Impressions from four months in Mongolia, starting at the beginning of April 2011. "Sonin yu baina?" is Mongolian for "What's new?".
I'm here to learn basic Mongolian but first and foremost to volunteer as an English teacher.
Tonight I'm going back to Europe, so this is my last post. The past four months have certainly been the most eventful in my life.
Thank you for reading my blog!
PS Most buses in UB have television on board, and all (I think) have music. Bus rides sometimes are very uncomfortable due to the number of passengers on board and the traffic jams, but at least the music makes the ride a little easier to endure.
The itinerary of my 11-day trip to the countryside:
Mongol Els (sand dunes) - Kharkhorin and Erdene Zuu Monastery - Tsenher hot springs - Tsagaan Nuur (White Lake) - Zuun Nuur - Khovsgol Lake - Erdenet - Amarbayasgalant Monastery. I went alone with a guide and a driver in a very comfortable jeep.
Mongol Els. Just like a miniature Gobi.
Sunset and full moon. I did not enhance the colors or anything like that.
Detail from Erdene Zuu Monastery in Kharkhorin.
This is in the Arkhangai province. The scenery was stunningly beautiful the whole day, I didn't know when to take pictures.
Why ride only on land?
We were going to have marmot for dinner, prepared in the traditional way by a local herder: hot stones are put into the marmot skin. However, before the cooking was finished a policeman arrived and confiscated the marmot - apparently marmot hunting is prohibited in that area ...
The guide, whose tasks included preparing our meals, immediately starting peeling carrots instead. From marmot to carrot.
A very Mongolian view.
Definitely the scariest bridge I ever crossed.
Lamb skins being dried.
Meat storage on a ger wall. My bed was adjacent to this storage place.
Khovsgol Lake. It's one of the biggest fresh water reserves in the world. It's also one of the coldest places in Mongolia - in the winter temperatures around -50 degrees C are not unusual.
An accomplished rider, as you can see.
This very friendly lady owned the ger we stayed in.
One morning a yak was slaughtered.
Morning sun after a rainy night.
The Selenge river.
The meat market in Erdenet, Mongolia's 3rd largest city (70 000 inhabitants).
Amarbayasgalant Monastery, in the middle of nowhere. This place should be on the list of '100 things to see before you die'. So peaceful, so beautiful.
Sunset at Amarbayasgalant. Natural colors, I promise.
After much trouble we finally got tickets to the Naadam opening ceremony in the National Stadium in UB and the events of the first day, wrestling and archery.
After a very solemn start, part of which is shown in the picture here, the opening ceremony continued with a parade where local companies advertised their products and services. This seemed somewhat out of place, but I suppose it's a good way to finance (part of) the event.
I apologise that almost everyone in the pictures turns their back to you, but unfortunately our seats were on the "non-VIP" side of the stadium - all action took place facing the President on the opposite side.
The stadium suddenly transformed into a battle field with Mongolian warriors from different epochs, with some emphasis on the most glorious era, of course.
Some of the 999 horse-headed fiddle players. Impressive is a clear understatement.
Many Mongolians wore traditional outfits. Just look at this silver-ornamented hat!
Many wrestling matches were going on at the same time on this first day. Even though I actually watched the finals on TV the day after (I didn't really mean to, it just happened that way), I can't inform you about the fate of these two gentlemen.
In the archery stadium the President, Mr Ts. Elbegdorj, shot the first arrow to open the competition. If he had participated he wouldn't have won.
The lady sitting next to me was going to take part in the competition. She let me try her bow. Her slightly amused and condescending smile says it all.
All participants wore traditional clothing, something which made the archery competition a true pleasure to watch, regardless of the athletic achievements.
The horse-racing took place in the countryside (of course). We were eight volunteers who met up early in the morning to try to figure out how to get there. We soon got on an incredibly crammed bus and after about a little less than two hours we reached the destination some 30 km outside UB. It was a very pleasant sunny day, and just being in the countryside was a enjoyable in itself.
It's children riding the horses, some with saddles, some without, some with helmets, some without.
The winner. This horse was way ahead of the others.
I hope the child who fell off didn't get too badly hurt. In the Arkhangai province there was a fatal accident of this kind during Naadam.
Going home proved to be extremely tiring. We took a bus, of course we got no seats, and the bus immediately got stuck in a traffic jam. It took four hours in all before we were at home. But we were happy to have seen all three manly sports!
Sorry, I haven't had time to blog these last few days, too busy with all the Naadam activities, and now I'm off on an 11 day camping trip to central and northern Mongolia. I will have no opportunity to blog until I'm back.
Naadam is approaching! Actually it starts tomorrow (11 July) and goes on for three days. I'm hoping to get a ticket for the opening ceremony ... During Naadam competitions are held in the three manly sports: wrestling, archery and horse racing. Read more here: Naadam
Preparations have been going on for a few days now, with performances of different kinds in Sukhbaatar square, with people driving around with Mongolian flags fluttering on their cars, with people being generally excited and with traffic jams that are endless and that go on until past midnight (or around the clock, I haven't been awake to check).
Policemen (or soldiers?) singing like professionals on Sukhbaatar square last Thursday.
Elegant police lady (NB her high heels) trying to reduce chaos with a colleague.
Building dressed up for the festivities.
Just some ordinary people singing and playing on the Sukhbaatar square stage last Friday.