hand. Surprised, I look up, into blod-shoot eyes. A fist rammed into my arm is not quite the introduction I am used to. The guy makes a pedalling motion with his hands and then points to my bike. Sure, I’ll hand over my most beloved and precious possession to a drunk idiot who just hit me! I firmly shake my head. ‘No!’ I am about to turn around to my dish again, when the fist hits me a second time, this time on the collarbone. In pain, I jump up. If we are getting into a fist fight, I prefer to be on my feet. The drunken Mongolian seems agitated as well. He repeats the pedalling motion and the pointing at my bike, just more fervently than before. Of course! I only needed to be hit a SECOND time to allow him to ride my bike. That’s how the world works. Hitting someone TWICE work better than ONCE. How could I forget! ‘NO. AND FUCK OFF.’ I am sure he doesn’t understand a word, but the tone is hard to miss. He seems to consider hitting me a third time. Then, his face goes blank. Seconds later, he seems to have forgotten what he had wanted so badly just a moment ago. Disoriented, he looks around. I point the way to the door and he stumbles out.

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Nomrog, the village where I had this unpleasant encounter with a drunk bike fan

My encounters with drunk Mongolians were far less frequent, fortunately, than the above-mentioned incidents with sexists (and just for the record, the sexists mostly seemed sober). Still, I have been hit by a fist three times in my two months I spent in Mongolia. Once, the blow was aimed directly at my head and I was just lucky that my instincts were fast enough to have me raise my underarms to take the blow. Apparently, getting up to my full height was always a bad idea – that was usually the very moment when drunks got aggressive. Even though I realized that, I just couldn’t bring myself to keep sitting when I was about to be attacked. The instinct of being able to flee or fight back was just too strong. So I will keep jumping up. And I will keep getting hit.

Usually, I have an easy time passing as a man if need be (pulling up a hood usually helps), as most people don’t expect a woman to be as tall. There have been many times when I feigned confidence and used my body for that. Straighten your shoulders, stand with legs wide apart. I know the game and it has worked well many times. In Mongolia, however, seeing a potentially stronger opponent seems to incite a lemming-like desire to get into a fight (among drunks, at least). I don’t understand that instinct, but I also have a hard time supressing MY instinct to do what almost always worked (outside of Mongolia): to play strong, not weak.

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Would you hit someone stronger than you?

In combination with the sexism, I felt doubly punished. My physical strength usually gets me through most things alright. Now, this previous advantage turned against me. My body drew a LOT of (sexual) attention. And it also seemed to invite quite a bit of physical aggression.

Weirdly enough, pure physical violence does not hurt me as much as sexism.

 

What to make out of this?

I cannot offer bulletproof recipes to any woman venturing out into Mongolia alone. I have been trying to pass as a man here, to no avail in contrast to Iran. Not even shaving my head seemed to have helped in any way – Mongolian men recognized me as a woman even from behind when I was on my bike (wearing unisex clothes). The countless ‘hey sexy baby’s’ bear testament of this – and they were shouted at me before those guys had even passed me in their vehicles.

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Find yourself some good neighbors- camping next to lovely French people and their dogs made for the most relaxing night I had in Mongolia

The one advice I can offer: spend as little time as possible in villages and stay away from drunks (as far as you can – once I was assaulted by a drunk in a hostel at night. There is not much I could have done to avoid that.). When camping, don’t try to hide – they will find you anyways and I found that the sex question is almost guaranteed if nobody else is around. Instead, after asking permission, camp close to assemblies of gers where families live (the sex question does not come as often in front of others). I should add, though, that I was once asked for sex by a man in front of his daughter. So try to be somewhere, where there are other MEN around (women don’t seem to count that much, no matter whether they are German or Mongolian).

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Stay where there are people around- do NOT try to hide. But be aware of the drunks at the same time

Another piece of advice: be vigilant all the time. Literally try to have your back (or rather: your behind) covered. If possible, have a wall behind you when you bend over your bike or fill water. Never allow anyone into your hotel room, no matter what they claim, not even the hotel manager (who grabbed my breasts once he was in). If possible, try to get a room that can be locked and use that lock when you are in there yourself. Rooms shield you from view of others and some Mongolian men thought this was a perfect situation (for them, not me, obviously).

To safe (a bit of) the honor of Mongolian men: at the end of my journey, in the far Southwestern corner of Mongolia (Khovd province), I finally got away from it all. Nothing happened to me there at all. It is considered the most ethnically diverse province and the busy trade with Kazakhstan, Russia and China draws a lot of business people in. It is also predominantly Muslim, not Buddhist. I am guessing that part of this might offer an explanation, though other aspects might factor in. But then, after I had already left Mongolia, I heard from one of my dear female cyclist friends, that she was sexually assaulted in extactly this province…

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Yes, the landscapes are wonderful. But…

Sadly, despite the inspiring landscape, I cannot honestly recommend travelling through Mongolia solo as a woman. If you do, chose the province carefully and come mentally prepared for rarely having any private sphere, for encountereing a lot of sexism and also some alcohol-fuelled violence. I have been in shitty situations before and managed to find solutions. Maybe the solution was somewhere out there. Maybe there was at least a lesson behind all that. But to be honest, I have not found it yet.

You can survive for quite a while without food. You can survive without water for a much briefer period. I realized that I, personally, cannot survive a day without believing in the good of people. Having the opposite slapped into my face over and over again was draining. Despite formidable physical challenges, I found this to be the hardest part of crossing Mongolia. I did meet Mongolians who were nice and gentle to me, some of them. When this did happen, when I was offered help, I was grateful beyond belief. Even a smile did me a world of good. It very much felt like getting to a source of water after having cycled through the desert. After all the verbal and physical assaults, I longed for human kindness as I did for a drip of water. When I found it – a source of water, human kindness – I stayed for as long as I possibly could (and as my visa allowed). My rest days were as much about resting physically, as they were about refuelling emotionally. I will forever be thankful for those Mongolians who helped me in that. Hopefully, I will learn to forgive the many others.

71 comments

  1. Josef says:

    Hi Anne,
    welch krasse Eindrücke du in der Mongolei sammeln musstest, schockt mich sehr und ich wünsche dir, dass du sie auch irgendwie verarbeiten kannst. Alles Gute wünsche ich dir

    • annewestwards says:

      Hallo Josef,
      danke fuer die lieben Worte. Ja, das Verarbeiten wird seine Zeit dauern. Ich hatte mir in Kashgar deswegen fast zwei Wochen Auszeit genommen- das tat gut und war wichtig dafuer. Alles Gute auch an dich! Anne

  2. Julien says:

    Deeply sorry to read all these strong, heavy disrespects that you and other women, have to face in Mongolia and too many other countries. Simply Disgusting. So many men should be castrated.
    unfortunately, India won’t be easy too in that topic.
    Safe journey Anne.

  3. Jene, Sonja says:

    Liebe Anne,
    Du bist durch die Hölle gegangen. Ich bin erschüttert. Es zeigt wie krank Männer sein können, die jegliche Achtung vor der Frau verloren haben. ich fühle mich tief verbunden mit Dir als Frau, die auch die Freiheit liebt und das Leben. Wir müssen uns schützen, um von dieser Form der Gewalttätigkeit und des Sexismus nicht kleingemacht zu werden. Was Muss in einer Gesellschaft geschehen sein, dass soviel “frauenverachtendes” geschieht. Du warst für sie Freiwild und Du warst in großer Gefahr. Ich bin froh, dass Du überlebt hast und uns teilhaben lässt an Deinem Schicksal. Ich bin froh, dass Du aus diesem Land raus bist und wünsche Dir von Herzen, dass Dein Körper und Dein Geist heilt von diesen schrecklichen Begegnungen. Deine Seele konnten diese Männer nicht erreichen, da bin ich sicher. Sei behütet auf Deiner weiteren Reise. Fühl Dich umarmt von Sonja

  4. Callie says:

    Hey there, this caught my eye on the Bicycle traveling women web page. I had similar experiences cycling in India, and an especially bad experience in Mongolia. I’ll leave a link to my blog story about it. Just know that we’re in this together- and we ARE paving the way for future women! I know how mentally exhausting it can be to hang in there through the constant sexist hassle, but I’ll be cheering for you from afar!!

    • annewestwards says:

      Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, Callie! My apologies for getting back so late, I was out of internet connection for a while (in the Indian Himalayas, ironically). I’m very sorry to hear that your experiences were similarly bad, and that this happened to you in both India and Mongolia. I will definitely have a look at your blog to read about it. Yes, I fully agree: let’s support each other after those difficult experiences and stand together. As you say, it is important to view it in a bigger picture, where this is not only about you or me, but about women’s rights and about paving ways for others. Thanks so much for your warm words!

      • Karolina says:

        Hi Anne, Hi Callie

        OH MY GOD Anne, I basically cried when I read your post on sexism. Especially the part describing “surviving the no-man’s land” to be assaluted by the second human you encounter – I CAN SO RELATE.
        I guess for me, it has mostly been about anger and the feeling of powerlessness. I can be a freaking superwoman, but this patriarchal world is constructed in a way, where any man can potentially assault me and there’s NOTHING I can do about it…
        I’m leaving a link to my blog entry if u interested.

        Callie, I agree, we ARE ALL TOGETHER paving the way for future women. Sometimes we pay a hard price for it, but we ARE CHANGING this world.

        Let’s stay together.
        Karolina

  5. Markus Kunert, Berlin says:

    Liebe Anne,

    unglaublich, was Du berichtest. Mit traurigen, wässrigen Augen lese ich es. Es muss unglaublich … sein. Mir fehlen die Worte, mir fällt nichts ein. Ich kann es nicht wirklich nachfühlen. Trotz unschöner Erlebnisse auf anderen Kontinenten, habe ich nie solch krasse sexuelle Entgleisungen und solch unentschuldbares, ultra aggressives Fehlverhalten selbst erlebt. Ich kann nur hoffen, dass Du dadurch nicht zerlegt wirst, dass Du daraus irgendwie gestärkt hervorgehen kannst – irgendwie, irgendwann.

    Durch Deinen Bericht denke ich natürlich auch an mein eigenes Verhalten. Wo kann ich mich selbst vorsichtiger/ rücksichtsvoller verhalten? Wo kann ich manchmal Frauen helfen? Dafür haben mir Deine Zeilen auch gute Anregungen gegeben. Vielen Dank dafür.

    Viele wunderschöne Erlebnisse und tolle menschliche Begegnungen wünsche ich Dir noch von ganzem Herzen. Sei behütet,

    Markus Kunert

    • annewestwards says:

      Lieber Markus,

      vielen Dank fuer deine nachdenklich Worte. Ich hatte zwischendrin – geographisch wirklich in der Mitte der Mongolei mit 1000km hinter mir und ebensovielen vor mir – wirklich Angst bekommen, dass es mich zerlegt, wie du es sagst. Dass ich zusammenbreche. Und viel schlimmer, dass ich jegliches Vertrauen in Menschen verliere. Aber dann haetten die anderen gewonnen gehabt, die mongolischen Machos und Sexisten – das hat mich aufrecht gehalten. Dennoch war ich unglaublich erleichtert, als ich endlich China erreicht hatte und merkte, dass ich noch an das Gute im Menschen glauben kann.

      Es freut mich, wenn der Bericht zum Nachdenken angeregt hat. Ich kann nur fuer mich sprechen, aber mir haette es unglaublich geholfen, wenn mir ein Augenzeuge beigestanden haette – ob Mann oder Frau. Ich glaube, dass man sich das gar nicht oft genug vor Augen halten kann.

      Danke dir von Herzen fue deine Nachricht.
      Liebe Gruesse
      Anne

  6. Will says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing this, it is a thoughtful and supremely well put together post on a difficult topic. Being a man I did not have to deal with the sexism and groping and (having been robbed of the chance to cycle across Mongolia) I did not have to deal with the lack of private space either. It was only the third point, alcoholism, violence and the ridiculously childish macho culture of Mongolian men that I had to endure. I can only imagine how tough it was to spend two months there as a woman having to deal with all three. My respect goes out to you.

    In my case I was invited into the home of a Mongolian family in the first village not thirty kilometres from the Russian border. That night the host shared some drink with me, got horrendously drunk, tried to rob my panniers and when I confronted him, he started beating the shit out of me, hitting me repeatedly. I took seven punches to the head and tried shouting for help but no one came to my aid. In the end I realised that he was not going to stop attacking me until I stopped moving so I had to fight for my life. Luckily I won and managed to escape into the night. Of course when he came to he hopped on his motorbike and tried to chase me down. I had to hide all night in an abandoned oil depot as I could hear his motorbike driving around looking for me. It was without a doubt the most frightening experience of my life and left me with a horrible impression of Mongolia. Being on a long RTW tour, I would usually put such experiences as being down to being unlucky in meeting that 1% of people that are bad but after my incident I heard of countless other reports of robberies and aggression aimed at other cyclists and motorbikers travelling overland in Mongolia. It is a country that is very much different in real life than to what is said in the guidebooks.

