There is a saying: “Grasp the chopsticks aloft, and destiny shall carry you afar in matrimony.” But for the sake of love, how great a distance would you traverse? Yili, with unwavering resolve, set her sights upon a journey spanning 3,000 kilometres. From the enchanting city of Taichung to the majestic capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, she embraced her new role as a Mongolian bride. In this foreign land, she gracefully assimilated, planting her roots deep within the earth, while ardently cultivating a genuine affection for her adopted home.
To marry afar is not a compromise,Yili
but a serendipitous intertwining of fate and choice.
Mongolia’s letter resembles Russian, while its spoken language resonates faintly with the cadence of Korean. Venture beyond the urban confines, and an expansive canvas unfurls—rolling grasslands that stretch to the horizon and the untamed Gobi Desert, where swirling sands weave tales of their own. For those yet to experience the mystique of Mongolia, fleeting fragments emerge from the depths of imagination: a melodic echo of “Genghis Khan”, “Geng Geng Genghis Khan” or “HOO HA HOO HA” by George Lam…
Yili, nurtured in the cradle of Taichung from her earliest days, took her first steps into Mongolia in late June 2012, as part of an academic exchange program. She spent a month there, dividing her time between the urban and rural landscapes. At that time, Mongolia’s cities had not yet embraced full urbanisation, with the tallest buildings barely reaching ten floors. The road from the airport to the city centre was adorned with only a few scattered streetlights. Despite being a foreign land, as Yili gazed upon the expanse of dusty roads, an indescribable sense of familiarity enveloped her heart, akin to returning to the quaint countryside of her grandmother’s home in Tainan. Upon departure, a resolute determination took hold within her, assuring that she would return to this place. This conviction grew even stronger, leading her to embark on a new life as a Mongolian bride at the end of 2015.
The 3-year long distance relationship
Although Taiwan and Mongolia share the same time zone, the flow of time in these two lands diverge in essence.
Once Mr. Mongolia leaves the urban areas, connectivity becomes scarce and contact becomes a challenge. Only those who have experienced it firsthand truly understand the dreadful road conditions in Mongolia: what could be a two-hour journey might stretch into five hours, rendering distance an unreliable measure of travel time. “Just like these past few days when it rained, Mr. Mongolia’s usual commute of thirty to forty minutes turned into over three hours without reaching the office,” Yili chuckled. During the three years of long-distance separation, the couple found themselves apart, unable to meet or locate each other, thus lacking a sense of security. Even when Yili’s friends couldn’t help but exclaim, “How is that possible? He must be out having fun!” Yili’s trust in her partner remained unwavering.
At the time, Yili was working in the travel service industry, occupying a minor managerial position. Her job offered some flexibility, allowing her to schedule her time around the off-peak seasons. Every year, she would spend two months in Mongolia. When Mr. Mongolia had business trips to Hong Kong, they could arrange meetings there. However, as Yili’s career progressed, she knew that taking extended vacations would no longer be feasible. Moreover, Mr. Mongolia had greater opportunities in his local profession, and she did not want him to give up his original career path.
They faced the momentous decision that looms over every long-distance love affair: What path shall their future tread? During their final rendezvous in Mongolia, a silent determination blossomed within her heart. “Either we take the next step together or we part ways,” she resolved. Yili understood that this struggle encompassed more than just their relationship, it held the weight of choosing between her career and the next chapter of her life. Mr. Mongolia, too, spoke candidly, acknowledging the hardships of starting afresh in his homeland. At the age of 30, a turning point that many envision as a significant juncture in life, Yili, at 28, grappled with the weight of this decision, torn between diverging paths.
Yili grew up in a traditional Taiwanese household, “My family neither opposed nor supported me.” she recounted. Confronted with their daughter’s decision to marry afar, her parents conveyed a blend of support and reluctance. “I may not fully endorse your path, but I offer my heartfelt blessings. I understand the arduous journey that lies ahead, yet I wish to shield you from any future regrets.” This sentiment, perchance, exemplifies a father’s profound struggle and his unwavering support for his daughter. With this cherished blessing as her compass and her family as her unwavering pillar, Yili fearlessly relinquished her ties to Taiwan, embarking on an early marriage, and embracing the role of a Mongolian bride.
Embarking on a journey of rediscovery in this liberating realm, Yili described the stark contrast between Mongolia and Taiwan, noting the absence of rigid regulations in Mongolia and the embrace of spontaneity. Comparing Mongolia to Taiwan, she noted the lack of strict rules and regulations, where everything flowed with an easy spontaneity. Letting go of the convenience of materialistic abundance in Taiwan, she embraced the vast opportunities to connect with nature, discovering the pure and unadorned essence of rural living. Embracing a philosophy of minimalism, she embarked on a quest for inner harmony and liberation, seeking a life that transcended material possessions.
Despite her limited knowledge of the language, Yili managed to navigate life in this new land. However, fully assimilating into the local culture and engaging in profound conversations proved to be a challenge. These aspects were not without their difficulties for Yili, but since she had made the decision, she took full responsibility for her choices. Both Yili and Mr. Mongolia held the esteemed position of eldest child in their respective families, and their parents’ demanding work schedules meant they had spent much of their childhood without their presence. After heartfelt discussions, Yili made the courageous decision to embrace the role of a full-time mother, devoting herself primarily to the care of their two children. With their parents residing in Taiwan and her in-laws living in the rural outskirts, they faced their daily struggles without a support network. Despite the hardships, Yili cherished the life they had crafted.
Occasionally, when they ventured to Mr. Mongolia’s ancestral home in the countryside with their children, Yili acknowledged the need to approach this different way of life with an open mind. “No bathing facilities, no running water in the countryside, and no toilets. Cooking required starting a fire, and every task took twice as long to complete. However, as I learned about the nomadic culture and their harmonious coexistence with nature, I gradually embraced and even grew to love it,” Yili candidly shared.
She fondly recalls her initial visit to the countryside, where her mother-in-law asked if there was anything particular she craved. To her astonishment, Yili replied, “Can I have some rice? It’s been a whole week since I last had any!” In Taiwan, where rice reigns supreme as the staple food, its significance differs in Mongolia, particularly in traditional pastoral areas. Flour takes centre stage, and they have a predilection for meat, potatoes, dumplings, and stir-fried noodles. Vegetables are not readily available, and maintaining a wholesome diet comes at a premium, with vegetables and fruits priced significantly higher. These culinary disparities present an additional challenge, yet they have also kindled Yili’s entrepreneurial spirit. She envisions embarking on a joint venture with friends after her younger son starts preschool in September, aiming to introduce the delectable flavours of Taiwanese vegetarian cuisine to Mongolia.
Thinking that she enjoyed the independence and a bit of distance from her family, Yili used to make an annual trip back to Taiwan to visit her parents. However, the three years of the pandemic kept her away from her hometown for over 21 months, and it wasn’t until the end of last year that she finally returned and reunited with her loved ones. As her parents grew older, it became inevitable that their daughter couldn’t always be by their side, a reality that tugged at her heartstrings. The family and friends surrounding her understood her independent nature and her penchant for challenging herself, and they continuously supported her through their actions. After her marriage, they personally travelled to Mongolia to witness her new life, leaving a deep impression on this Mongolian bride who had ventured far from home.
She embodies the roles of a Mongolian daughter-in-law, a Mongolian mother, and a Taiwanese daughter. Yet, irrespective of these roles, she remains Yili—a girl who traversed 3,000 kilometres in the name of love.
P.S. For those interested in delving deeper into Mongolian travel information, current affairs, or personal narratives, don’t hesitate to explore her Instagram and blog: