Found fault with guide in Mongolia

This item appears on page 26 of the May 2008 issue.

My husband and I took the tour “From Mystical Tibet to Nomadic Mongolia,” May 29-June 13, 2007, with Nomadic Expeditions.

The land cost per person was $4,695. Internal airfare (Beijing-Lhasa-Beijing and Beijing-Ulaanbaatar-Gobi-Ulaanbaatar) was included, and the trip “ended” in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; participants had to additionally buy airfare from Ulaanbaatar back to Beijing.

We and another couple who had signed up with Nomadic Expeditions traveled with five others who had signed up with MIR Corp.; the companies’ brochures for this tour were identical.

The Tibet portion of the trip was really good, but Bayana, the guide who was with us for the entire trip, developed an “attitude” problem in Mongolia, in my opinion.

She was enthusiastic while we were in Tibet (and we had a local guide while there), but in Mongolia, her home territory, I felt she was argumentative with the participants and, for the most part, acted as if she were bored. Efforts to talk with her resulted in one-word answers or grunts.

On more than one occasion she changed the departure time to an earlier time and neglected to tell all of the participants.

I would recommend visiting Tibet and Mongolia, but what could/should have been a wonderful trip for us was diminished by this guide’s behavior.

In addition, when we flew from Ulaanbaatar to the Gobi, our flight was delayed because of wind. I noticed on the flight board that the flight from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing was delayed on that day, also.

At tour’s end, wind conditions at the Ulaanbaatar airport were such that we were delayed departing for Beijing by almost 20 hours. Instead of leaving at 6:25 a.m. on June 13, we left at 2:12 a.m. on June 14. I had to go back to downtown Ulaanbaatar to the MIAT Mongolian Airlines office to get my tickets from Beijing to the U.S. changed. Nomadic Expeditions did not assist with this problem.

I recommend that anyone trying to fly home from Ulaanbaatar allow at least 24 hours in Beijing because this would seem to be a common problem, although Mongolian Airlines denied that.


McRae, GA

In Ms. Fraiser’s post-trip evaluation to Nomadic Expeditions, she wrote, “At the ger camp, Bayana told us there was hot water when all of us had taken freezing cold showers because there was no hot water. . . . The driver in Tibet talked on his cell phone most of the time and at times we couldn’t hear what the guide was saying because of the driver. . . . The student workers at the camp (in Mongolia) were helpful and cheerful. One took some participants out to see a burial ground and some petroglyphs. When they told Bayana, she told them the students had taken them out to ‘fake’ petroglyphs. The next morning she took the group out to the same petroglyphs, only now they were ‘real.’… In the Gobi we were taken on long drives, and at each of the stops we were given about 15 minutes! The exception was the ‘glacier,’ but even there Bayana knew nothing about the geology, etc.”

ITN sent a copy of the above letter and the evaluation comments to Nomadic Expeditions and received the following reply.

We appreciate ITN sending us the complaint involving our company.

We take to heart Ms. Fraiser’s complaints regarding the guide’s behavior during the Mongolia portion of the trip. Bayana is consistently ranked as one of the best guides in Mongolia and serves as the chair and lead trainer of the Mongolian Guides Association. She typically receives glowing evaluations from our trip participants because of her extensive knowledge for, and patriotism of, her native country.

We are both surprised and disappointed to hear that she did not perform to the best of her ability on the Mongolia portion of this departure. We have spoken at length with Bayana regarding the issues Ms. Fraiser raised in her post-trip evaluation and in her letter to ITN. Bayana wishes to express her apologies for any way in which she may have contributed to Ms. Fraiser’s complaints.

Ms. Fraiser is right on the mark in her statement that flight delays in Mongolia are common. Although delays can be frustrating for travelers, we are grateful that Mongolian airline companies operate with caution and will delay a flight if they feel weather conditions are unsafe. In our detailed itineraries and extensive Pre-Departure Information Packet, trip participants are informed to expect delays.

Our team in Mongolia strives to assist our travelers to the best of their ability when delays occur. Unfortunately, the Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar does not allow our guides to assist travelers during check-in for international flights.

The announcement of Ms. Frasier’s flight delay occurred after the guide and driver bid farewell to Ms. Fraiser at the airport. Our office staff attempted to help her rebook her United Airlines flights from Beijing to the United States through the United Airlines and Air Trans ticketing companies’ offices in Ulaanbaatar, however she seemed to feel that this advice was incorrect.

Our company prides itself on providing exceptional, high-quality expeditions in the remote corners of Asia. We regret any negative experience Ms. Fraiser had and value her feedback to us. We certainly appreciate ITN for serving as a forum where travelers can voice their feedback and travel companies have the opportunity to respond.

LAUREN BONILLA, Program Director, Nomadic Expeditions, 1095 Cranbury-South River Rd., Ste. 20A, Monroe Township, NJ 08831