    In the end I had to fly to Ulaanbaatar to have surgery on my hand before I could cycle again. Here I encountered yet more of your third point, with the machoism, drunkenness and alcoholism being taken to new levels in the pubs around the city. The machoism even extended to Mongolian men getting incredibly aggressive if they saw you talking to a Mongolian woman. They would take it upon themselves to put you in your place and tell the girl she has no business talking to a foreigner, that she is to hang around with Mongolian men only! As you sum it up best, it really is a fucked up society.

    On the other hand there was one positive that came out of Mongolia. The majority of the women I interacted with were well educated, open minded and showed no signs of the major problems that so many men in this country have. It was the biggest gender distinction I have ever seen in a country and one I cannot make sense of.

    Anyway, apologies for the rant! I just wanted to get some of my feelings on Mongolia off my chest after reading your thought provoking post. It brought back a lot of memories and reminds me why I won’t be venturing back there again. Well done on making it through despite all those hardships, it shows incredible strength and fortitude.

    All the best and happy cycling,
    Will

    • annewestwards says:

      Will, thank you so much for your openness to share this traumatic experience. I am incredibly glad that you are alive to tell the story- it sounds as if it could have easily gone the other way. What a terrible experience! I hope your hand healed well after surgery and that you can enjoy the pleasures of cycle touring again.

      I very much agree, Mongolia is a lot different from what the guidebooks tell, in particlar for cyclists and motorbikers who are more exposed. I believe it is important to warn others, such that they can make an informed decision if they want to take the risks involved in crossing the country. Just as you, I will surely never venture out there again. There is only so much you can take.
      It means a lot to me that you, as a man, shared your experiences. It makes me, as a woman, feel a lot less alone. I so much wish you would not have had to go through this. Yet, it does remind me that a society which is so fucked up in terms of sexism, is probably fucked up in a lot of other ways as well – for both genders.

      I was not aware that Mongolian men get aggressive when they see a foreign man talking to a Mongolian woman, but I can (unfortunately) very well imagine that. And I completely agree, the differences between the two genders could hardly be bigger – that would have been an important point to also mention in my post. I also found Mongolian woman to be mostly kind and friendly. Whatever causes this distinction to happen…

      Again, thanks a lot for sharing! Let’s hope that neither of us will encounter a country like Mongolia on our journeys anymore.

      Tailwinds and all the best to you on your RTW trip!
      Anne

      • Zolbo says:

        I am so sorry what all happened to you during your journey in my country. I agree with you, our country rednecks are not civilized, far far away from the real modern world, not educated savage wild people. I wouldn’t recommend to go on a trip all by yourself through the small villages and countryside. Those people get really interested in foreign people because they have never seen any before and express it in very dumb fucked up way. I was so fucking embarrassed reading this post about all this happened to you. The redneck society will hardly ever change as they would not know what civilization and gentle culture is. I am so sorry on behalf of my people. And i just want to tell you not all of us are fucked-up minded like the dumb rednecks. We started out late in democracy and civilization and many of the people are still not educated about the civilization. But i promise people are changing on to the bright side. Yes, i can tell that not a big part of the population are high-educated, civilized and tolerate people and the situation amongst those people are not like what they are like amongst dumb rednecks. I deeply apologize.

        • Thinker says:

          You don’t know what are you talking about. It is really because of the social networks/mass media used for the political brain-washing. This woman would have seen a totally different Mongolia if it were 20 or 30 years earlier. But what changed? These poor people in the countryside of Mongolia are gradually dying out from poverty, alcoholism and incestism. Yet, they are constantly brainwashed by politicians through social networks, mass media or even a-word-of-mouth. The attitude to Westerners or Caucasians was changed dramatically as the mass media or politicians or social networks asserted such ideas as “Westerners are taking the control of everything: Oyutolgoi, Gatsuurt, etc.” or “Westerners have been bribing politicians to evade taxes (Justin Kapla of Southgobi)” or “Westerners came to control Mongolia (IMF)” or “Westerners are pouring into Mongolia for sex tourism”. This kind of hatred is increasing. I am not saying what they have done to her is right or good. It is just a result of what the fucked up politicians who have managed the country for the last 30 years have done.

          • Aza says:

            I’m very sad to read this, unfortunately it is true what you wrote, sorry for what happened to you guys, very ashamed now that i’m Mongolian,

        • ERDEMBILEG says:

          Cursing every other word and calling others dumb and whatsnot, does not make you any better than the “rednecks” you are referring to.

    • Bat says:

      I am proud Mongolian andI am deeply sorry that u had this experience. I apologize on behalf of my people… These country dickheads are just not educated, not civilized, they do not know how to get laid with foreign women or how to be gentle. I am shocked that u had enough bravery to cycle across my country even i wouldn’t go alone on thia kinda trip on my owm. Just scared to get beat the shit out by them but trust me not all of us are bad. One important thing is we would never rape a women but we could disrespect them, Just the way of messing.

    • Uyanga Atarsaikhan says:

      There is extreme gender distinction in Mongolia due to Mongolian families choose to educate their daughter if they can only afford to educate one child . That’s due to Mongolian belief a man can do physical labour and can provide for himself where as a woman needs education. I can say as someone who born and raised in both Mongolian countryside and capital city, Mongolian women are well cherished and respected. In fact this is the first time I am hearing this type of horrible stories about Mongolia and very saddened and astonished. I am wondering now that maybe after the major migration to the capital city Ulaanbaatar our countryside has left mostly with people who are uneducated and lacks respect and decency. Ulaanbaatar is the hub for people who want to better themselves, get educated, and get decent jobs. In the countryside there are not a lot of opportunities to have decent life unless you truly enjoy being a nomad. Hence why, I think Anne run into many people who groped her. And I think this particular ugly side, believe it or not recent symptom of Mongolian unbalanced economic growth. Mongolian countryside has no real infrastructure therefore all the business and political center reside in Ulaanbaatar. So people who know only how to treat livestock and don’t know how to treat fellow human being are now left in the countryside. Which is deeply saddening and concerning and I believe this symptom will only get worse. I was born and grew up in countryside where I had no electricity or running water 20 years ago and I never once felt sexism. In fact, I always and still to this day felt more cherished and respected because I am a woman.

  7. Zafar says:

    I am happy that you survived the awful trip. Lots of respect to you for being such a strong person. In your place, I would probably have folded. Your story is an inspiring one, although I can barely cycle 20 km at my level of fitness 🙂

  8. Mike T says:

    That’s some crazy stuff that you experienced! I’m sorry to have read it, but am heartened by the fact that you have survived the ordeal. Some societies have norms that are different, and when travelling, one discovers the ugly with the good. Is it naive to ask how many police officers you came across during the trip? If there is good in each person, the distribution must have infinite support. It’s disturbing how humans can be capable of such remarkable cruelty.

