Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village by Louisa Waugh

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HEARING BIRDS FLY is Louisa Waugh’s passionately written account of her time in a remote Mongolian village. Frustrated by the increasingly bland character of the capital city of Ulan Bator, she yearned for the real Mongolia and got the chance when she was summoned by the village head to go to Tsengel far away in the west, near the Kazakh border. Her story completely transports the reader to feel the glacial cold and to see the wonders of the Seven Kings as they steadily emerge from the horizon. Through her we sense their trials as well as their joys, rivalries and even hostilities, many of which the author shared or knew about. Her time in the village was marked by coming to terms with the harshness of climate and also by how she faced up to new feelings towards the treatment of animals, death, solitude and real loneliness, and the constant struggle to censor her reactions as an outsider. Above all, Louisa Waugh involves us with the locals’ lives in such a way that we come to know them and care for their fates.

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In Xanadu: A Quest by William Dalrymple

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At the age of twenty-two, William Dalrymple left his college in Cambridge to travel to the ruins of Kublai Khan’s stately pleasure dome in Xanadu. This is an account of a quest which took him and his companions across the width of Asia, along dusty, forgotten roads, through villages and cities full of unexpected hospitality and wildly improbable escapades, to Coleridge’s Xanadu itself.
At once funny and knowledgeable, In Xanadu is in the finest tradition of British travel writing. Told with an exhilarating blend of eloquence, wit, poetry and delight, it is already established as a classic of its kind.

Mission Mongolia: Two Men, One Van, No Turning Back by David Treanor

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It was an empty landscape now with huge horizons in every direction, a compressed, steam-rollered desert where man had no place. We lacked the skills to carry out even basic fixes. If the van stopped working we were really stuck. No one knew where we were and our last mobile phone signal had been 150 miles ago. Fifty-something and tired of arguing with John Humphrys over the day’s headlines, BBC journalists Geoff and David found themselves eagerly volunteering for redundancy. But rather than easing into retirement with the odd round of golf, they decided to buy a van and drive off to Mongolia. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time… In an epic journey through Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Siberia and across the Gobi Desert, they discover more about each other in a few weeks than they did sharing an office for years. Lying in wait are crooked cops, bent border guards and terrible roads, but also welcoming and curious locals, eager to help the pair on their mission.

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