Jamie Metzl is a modern day renaissance man -- a novelist, extreme endurance athlete, senior U.S. policy aide, and also a bonafide Asia expert.
Metzl has traveled extensively in the region, earned a Ph.D. in Asian history from Oxford, served as executive vice president of the prestigious Asia Society, and advised numerous governments in Asia, including even North Korea's.
I spoke with Metzl recently (he's promoting his new novel, "Genesis Code") and asked if he could recommend a favorite travel destination in Asia. "Oh, that's an easy one," he said. "I absolutely love Mongolia, it is such a magical place. The Gobi Desert is actually where most of the dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural History come from."
He continued: "As opposed to China, Mongolia is this huge country with a very small number of people. Everyone has their little tent -- the Turkic word is yurt, but in Mongolia it's call a ger, and you're miles away from everybody else. So there's this expansive frontier culture, a culture of welcoming and of self-reliance and of not wanting to be part of some system that's going to oppress you.
"And the people, at least my Mongolian friends -- I certainly don't vouch for every Mongolian -- but they're just such a creative, fun-loving, big-hearted people. They're not the only people in the world that way, but it's certainly in a way that's touched me."
Below, some beautiful shots from around Mongolia:
A row of Mongolian gers
Sunset over Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
The Gobi Desert