  9. Emmenreiter says:

    Hello Anne, we haven`t heard from each other for some time. In the meantime we have seen some more places. After Southeast Asia and Nepal our next stopp was Mongolia. We remember very well, what you told us about your trip there and we were pretty sad about your blogpost. Anyway – we wanted to discover Mongolia and this is, what we learned: http://www.emmenreiter.de/reise-blog/mongolei-mit-motorrad/ We hope you are happy, where ever you are at the moment 🙂 Yours, Micha and Suse – now in Moscow and pretty soon at home again in Berlin

  10. Ewan McMillan says:

    Thanks for your blog and lovely photos and well done for writing that, more people should ve aware of the dangers of Mongolia. I have experienced the fury (and fists) of drunk macho Mongolian men and I can only imagine what they’d be like with women.

  11. Dashdulam Tsogtbaatar says:

    Dear Anne,
    I am truly sorry that you have experienced such humiliation and misfortunate events in my country. As a woman, I cant even think of a comforting word that might help you in this condition. I’m utterly ashamed of my people and what they made you go through during your stay. The best I can do right now is offer a sincere apology on behalf of my country and as a feminist I will promise you things will change even for a bit in the future. To think that these sexual assaults happened to you in my own country makes me feel as if I was the one who assaulted you by doing nothing and giving them permission to harass you freely. However, I can give you my promise that your story will not go unheard by my people. We will come together to improve the safety of you and your fellow travelers as much as we can in the upcoming days. As you know that and said, Mongolians are only 3 millions of people but they are scattered all over the place that made it hard to control and oversee them. But we will think of a solution, I will promise you that. To all the women who wants to travel through Mongolia, please contact me by my email Dashdulam0614@gmail.com and I will try my best to offer decent hospitality in my country even though I am not a guide nor anything closer to that but as a local I can do my best to offer you safe place, route or cautions to remember. This is the least I can do after reading this heart-breaking story of Anne. Lastly I am so sorry that you went through this and I should applaud you as a fellow woman for being such an inspirational strong figure even after these things happened to you. Please stay strong and safe!

  12. Mandal says:

    Liebe Anne,

    es ist nicht leicht es als junger Mongole der in der Schweiz gelebt und in London studiert hat diesen Reisebericht zu lesen. Wir alle bewundern deine Tapferkeit und hoffe du wirst es auf moegliche weitere Reisen durch die Welt nicht nochmal erleben als 24 jaehriger Mann und als Mongole.
    Auch wenn es nicht leicht ist immer die Wahrheit zu sagen, bin ich der Meinung die Fakten, Wahrheit muss geschrieben werden sogleich mit all den guten Sachen die die Mongolen auf dem Land (ausserhalb der Hauptstadt Ulaanbaatar) euch als Touristen oder als Menschen der Erde gezeigt haben. Ich bin auch manchmal selber froh zu wissen das die Guten Menschen/ Mongolen sicherlich mehr sind als die Machos, Betrunkene und Maenner mit keinen Manieren.

    Ein Bild ueber die Mongolei in den Reisebuechern ist Fakt das die Nomaden Familien die in den Steppen, Gobis und Sibirien leben sehr gastgeberisch sind und versuchen meistens den Reisenden zu helfen, das bieten was sie haben und nicht wie in allen touristen Laendern soviel Geld wie moglich machen wollen oder Touristen Preise wie in Phuket, Thailand z.B.
    Das ist vielleicht ein bisschen anders da Tourismus nicht unsere Hauptbranchen des Exports/ GDP ist.
    Der groesste Anteil unseres GBP’s ist Bergbau (Kohle, Gold, Silber, Kupfer, Wertmetalle fur Computerchips usw.) , Cashmere, Oel (wird sich ab den nachsten Jahren entwickeln), Tourismus/ Service ist vielleicht 10% in Statistiken von 2015. Tourismus ist am entwickeln sehr stark in den letzten 15Jahren.

    Unsere erste Touristen Firma hat eine 60Jaehrige Erfahrung glaube ich mit der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik und anderen Laendern.
    Der Kontrast in der Stadt (Ulaanbaatar) und auf dem Land ist sehr gross und die Bildung, die Mentalitaet zwischen Mann und Frau ist auch gross. Das ganze System auf dem Land ist nicht gut administriert an manchen Provinzen. Stadt ist viel besser, mit gebildeten jungen Leuten, privat und offentlichen Schulen, Ausbildungen, Universitaeten, Studenten im Ausland wie Deutschland, Amerika, England, China, Russland, Hungarn, Tschechien usw. Unsere Demokratie ist zu jung und die Marktwirtschaft auch wir hatten keine 200-300 Jahre Industrialisierung wie im Westen, unseres ist nur 28Jahre alt. Aber Mongolen koennen sich sehr gut und schnell anpassen und Mongolei ist sehr sehr schnell sich am entwickeln. Wir sind historisch seit 1961 Mitglied bei den Vereinten Nationen (UN), hatten 4 Presidenten, 76 Parliament Mitglieder, Korruptions Index sinkt, Lebenserwartung steigt. Wir sind lokale Probleme sehr schnell am losen in manchen Sachen und manche langsam am loesen.

    Ich selber habe seit 2010 Reisefuhrer bei New Juulchin als Sommerjob gearbeitet und seitdem ich 2016 in London mein Studium in Finanzen fortgesetzt habe arbeite in der Branche sehr selten, aber habe alles mit eigenen Augen gesehen und kenne den Unterschied zwischen Mongolen und Europaer sehr gut. Nachdem ich diesen Bericht gelesen habe, habe ich direkt an den CEO der Firma geschrieben, da sie Authoritaet hat es zu andern, den betreffenden Leuten in der Branche, im Ministerium es zu berichten, einen Unterschied zu machen. Und ich hoffe es wird sich andern in den nachsten Jahren. Aber ich hoffe es sind nur die 1-5% der Leute in der Mongolei.

    Die Mongolei und dessen Leute konnen uns nur aus den Fehlern lernen und wir jungen Leute mussen versuchen die Fehler so schnell wie moglich zu verbessern. In der Branche und uberhaupt ist es sehr wichtig zu wissen das man Sicher ist.

    Fur alles weitere alles Gute wunsche ich ihnen Miss Anne!
    Mandal

    I hope i can put all the important things above into English. Just graduated my university in London and came back to Mongolia to work in Finance. So a little busy to write longer, but i hope i can clearify a little.

    It feels really disappointing and feels bad to hear read this report as a young 24 year old Mongolian who worked in the Tourism branch as a summerjob from 2010-2016 for German and English speaking tourists at New Juulchin Company.

    Sometimes I can calm down after believing knowing that the good people are far more than the bad people. Hopefully not more than 5% in the population.

