Me-go: Around-the-World

Two Lakes, Two Monasteries and One Mini Naadam


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When I think about Mongolia I envision green hills, blue skies and the Gobi Desert. Victoria, the woman I met to travel with in Mongolia, and I decided that we wanted to see all of those parts of Mongolia. It can look small on a map, dwarfed by Russia and China, but Mongolia is a big country. The lack of paved roads outside the capital and routes to the Russian and Chinese border make the country seem even bigger. Originally I wanted to find a small group of people to rent a jeep for a 22 day journey but it soon became clear that few people were staying in Mongolia for that length of time. In fact, most non-Peace Core people I met in Ulaan Baatar were staying less than seven days! Victoria and I decided to go along with the first group we found and it turned out that we visited the lakes first. This turned out to be a good decision because after ten days in a van we needed showers and some Western food to get ourselves ready for the next trip.

Our group was decided one night before: myself, Victoria—an engineer from Northern Ireland, Bob—a Texan who has been teaching at an international school in China for five years and Henry—a horse doctor from Portugal who has spent much of his life living in Macau. We roughly divided up who was going to get the butane gas for the stove, toilet paper and instant noodles and headed in our own directions.

The next morning we didn’t plan to leave until one because Bob had just arrived and wanted to rush around the city to see some sights. When we gathered at the guesthouse we discovered that another person had been added—Ho, a Buddhist monk from Singapore. I was the youngest on the trip with two of my travel partners over 40. My first impression of the group was that Bob would be a problem because he had a train to be back for and he seemed very specific about the details of the trip but he turned out to be incredibly interesting and the highlight of the group. I also thought that the monk would be a problem but he was like no monk I’ve ever observed, which gave all of us plenty to joke about.

Day 1: Karakorum
We packed our bags and food into our white Russian jeep and took off through the city. Our driver, Neema, stopped off for a spare tire on the way out of town and we were quickly surrounded by rolling green hill-like mountains covered in short, sparse grass. A paved road lead out of the city but quickly turned into a potholed mess. We had a rough idea of what sort of things we would see and how long each day’s driving would be but Neema didn’t speak English and it took us a day or two to get our routine down. Toward the end of the day we stopped at a small sand dune ( a consolation to those who wouldn’t be going to The Gobi) where I first noticed that the ground was littered with sun bleached animal bones and shoes. This would hold true for the first half of our trip, even in cities like Tsetserleg.

After a half hour at the dunes we headed on, hoping to get to Karakorum early. Those hopes were dashed along an empty road where we pulled over with a flat tire. Neema threw an extra tire out onto the ground and gestured to a pump which we all tried to use. The pump’s suction was broken and none of us were successful, not even Ho, but my triceps got a nice workout. meanwhile Neema struggled to pry the punctured tire from the axel. We took turns standing on the tire and eventually it popped free. None of us understood why he took out the intertube and replaced it instead of using the spare, but we waited and helped align the nossel but were completely useless at pumping the tire with Neema’s tiny pump. Imagine trying to inflate a completely flat intertube with a broken bicycle pump and you will understand why we were standing in the golden sunlight for over an hour.

We were all a bit worried that we had already had a flat, we apparently only had a broken pump and no one who drove by even paused to help us. Neema seemed pretty happy with himself so we continued on to Karakorum, the capital created from Chinggis Khan’s reign. As we pulled around the monastery walls the sun had disappeared and been replaced by a purple sky. We stopped to take photos before pulling into the family’s home we would be sleeping at.

In Mongolian towns each property is surrounded by a high wooden fence, sometimes made of mismatched pieces of wood and completed by a metal door. Each house has a wooden fence and metal door, never a wooden door or metal fence. Inside the yard sat a small wooden shack where the family lived, three gers for tourists and an outhouse. It was around 10pm when we arrived and our host rushed to make us dinner. Henry decided he wanted a beer and Bob and I agreed that we would have one too. The woman at the house said that it would be easy to buy one in town and asked us to get the money ready. I realized she was sending our driver and felt bad because he must have been tired. But when I tried to give him our money he gestured to the car and made me come with him. Driving in the front seat of a van with no seatbelts in the dark was pretty scary. The two stores in town resembled general stores from a Western, but with modern supplies. The shop was bustling for that late at night and I choose three beers while Neema bought what turned out to be our breakfast the next morning. Outside a young man in a cowboy hat and traditional Del robe had tied up his horse to come inside. The local children were playing basketball against wooden backboards with no lines of net.

I told Neema where I was from and it finally clicked when I said “Michael Jordan.” Surprisingly, basketball seems to be played here more often than soccer. After I mentioned Jordan Neema got really excited and gestured around, letting the van steer itself over the huge ruts in the road. When we got back dinner had been served (dumplings) and Henry complained that I had bought cans instead of bottles. I simply raised an eyebrow and started eating.

Ho pumping the tire Inside our first ger Inside the walls of Erdene Zum Monastery Megan at Erdene Zum Monastery Megan at Erdene Zum Monastery Young monks calling everyone to prayerDinner

Day 2: Tsetserleg
The next morning we set off across town to see the monastery named Erdene Zuu. It is one of only a handful of religious sites left somewhat intact after the Russian’s purification campaigns where many monks were killed or “relocated.” The site is surrounded by a tall, white brick wall. Along the top of the walls sit a total of 108 stupas. The white walls stand out beautifully against the green mountains. Inside are maybe a dozen buildings in various architectural styles. The buildings aren’t well maintained, but the Tibetian style temple was in use by the monks residing there. While we were looking around two small monks climbed up a platform, put on yellow hats and blew into shells decorated with ribbons. They were very good at turning around the second you released your shutter. A few persistent photographers stood below, waiting for them to let their guard down for twenty minutes. After we had given up we heard a strange quacking noise. We assumed it was a tourist trying to get the boys to turn around but it turned out to be an Italian tour group leader’s method of calling his group. The man continued to quack and soon lead out a group of older Italian tourists with scarily applied sunscreen.

