This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads
With news that Hipmunk has improved its hotel search to speed up and streamline results, I thought I’d turn to the quirker side of accommodations and see where Hipmunks have stayed that deserves a mention.
In my years of round-the-world travel, I’ve certainly had my share of strange places to sleep.
For starters, this:
Having driven 8 hours out of Ulan-Bator in Mongolia into the Gobi desert, I was staying with a nomadic family near the ancient site of Gengghis Khan’s Karakorum. This tent-like structure, called a ger in Mongolia (or a yurt in other central Asian countries), comes with a very strict series of rules. The inside of the ger is divided into two parts, one side for men and the other for women, with their respective tools (cooking pots on the woman’s side, saddles and hunting materials on the men’s side), separated out by supportive pillars.
Mongolian culture is replete with customs and deeply ingrained superstitions, each taken very seriously. Among them is the prohibition on walking between the pillars inside the ger – always walk around them. This was hard to remember, but under the watchful eyes of my hosts, I did my best to make sure I was respectful.
The pillars inside the ger:
Given that this was the Gobi desert, there wasn’t any toilet in sight and the family did not use an outhouse. Instead, they dug a hole about half a kilometer away, topped by a wooden box. For short people like me, this was semi-private; for taller people let’s just you wouldn’t be able to hide much. After I settled in, I realized that there wasn’t a direct path to the toilet because these guys:
were in the way.
The family had 500 horses (the horse to person ratio in Mongolia is 13:1, so this was a fairly established family) and over 1000 sheep and goats. In the middle of the night, this was a bit of an issue. These sheep and goats would come in toward the ger for warmth, and it was impossible to make my way to the bathroom with a headlamp to guide me. I can’t count how many sheep I tripped over before I gave up and went back to bed until daybreak.
Overall, this remains one of the most memorable places I’ve stayed. For several days, isolated in the wilderness with animals and a family of nomads, heating my ger with sheep’s dung (yes, it stunk) and sharing meals around the fire at night.
The family’s grandmother (59 yrs old) and her great-granddaughter (4 years old)
So where’s the craziest place you’ve ever stayed on your travels? I’ve enabled photo replies in the comments – let us know in pictures or words!