    Alcoholism is a bad side of Mongolia that we faced during Socialism and the Democracy change that we faced recently which we learned from the USSR. Our democracy is quite young compared to BRD, England, America etc. but we have come a long way in the just 28 years of free market and democracy.
    Mongolia is member in the United Nations since 1961, we had 4 Presidents so far, 76 Parliament members, copied law from Germany, not dependent only on China and Russia (our only neighbors) but the majority trade is made with China, only we have very good third partner like Germany which gives mongolian students a lot of scholarships, England (Rio Tinto mining company) made the most investment in Mongolia with around 6Billion USD, which is more than Russia and China combined that made investment into Mongolia so far. There are so many interesting numbers. When i just came back now i see so so so many new buildings, apartments, skyscrapers in Ulaanbaatar. People are even more polite in only two years, education, society, state administration, people around you, friends, family, investors, foreign people who work in Mongolia, mongolian graduates from abroad (America, England, Germany, China, Russia etc.) are shaping the future of our Country and our development. Mongolia is developing really really fast not geographically equally at the moment in some parts but it is on its way in the next 20 years.

    It might become even a financial center in 10 Years. in 2012 mongolian Economy was 120%, 2014-2017 there was a recession, might be too dependent on China (but China looks good now) so it’s okay for the next years. Mongolia is rich in resources, raw materials like coal, gold, copper, elements which are used for computer chips, expensive metalls, cashmere, animals (horse, camel, sheep, cow, yaks, deers, wolves etc.) rare animals in the red book like snow leopards, gobi bears …) People/ tourists these days come for expedition, fishing, walking, horse/camel tours, bike tours, ATV tours, jeep tours, hunting, enjoying the wide, wild & pure nature, quitness, no much traffic, in the countryside far away from society to find their inner peace.

    I hope all well for you and all the people coming to Mongolia, firstly safe trips and a good journey. Sometimes we are too focused on the destination that we might forget to enjoy the journey.
    My journeys in Mongolia as a local and tour guide were all good so far with many things to learn from the nomads and tourists. There were lessons, good memories and a lot of laughter.

    Health, succes and goodluck Miss Anne! from Ulaanbaatar

  13. Lhagva says:

    Hallo Anne,
    Sorry for your bad experience in Mongolia. After reading your blog, I’m trully Sorry for you in name of my people. I can’t blame anyone in example, but I’m pretty sure, that the whole society need to work on fixing this problems. Thanks for sharing your experience even that was very hurtfull for you. I hope you will recover from this bad memorys about my country and hope to see you back in Mongolia sometimes. I will invite you personly to visit our research farm. Thanks.
    Take care
    Lhagvasuren

  14. Sun says:

    I feel sorry for that happened to you during the trip.
    I am Mongolian who reside in Australia. After living here for a couple of years, I was sexually assulted many times and I think that European men might be more sexually harassful than Mongolian men. To be honest, some men tend to harass a woman, especailly who travels alone or vulnerable somehow.

  15. Sainaa says:

    Hello, Anne.

    First of all, I’d like apologize on behalf of my country even if it doesn’t mean much to you. And yes I am Mongolian man. And it’s just so hard knowing that these kind of people lives here. Here, in the evening we wrote down the taxi plate number because it could be dangerous for girls in the night. And many sexual abuse cases happen, but most frightening thing is they got assaulted often by relatives. Terrible fact. Men can’t handle there alcohol here, period. It sickens me, and worries me that someone close to me get assaulted in broad day light. And because of culture, because we honor our names too much, some families ignores these cases. It ultimately comes down to alcoholism, issue of morality, common sense and respect.

    On the bright side, campaign similar to “Me too” went viral in Mongolia. And we’re making bit of progress fighting against violence. But still it’s not enough. There isn’t enough focus from the government since its dominated by men. And even some of them were involved in sexual assaults. We’ve got long way to go. I personally grew up far from these kind of violence. I can say same to my friends. Traditionally we have strong culture of respecting women. Queens made big impacts in Mongolian history because their voice was heard and their opinion was respected. I hope we can make Mongolia safe for everyone, again.

    Ultimately, I think we’re handling democracy so wrong. Everybody’s so good at defending their freedom and rights but not at respecting others. It just shattered our deep and rich culture :'( Dark side of Mongolia is where we failed as a country. Also, where we need to fight as a country.

    Last 2 years, I’ve worked as tour guide. And even for me, 23 years old Mongolian guy, It was hard to deal with locals. Hard to endure the work pressure. Things I didn’t sign up for. It’s common for Mongolians to force excessive amount of alcohol to younger boys. And when you refuse it’s considered as an insult which is utterly idiotic. And it’s not just countryside that’s problematic, even in cities. It’s dangerous in dark alleys.

    I totally agree with you, and sorry for terrible experience. It’s kind of story that’s not often heard but speaks the truth. Thank you for writing this. Articles like yours will spread the awareness. And give courage to young Mongolian readers! Courageous minds are taking actions in the right direction and I believe maybe, just maybe when you visit Mongolia again, we’ll be one of the safest country in world.

  16. Phil says:

    Dear Anne,

    I feel sorry for what you endured and brave that you outlined it here.

    Many travel blogs and guidebooks obviously paint a very positive side of things. Trying to be more balanced was easy for me since I don’t sell anything. Here you go: https://mongoleireise.com/warnhinweise/ I should possibly add a link to this blog post so people get the full picture.

    Hope that this post:
    1. warns travellers (not just female solo travellers) to be aware of these risks;
    2. helps change the society a step at a time.

    Foreign men in Mongolia also face difficulties and violence, but I don’t want to get into specifics here. Maybe I am also not as brave as you are in your post and I don’t want to steal the attention away.

    To be fair, from my experience in 2016-2018 the situation in Mongolia is much better than in 2011-2013 at least in terms of anti-foreigner violence. Plus: there are some incredibly smart and talented Mongolian guys. Often a bit less outspoken however and not that easy to find. The bad experience is also not just countryside people or locations – it is as much a UB problem!

    Your post has created a lot of posts here and also in Expat in Mongolia Facebook page. Some replies have been helpful, many however in the line of:
    “There is #metoo in Germany and women say there is massiv abuse there. This is not in Mongolia. Situation is much worse in Germany!” or Bat above “they do not know how to get laid with foreign women”.

    Again, your post might save some lives! Bravo to that! And safe travel ahead! And Mongolia can also be a fantastic and magical place… but it is difficult to find this magic among a lot of dirt.

  17. What do you think that if we take all people poll who traveled in Mongolia by bycicle? If 99 people enjoyed & while only one not enjoyed it is usually considered as enjoyed country. In every year thousands of bike tourists come to Mongolia for cycling. Your opinion is just one of thousands. It is not very polite you judge people by just your opinion. There is thousands of good memories on the internet while your history in here.

    • jess says:

      I believe you should do more research regarding solo female travel in Mongolia and you will find the following:

      #1
      The author has not stated opinion. She has provided facts. These are corroborated by other solo female’s experiences. (see other comments in this post). In my own experience, my ger camp host showed me how to tie my ger door closed at night and insisted I ‘lock’ it at night. It was good I did, because that night a drunk man came pounding on my door and attempted to open it. It was a scary moment for me, hoping that my knot would not break.

      #2
      Thousands of solo female cyclists (or otherwise) do not go to Mongolia every year. You can check the official travel statistics. Most people travel the countryside in groups.

      #3
      Here is an excerpt from a highly regarded American newspaper article about the trip of a National Geographic explorer:https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/magazine/the-woman-who-walked-10000-miles-no-exaggeration-in-three-years.html

      [[Another night during those first months, while Marquis camped on a vast, overgrazed steppe that she describes as looking like an ugly golf course, she heard horses galloping toward her. The visitors turned out to be Mongol horsemen, all in traditional overcoat-like deels, making a vodka-fueled raid on her camp. After trying to steal her tent, they rode off. But for weeks, in the evenings, the men returned, treating Marquis, she said, as “the little entertainment.” To protect herself, she began waking before dawn, walking until midafternoon, then looking for a place to hide for the night — if possible, in a cement sewage pipe. “Everything is going on under those roads,” she said. “There is waste. There are dead sheep. But for me it was not a problem. I was safe.”]]

  18. Sean Gunee says:

    Hi!! i am sorry for what you experienced in my country! just wanna say that yess there is many horny basterds in my country and i ashemed for that. but i hope that someday it gonna change. starting from my generation. There is many good people in here too. please forgive and forget that awfull memories! and just remember good experiences in here! thank you

  19. Sunny says:

    Sorry for this speechless and shameful approach by mongolian men who are not educated and civilized. I still struggle with country men who come into the city and act like an idiot. Theres a far more tall hills and obstacles these men need to go through to be civilized. Cant be more ashamed of what you had to go through and i hope all is well.

  20. tengis says:

    I am terribly sorry for what you have experienced. I am a Mongolian guy, but never knew that women can be this much blatantly assaulted in my country. I understand that you have a horrible impression after your journey now. However, please don’t make a judgement that all Mongolian men are perverted freaks like the ones you encountered, or sexual assault is a normal thing in Mongolian culture. It is absolutely not.
    Those idiots must have watched too many western porn, and assumed that all white women are sluts or something. I am gravely ashamed of how my fellow Mongolians have morally stooped.

    Once again, I sincerely apologize for what happened to you.

  21. Nomin says:

    I am so sorry this happened. Back in 2001 when I was in the country side not far from the city there were two tourists couple was there and Mongolian men next to me would outloud say how nice body the girl had and how they would love to do that bla bla and it was very alarming to me and I was only a kid at that time. I would never recommend even a couple alone take a trip in the countryside. Those country men are some half beast.

  22. Yesukhei Ch says:

    Im really sorry for what you had to went through on your journey. Thats really messed up. Im ashamed.

  23. Bree says:

    Hi Anne,

    My friend who lives in Mongolia posted your article and while I read it I immediately got flashbacks to my own experience traveling alone from UB to Choibalsan. It was empowering to read your story and hear how you reacted to the men who harassed you. It was shocking and enraging to hear about the consistency of the harassment. I honestly am not sure I’d be able to continue a journey like yours.

    During my experience I didn’t really know what to do, I was on a bus and it was my first time traveling in the country completely alone. I know I should’ve yelled or brought the attention to fellow riders but I was unaware of how they’d react too. It’s a tricky situation being the only foreigner and not knowing what the culture we’re in deems as appropriate or not. Here is a link to my blog post about my full experience: https://www.breevonbradsky.com/blog/2016/12/7/12-hours-to-choibalsan

    Thank you again for sharing your story, even a year later I think back to my experience and what I could’ve done differently. After hearing your story I think I will have the strength to speak out.

  24. justin says:

    Hi,
    I’m mongolian woman. we live here and we have to deal with it everyday. no wonder why all young people are going abroad and most of them deciding to stay there.
    for instance I, have lived abroad for over 6 years and when I came back I was never the same. I couldnt even dress up in my favorite high heels and tight dresses, as some grown ass men would whistle and shout sexual slurs.
    I still dont understand how women and men turned out so different from each other. I blame their parents for not letting their boys do whatever they make girls do and for not educating them properly. Spoilt little brats they are these little shits , by that I mean men and boys.

  25. Tseemaa says:

    Dear Anne,
    I deeply apologize on what happened to you. I will raise my future sons to be better man. I wish you all the best, what you have experienced in Mongolia i hope this awful things will never happened to you.

  26. Ochoo says:

    It was so embarrassing to hear what you experienced in our country. I am quite surprised those things happened to you and also can not understand why it happened. Because most of mongolian women are independent, intelligent and mentally strong. If I even touch them accidentally i could end up in jail. So most mongolian guys are not that brave enough to touch women without her permission. But those guys who harassed and assaulted you are truly pig. You should have report them to police. They deserve big jailtime.

  27. Tess Byambadorj says:

    Hi Anne,
    Firstly, i would like to apologise from the deepest part of my heart on behalf of our fuckes up society. I know no apology would the traumatic experiences that you HAD to encounter. I am very proud of you for sharing the truth, cuz right now, us mongolians are lacking honesty more than ever. Majority of us like yo hide the ugly truth of our society and blunty hope that it’ll go away somehow. I just wanted to let you know that there are increasing number of educated people in mongolia that are trying to make a change. I know its not going to be soon, and i know its not going to be simple. But experiences like yours will not be ignored by us, and it’ll be a spark of something bigger in yhe future. Historically, mongolians never ever harassed women like we do now. We’re stuck in this era of botg economic and educational poverty. Stories like yours should never be ignored , and if you give me the permission, i would like to translate it to mongolian and try my utmost go get it published on many websites as possible. Once again, my heart breaks reading through your story and I feel unimaginable amount of shame and guilt as a mongolian. Please do contact me if you would agree to get your story published in mongolian.

