This beautiful afternoon, sunshine and around 15 degrees (above zero, I should perhaps add J), I was taken around town by Sayo, the Projects Abroad staff member who also met me at the airport. Since I already knew the main sights from before, our most important mission was to get me a SIM-card, something we succeeded in in no time at all.
We then went on to Gandan, the biggest and most important monastery in Ulaanbaatar. The main religion here is Tibetan buddhism (yellow hat sect). There were very few people around, a peaceful atmosphere reigned all over the big premises. In one of the side buildings, where scriptures are usually recited, some monks were rehearsing to perform the Tsam dance. Watch Tsam by clicking here.
By touching this pole, your wish for something positive to happen may come true. Not silly things, like winning a million dollars, though, says Sayo. It needs to be something that makes you profoundly a happier and more peaceful person. Most people come to wish for good health or recovery from some illness.
Sayo showed me a small sculpture and told me a tale: There once was a beautiful apple tree with plenty of juicy apples near the top. Some animals wanted to eat the lovely fruits, but they were too small to reach them. They then had the idea that if the biggest one, an elephant, stood at the bottom, the others could climb on top of each other and that way they could all pick the apples they wanted. Mongolian parents bring their children to see the sculpture and tell them this story to illustrate that alone you can’t reach very high but together we can reach much higher and be a lot stronger!
Sayo then brought me into a building which I believed was the ticket office for some special part of the monastery. No tickets were delivered at the counter. Instead we received small plastic bags with yellow water in them. This water is supposed to be high in energy and very pure. I followed Sayo’s instructions and poured some of it in my right hand and rubbed it into the top of my head to purify myself. The yellow colour is derived from some kind of plant, just don't ask me what it's called!