Me-go: Around-the-World

Naadam or Not?


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It’s getting to the point where I need to book my flight. I would like to have it booked by the end of February. One friend I talked to, who has been to South Korea to visit family, said it’s not so great. I asked if Seoul was worth stopping for a few days on my old friend, the Lonely Planet Forum, and someone told me there was plenty to see in a few days. It comes down to if I want to spend $259 to visit Seoul and have the peace of mind that my flight to Mongolia is confirmed.

Aside from the way I get to Mongolia, I’m undecided on when I’m going there. Mongolia’s largest holiday and festival, Naadam, takes place in mid-July. It is a celebration of the founding of the Mongolian State and unification of the Mongol tribes by Chinggis Khaan, otherwise known as Ghenghis Khan, in 1206. Obviously, historians are not counting the 200 or so years in which Mongolia was ruled by the Chinese–nowadays who hasn’t been ruled by the Chinese in one way or another? Originally I had decided that I was going to visit Mongolia in June, just before the festival, to avoid the raised prices and overbooked tours and accommodations. Lately I’ve been reading more about the planned events and getting a little envious. This year marks Mongolia’s 800th anniversary and Naadam should be the biggest event ever. I really did enjoy my time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during it’s Water Festival. The whole town changed for those three days and allowed me to get a glimpse of normal Cambodians interacting and celebrating. I suspect that seeing the 800th anniversary Naadam is a once in a lifetime opportunity I would be a fool to miss. Although the actual sporting events–wrestling, archery and horse racing—look interesting, I am more tempted to reschedule to see the opening ceremony. There should be a large amount of traditional costumes around, which is my favorite thing to see when I am traveling.

On the other hand, the reasons I originally wanted to avoid Naadam are still there. The quote below sums it up:

    February 9, 2006
    Because of planned celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the Mongolian State, the hotel situation in Mongolia will be critical in summer 2006. Embassy Ulaanbaatar is already experiencing difficulty booking large blocks of rooms for this summer. We anticipate that late bookings for individuals will be increasingly difficult in the spring months of April, May and June, and extremely hard to virtually impossible to secure during the high tourist season in July, August and September. Post advises those considering travel to Ulaanbaatar to consider this and make travel plans as far in advance as possible.

    Mongolia has a limited yet growing tourism infrastructure. During summer months it has been common for all the tourist class hotels to be near or at capacity. Many anniversary events are planned throughout the coming year, with a preponderance of the events occurring during the peak tourist season of June through September. The Government of Mongolia along with district and city governments has taken the opportunity to invite public servants and commercial contacts from other countries to witness and participate in events, sometimes block booking entire hotels.

    Most of the events will center in Ulaanbaatar, as the only major city in the country. We anticipate that the increase in tourism combined with limited increase in hotel rooms in the city will result in a critical shortage for all room types, as well as availability of seats on flights to and from Ulaanbaatar.

At this moment I’m leaning toward going for Naadam. I would be in Mongolia a few weeks before and could confirm everything and secure tickets. Hopefully, I could book accommodation in March. I am certain there will be plenty of people looking to share tour and driver expenses around the country–it will only bed a matter of finding them once I get there.

2 responses to “Naadam or Not?”

  1. vlad Avatar

    i think you should totally go for Naadam. i cant even imagine what a 800th year anniversary celebration would be like, but i bet it would be an unmissable event. yeah it will be annoying to have so many toursists there probably, but i’m sure interacting with the locals would be especially fun since everyone will be in a very festive mood. i always hate booking just about anything in advance or being tied down to any specific dates/times/hotels but i think this would totally be worth it!


  2. stu Avatar

    take a tent 🙂