Lonely Planet Mongolia Guide Book
Order the New Mongolia Lonely Planet!
Written by Michael Kohn
* Paperback: 296 pages
* Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications; 4th edition (July 30, 2005)
* Language: English
* ISBN: 1740593596
* Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
I recently returned from a trip to Mongolia, where the Lonely Planet Mongolia guide was my principal source of information.
I am an experienced world traveler, and have had both up-to-date and out-of-date guidebooks with me. I have had books where I agreed with the characterizations in the books, and others where the characterizations seemed far off. Despite being a few years out of date when I bought it, this guide performed extremely well by both standards. The objective information all remained remarkably accurate and up-to-date, and the subjective characterizations were pretty much on the mark as well. Right on down to the small details, such as which museums make you pay a photography fee, which ger camps are more attractively located, and so forth. The history provided in the book is also very relevant; though not extensive, I was struck by how, during my travels, the history I encountered had pretty much all been laid out in the Guide.
I had a splendid time in Mongolia, and have come away with a warm feeling towards Mongolia and the absolutely wonderful people there. I would definitely object if, as some other reviews here have stated, the book took a patronizing or negative tone towards Mongolia. I frankly do not see this at all. It is candid in noting a few of the issues that confront a traveler to Mongolia, but this is vital information to know. I followed the instructions on "things to pack" for Mongolia, and I'm very glad I did; I used all that stuff along the way at some point -- the flashlight, the extra batteries, the bar of soap, the gifts for ger visits, the WetWipes, the bug repellent, etc. Rarely have I been so well prepared by a Guidebook.
If anything, I believe the book understates some of the things for which travelers should be prepared. It describes Ulaan Baatar as a "pleasant" capital city with many interesting restaurants, similar to a middle-sized European city. I enjoyed UB very much, but I know many people who would not regard it as "pleasant" at all: it is filled with hideous Stalinist architecture, it is polluted, and in many places very dilapidated. I found it stimulating and having much to offer, but many vacationers would not enjoy it, and the LP Guide probably downplays these aspects a bit. It also downplays the fact that even at the "touristy" ger camps, you're more likely to have a swarm of insects in your tent at night than to encounter any hot water pressure in the shower at the communal bathroom.
Mongolia is a wonderful place to visit, but it is not for everyone. I saw the LP Guide on the person of many a tourist there, and with good reason; it's an outstanding and indispensable guide.
Why not 5 stars? Well, there could be more. Mongolia is a big country, and this is a thin book by LP standards. Could use a little updating for some of the more recently constructed accommodations. Also could simply use more of everything -- it was a little hard to get a sense ahead of time as to what was worth visiting, because some of the regions of the country are not discussed in significant detail.
Bottom line: great guide, could be improved simply by offering more of the same.
Updated: February 25, 2006