    Regards and apologies,
    Tess

  28. Temujin says:

    Dear Anne
    I don’t know whether you will read it or not . I’ve just read the whole story and it made me to tears , a lot of people who assaulted and made you feel horrible are the scumbags , who literally don’t have a simple dignity and humanity in themselves. Imagining that if i were in your shoes , i’d feel absolutely devastated , and cry as well.Maybe this story will change people’s perspective and their mind . I have no defense or remorse for my country , nor the people. Sadly sexism doesn’t seem to bother anyone in Mongolia , i don’t get why. I strongly stand where you stand and deeply sorry for what you experienced. Probably it is stupid of me to ask you to visit us , but i hope you will visit Mongolia soon

  29. Tsetseg says:

    I deeply apologize for what happened to you in my country. Solo traveling is not common here. You are very brave to travel alone. As I grown up in Mongolia I never experienced an sexual assault in my life. There is a huge gap between people who live in a countryside and a city in terms of education and behavior. It seems we like to emphasize the open prairies, but we forgot the men who are living there.

  30. Hannah says:

    Dear Anne,

    I feel what you feel everyday in Mongolia. It is totally unexplanable what you feel when you are surrounded with an environment like this. Please be strong and let that wound go, as I know the emotional wound takes a long time to heal, especially when something like this have happened.

    I admire of how much of a strong woman you are as being through something like this, face to face, and still had staying strong and positive.

    Everything happens for a reason therefore you will become a much better when you finally find out the hidden meaning in it all of why it had to happen to you. All the women who read this article feel for you. And thank you for being so candid and honest in your article.

    It is truly shedding some light on the dark matters of Mongolia.

  31. Minjee says:

    Sounds unfortunate and it is not right. But it is not recommended to go any foreign country by yourself. Especially coutries you don’t know the language and tradition. I know I sounded real harsh but I found many foreigners go to Mongolia and expect same treatment as going to other Asian or Europe coutries. 1st of majority of man in Mongolia especially in country side do not fear or respect any women regardless of whether your are white or not. You may get preferancial treatment in China or Korea if you did go by yourself. As for us Mongolian we get treated like that everywhere so we have been taught not to go places alone in early ages. It is just the way it is. So what happened to you is unfortunately very very common that it almost normal.

  32. manlai says:

    I am so sorry that you had a bad experience in Mongolia and I am so grateful that you spoke about it. However uncomfortable something may feel, the truth must be spoken. Otherwise, it would get rotten. Some of our tradition and culture are holding us back. I feel like we went back to the past. We glorify wrong things like living in a ger or having a nomadic lifestyle. But, one must know that lot of these problems are caused by lack of education and poverty. Meaning these things can be fixed. Although there are widespread common problems in Mongolia, I hope you see people as an individual. As a young man, I will do everything I can to make sure that every woman feels safe in my country.

  33. Maya says:

    Hi Anne,

    My sincere apologies for the experience you had in my country. The problems of sexism and alcoholism have taken a significant place in Mongolia, however, I am sure that our society will deal with them shortly. I highly recommend tourists to travel in a group even to a different country.

    Kind regards,
    Maya

  34. Tushig Ethan Nyamsuren says:

    Hello, Dear Anne. I just read your story and how you treated in Mongolia. I am really really sorry for what you have experienced in there which does my heart hurt. Anyways, I am Mongolian; born and raised in Ulaanbaatar. To be honest, woman and man are treated very fairly in Mongolia but in countryside you would see those folks who would seek something different. It is because most of those coutryside folks didn’t used to see a woman traveling alone which is like new shock to them; however i promise people wouldn’t do anything harmful to you because i know. I was really surprised to see these much negatives on only one article but i grant you that. Sure it was bad experiences but you have you understand one thing that it doesnt matter if you are guy or girl, there’s always danger in any country. I didnt traveled as many counties as you had but i fairly traveled quite many countries for my self. Lets say you crossed different countries such as Russia, China, Mexico, German, Italy, Thailand, Vietnam whatever you name it,. Every country has those dangers in their own reasons but i honestly think Mongolia is one of those safest place you could ever travel by cycling.

    • Amin says:

      It doesn’t matter whether woman travelling alone or not ! It is simply wrong to harass someone sexually. It’s sickening and disgusting truth in mongolia. We all know that it’s dangerous to women when its dark outside! Just because there is no war in this country it’s doesn’t mean its Safe! To be honest china is far safer than Mongolia. I walk without fear at 3am. But here in mongolia i am afraid to go out after 8pm alone! For me It’s also first time to hear something so terrible about countryside. It’s hard to believe but it’s the ugly truth that we all should accept and must do something about it. It’s not about people who live in the countryside or city it’s our entire society problem. Sexual harassment is in the street, at work, at schools even sadder its in families. It is everywhere in Mongolia! I am not saying it happens everyday to every woman but it happens at least once to every woman in their life times.

  35. Chaagii says:

    hello , i deeply apologize for what happened to you in Mongolia. I’m Mongolian person and living ni Mongolia but i have never happened like this kind of things. Maybe country side people heard about some one wrong information about sex and maybe some guys want to try it but i really don’t understand and i think u have met with some of bad men. I want to say not all of Mongolian guys bad. There are have many good person also. I wish you all of the best for your future travel.

  36. Tuugii says:

    Dear Anne,

    So said to hear this story. We recently settled society (less then 100 years ago). We has been big gap of lack of education. Also, another side of sexism, most of the white man when visited in Mongolia, they had searching for sex in the country. Everybody knew this situation, and then when local man saw white person, they think sex. So sorry for that.

  37. mem.102 says:

    Liebe Anne,

    es tut mir leid dass du durch so eine Hölle fahren musste, aber danke dass du es mit uns geteilt hast! Alles gute

  38. b james says:

    Sorry for all the bad experience you endured in Mongolia. The locals in countryside are not educated. As a country Mongolia hasn’t seen much, neither did the people. But we are growing, we are developing, we are trying to get everyone civilized. Hopefully within next 10 years the number of uncivilized people will be less than 30% of the population. Or else we are doomed to become worst country to travel.

  39. Lkhamaa says:

    I am deeply sorry for what happened to you in Mongolia. I am involved in a gender study in rural Mongolia and I am, now, thinking that this could be related to a bigger social problems such as there are more male herders than female herders as herder households send their daughters for better education to the capital city whom don’t really come back to become a herder, rather they stay back in UB. But that must not make them inhuman. This is something we have to deal and do something. The bottom line is do not travel solo in rural Mongolia. I am very proud to be Mongolian woman yet I would not travel to rural Mongolia alone.

