Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 5, 6 & 7: How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

Day 5 - crazy horses

After putting on all out warm clothes on to go to breakfast we enjoyed a nice and relaxed morning. We took a short pony-trek around the hills and if Mum was here I would probably have a few photos on the horse to share on this blog. My pony was very sweet, although Paul had a few problems controlling his with the basics; stop and go.
Later that day we went back to Ulaan Bator with an evening to explore the city.

Day 6 and 7
Our first full day in UB was an early one, with a pick up from our inherited guide from the yurt (ger in Mongolian). We managed to arrange our stay to coincide with the opening ceremony of the Nadam Festival. Tickets were hard to find but we managed or get some without being ripped off (we later met many tourists who had been). Our ticket had 'free' seating, which meant that we could sit on any of the wooden crates. As we were early we had a good choice of prime crates to sit on. After an hour of waiting we realised why our guide insisted on us being so early. The whole area became so crowed with most people having to sit on the floor. The ceremony included processions from the army, officials, dancers, musicians and the president gave a speech. A personal highlight was the army dancing; a sight I never thought I'd see. The dancing can be most likened to the zombie Thriller dance.

Nadam Festival opening ceremony stadium

After the ceremony we took time to find some lunch. Ere had been a power failure across the whole area, which meant that the only places serving food were the few stalls wig gas stoves. The wait for lunch took about 90mins and lunch consisted of deep-fried pancakes with slices of meat inside (a bit like Findus crispy pancakes).
Other events we saw that day was archery, wrestling and the highly thrilling ankle-bone shooting (the anklebone of a sheep is flicked to knock down counters; a Mongolian tiddly-winks!).


Ankle bone shooting (you can feeling the excitement!)

The following morning was an evening earlier start with our guide and husband taking us to the races. This was about an hours drive out of the city. The 5 year old horse racing is the most popular type of horse racing in Mongolia. It was quite an unusual sight as the jockeys are between the ages on 7-10 (a law has been passed to protect children under the age of 7 from riding). The horses walk for 25km and the then race back 25km. Needless to say the 25km walk was not the most enthralling entertainment. Not to worry, the army were on hand to show us some impressive moves in their horses. Finally the horses were running the final part of their race and the excitement of seeing the horses pass lasted about 5 mins and then in true Mongolian style, everyone tried to leave at the same time result in a lot of chaos, pushing and shoving.

An official at the horse racing

Spectator's selfie with our guide and her husband 
Underage jockeys racing for the finishing line

The next challenge was finding where we had parked the car. after about an hour of looking it was eventually found. Next was to leave and join the traffic. Bored of the queues on the track, it was far more productive to drive through a field and race with the other cars. Relieved to still be alive we made it back to our apartment, ready to check out.
With five hours left before we had to catch our next train we went in a mission to find the vegetarian restaurant. I never thought I would be so sick of meat but with a lack of vegetables and eating just dark meat,  the thought of a vegetarian restaurant was quite appealing. When we found the restaurant (incidentally it was the No. 1 restaurant in Trip Advisor) we discovered many like minded tourists in need of the some vegetables.

Back to the train station. Next stop Irkutsk, Russia.

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