Exploring the far reaches of Mongolia

The Rotary Club of Honiton recently invited the granddaughter of the group s president to speak about her trip to the Far East.

The Rotary Club of Honiton recently invited the granddaughter of the group's president to speak about her trip to the Far East.

John Dalton was one of those in the audience to hear what she had to say. He writes ...

It is far from unusual to hear of today's young people roughing it and backpacking to far flung places, often when taking a gap year before going to university.

India, Vietnam, Thailand, South America and most parts of Europe are often the choice but it is rare to hear of Mongolia being the chosen place for adventure.

This is where Ingrid Criddle, granddaughter of Honiton Rotary Club president Ron Galling, decided to go immediately after she had graduated in Asia Pacific studies and international relations from the University of Leeds in June 2008, and at the Rotarians' last meeting she went along to tell them of her experiences.

She was offered a three-month internship with Asia Pacific Investment Partners and jumped at the chance of seeing this little-known part of the world.

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In her illustrated talk she spoke of the country's geography, history and economy.

She explained that Mongolia is a huge land-locked country, about three times the size of France, sandwiched between Russia and China, both of which have played a significant part in the country's history.

It was the great warlord Genghis Khan, who founded Mongolia in 1206 and brought most of Asia under his control.

Following the demise of the Mongol Empire, China took over until, in 1911, the country declared its independence, although it did not become a reality until 1921. Russian influence decided its political stance from 1924 until 1990 when, along with the Soviet bloc, it adopted a democratic system and a transition to a market economy.

Much of the country is mountainous and taken up by the Gobi Desert, but the majority consists of Steppes, where 30 per cent of the three million population still live a nomadic life.

Although based in Ulan Batur, the capital, which now has many of the trappings of a modern city, Ingrid was able to travel into these nomadic areas and meet the people.

In answer to a question she said that she felt completely safe while there.

In addition to the Rotarians listening to Ingrid's talk, there were a large number of business and professional people who had been specially invited to join them for lunch.

Anyone wishing to know more of the work of the Rotary Club can ring the secretary, Derek Yates, on 01404 42996.