  40. Enhjin says:

    Hallo Anna,
    es ist sehr Schade, was du in der Mongolei erlebt hast.
    Aber es ist nicht über alle so und nicht alle Männer sind so.
    Ich möchte dir sagen, dass auf der Welt viele schlechte Männer gibt. Nicht nur in der Mongolei !!!
    In der Mongolei leben auch viele gute Männer, deshalb finde ich ein bisshen Schade, was du über Mongolei berichtest.
    Ich wünsche dir alles Gute.
    Liebe Grüße
    Enhjin

  41. Seegii says:

    Thanks to the journalist who translated your blog about your solo travel in countryside into Mongolian language, it boosts in the social network and raises awareness how the society problems occur in the rural area. it is kind of trendy topic now in UB, very late though. Personally, i feel ashamed and so sorry for this bad experience you faced during your trip. And I also had this kind of experience in the countryside when i was a travel guide !!! I truly understood and felt your feelings when i first read it. Lastly, i trust the society here in Mongolia gets better and more human, more respectful to everybody, especially to women in the future. I wish you all the best and happy cycling beyond other countries.

  42. LENA says:

    Ich bin über Krautreporter hergekommen. Ein wirklich interessanter Artikel und so wichtig, dass übrr so etwas geschrieben wird. Danke! Und viel Erfolg und Kraft, für alles was noch kommt!!

  43. Laura says:

    Dear Anne,
    Thank you for sharing this sad experience!
    I hope you will continue to believe in human kindness and that such experiences won’t keep you from these awesome trips you do!
    I wish you all the best!

  44. Su says:

    Hallo Anne,

    es tut mir so leid zu lesen, was du erlebt hast. Und ich kenne diese Müdigkeit, diese Ohnmacht, diesen Unglauben: kann es wirklich sein, dass ich “nur” weil ich eine Frau bin, automatisch Freiwild bin?
    Und danke, dass du deine Erfahrung geteilt hast. Und dich damit einer weiteren Welle von Verletzungen ausgesetzt hast. Das Erzählen deiner Erlebnisse hilft, ein Bewusstsein zu schaffen, dass es definitiv etwas zu tun gilt. Ich wünsche dir alles Gute, halte an der Zuversicht fest, dass es bald eine Welt geben wird, wo wir nicht automatisch Menschen zweiter Klasse sind. Du bist großartig!

    PS: bin über die Krautreporter hierher gekommen.

  45. Oliver Rettig says:

    Hey,
    I read about your journey in Krautreporter and I hope you make more better than worse experiences. Wish you all the best and happy cycling beyond other countries.

  46. Unk Jigm says:

    as a mongolian i am very sorry for this happened to you, i even did not know such things existed in the countryside. I am glad that u are fine after all this.

  47. Franziska says:

    Ich bin auch über Krautreporter hier gelandet. Danke für diesen offenen persönlichen und differenzierten Reisebericht. Ich wünsche dir ganz viel Kraft, Unterstützung und die Energie weiter so mutig der Welt zu begegnen.

  48. Katharina says:

    Hi Anne, ich habe heute in einer Zeitschrift beim Arzt zufällig deine Geschichte gelesen und sie hat mich sehr schockiert. Ich habe einige solcher Erlebnisse in Indien gehabt, teils sogar, wenn mein Mann daneben stand. Ich hatte es mir damals mit einer Mischung aus verklemmter Gesellschaft, Frauenfeindlichkeit, mangelnder Medienkompetenz und Pornos, die ein falsches Bild von westlichen Frauen vermitteln, erklärt. Ich hätte nie erwartet, dass das in der Mongolei noch schlimmer sein könnte. Es tut mir sehr leid, was Dir da passiert ist. Noch schlimmer ist ja, dass mongolische Medien offenbar einen Shitstorm gegen dich gestartet haben, statt das Problem offen zu thematisieren. Ich wünsche dir alles Gute und hoffe, Du schreibst trotzdem weiter. Und vielleicht ändert dein Blogbeintrag zusammen mit anderen kleinen Schritten doch nach und nach die mongolische Gesellschaft. Herzliche Grüße Katharina

    • annewestwards says:

      Liebe Katharina,
      hab vielen Dank für deine Nachricht und die lieben Worte. Es tut mir sehr leid, dass du solche Erlebnisse auch in Indien machen musstest. Ich hoffe, du hast eine Form gefunden, damit umzugehen, auch wenn es unsagbar schwer fällt. So etwas sollte niemand erleben müssen.
      Ja, ich hätte das, was in der Mongolei mit mir gemacht wurde, auch nie erwartet. Noch viel weniger hätte ich den Shitstorm erwartet, der gegen mich gestartet wurde. Ja, ich werde in der Tat weiterschreiben, auch über unbequeme Themen. Ich kann nur hoffen, dass ich wirklich – wie du schreibst – etwas dazu beitragen kann, dass sich dadurch auch Dinge zum Besseren wandeln.
      Herzliche Grüße zurück!
      Anne

      • Katharina says:

        Hallo Anne, noch einmal ich. Wenn Du es schreiben möchtest, wie ist es denn mit dem Shitstorm weitergegangen? In dem Magazin (ich hab den Namen leider vergessen, emoticon?) stand auch, dass sich Fox Mongolia beteiligt hatte und dich dann extrem persönlich angegriffen hat. Hat sich da mittlerweile jemand entschuldigt?
        Was mich In Indien, wie dich in der Mongolei, so sehr überrascht hat, war, dass teils Männer auf mich zukamen und übergangslos fragten “Wanna have some Sex?” oder auf einfach nur “Hey you, girl, Sex?” Das waren allerdings niemals 50 % der Männer und niemals Hotelmanager oder so (eine andere junge Frau erzählte mir allerdings, dass in einigen Hostels nachts unablässig an ihre Türe geklopft wurde) und auch hier unterschied es sich extrem von Ort zu Ort und von Bundesstaat zu Bundesstaat. Trotzdem habe ich mich da auch jedes Mal gefragt, wie diejenigen bitte auf so etwas kommen? Ich meine, die Anzahl der Frauen, die da “aber klar” antworten, dürfte sich im untersten Promillebereich bewegen. Ich kann es mir eigentlich nur so erklären, dass diese Männer ihre “Informationen” über weiße Frauen ausschließlich ausschließlich über Pornos beziehen, denn nur dort kommt so etwas vor.

        • annewestwards says:

          Hallo Katharina, es tut mir leid, dass ich erst so spät dazu komme dir zu antworten. Pardon!
          Entschuldigt hat sich von Fox News Mongolia niemand, die Berichte existieren weiter. Es ist an mir, fürchte ich, rechtliche Schritte zu ergreifen- Ob das erfolgreich sein wird, steht allerdings auch in den Sternen.
          Ja, ich kann mir auch vorstellen, dass dieses Bild der “verfügbaren weißen Frau” von Pornos herrührt. Allerdings gibt es in beiden Ländern (Indien und Mongolei) ja auch unsäglich viel sexuelle Gewalt gegen einheimische Frauen und Mädchen. Das bereitet mit Sicherheit einen entsprechenden Nährboden.

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