Outside one of the gates was a large stone turtle which was one of the four original markers that indicated the city’s limits. There aren’t many ruins in Mongolia because nomads don’t usually build permanent structures. The turtle is a symbol or protection on Mongolian culture, but Victoria and I agree that we would choose a more intimidating, or at least quicker, animal to protect us. Wooden tables littered with souvenirs (made in China, surely) formed a horseshoe around the turtle, surrounding us with expectation.

We met Neema back at the car where a local had given Bob a plastic coke bottle filled with horse milk. I didn’t want to try it but I decided that I should while had the opportunity—the best description I can give you is it tasted like watered down sour cream that had been sitting in the sun for an afternoon and had started to spoil. Neema put the bottle in his personal stash and we headed up a hill to see a phallic rock and another city marker. On the way out of town was a modern teepee-shaped structure covered in a mosaic depicting Mongolia’s conquests across Asia and Europe.

After a surprisingly good meal at a local restaurant we finally got out of Karakorum around two in the afternoon and I feared we would be heading out late every day for the rest of our trip. When we arrived in Tsetserleg a few hours later we were all tired and grumpy. Some people wanted to go directly to the English-owned restaurant in town while others wanted to go to the museum. The problem was that both closed at 6pm. We asked if the restaurant would stay open an hour later for us and they agreed. Henry asked for it to stay open 3 hours late which confused the waitstaff—I noticed a trend in his behavior at this point. I was happy they would stay open late at all, and I thought it was quite rude to ask for so much.

Victoria and I walked around town as I scouted interesting signs to photograph. The main billboards in countryside towns seem to be for banks and the bank representative usually looks about 12 years old in the ad. The locals alternating between looking at us curiously and completely ignoring us. Lots of stray dogs roamed around, feeling each other out. Dinner was pretty good for the countryside, but not worth a lot of extra effort after only being away from the city for one day. The family we stayed with asked Ho to pray for him so he sat inside their wooden house, chanting away. I had to take a photo of Ho ironing in the ger and when I asked if it was okay he replied that it was okay as long as it was for “my own personal use.” One woman noticed me photographing Ho and asked me to photograph them together. I really didn’t want to because then you know they want a copy. I can not easily get her a copy but she went on and on about it, even tapping on my window as we drove away the next morning. If I can find a photo place in UB that can print from a USB drive I will send it to her but it will cost me more than I spent to stay at her house to send it from the US.

Similarly, Bob and I went out walking around sunset that night and we saw a woman with her son. They seemed to have just gone through a garbage dump and the little boy was playing with a broken high heeled shoe. Still, they were so happy and we the first truly happy-looking Mongolians we had seen. If I do manage to send the mean lady at the guesthouse a photo I will send along photos for the poor family and hope that they can pass them along. Bob and I also saw a little boy under five who was hiding under a truck’s wheels. He wanted to see us but at the same time was trying to hide. As we said “saibinoo” to him he peeked his head out. After we got a safe distance down the road he ran out waving and shouting “goodbye! goodbye!” until we couldn’t see him anymore.

Lunch: Meat patty, rice, potatoes and a fried egg Kids play outside our resturaunt in Karakorum Megan outside of Tsetserleg Family dog The drivers and family members play basketball at sunset Ho irons his robes in the ger Dinner at the English-owned restaurant

Day 3: Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur
Day three was a lot of driving but the terrain got more and more beautiful. It rained for the entire morning, lightly but with large drops. We stopped for lunch at a canyon with a small river running through surrounded by pine trees. The ground was littered with rocks and looked like a moonscape. By the time we saw the black volcanic mountain we were excited to be near the lake. We stopped for gas before entering the national park and tried to take photos of the locals filling their gas tanks.

Neema pushed the van up most of the old volcano and we hiked another 20 minutes to the top of the crater. The view from the top was beautiful with smooth green mountaintops poking through the evergreens surrounding the lake. Eagles swooped over the reddish crater while I took one of my cartwheel photos. We weren’t far from out ger and we kept hoping it would be in a good location as we passed other tourist camps. One camp had bright orange gers and Neema shook his finger saying “Orange… No Mongol!”

Lunch stop at a canyon Ho peacefully eating lunch on his rock Prayer tree in the middle of the road Bob and Ho look for more volcanic craters

Our ger with with another family who had their own two story log cabin and satellite dish. We left Ho in the ger to walk in circles (which helps him to meditate apparently) and hiked up the nearest mountain to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, large parts of the area are swarming with annoying flies that stick to anything moving. We could see Ho below, a yellow dot walking around the gers.

We had the next day free because the 10 day tripped allowed us two extra non-driving days to spend where we liked. I slept in because the ger had the nicest beds on our trip so far and I had spent the previous night on the ground in a sleeping bag because the bed was so unsupportive it was practically a hammock. We had arranged to go horse riding and were ready just before 10. As Ho walked out the guide eyed him suspiciously and made him change out of his sandals. I asked if he owned any pants at all (he was wearing a sarong with no underwear) and he put on a pair of yellow shorts. If he hadn’t it might have been a very interesting first time on a horse for him.

Ho’s horse didn’t want to move and hitting it with his gloves didn’t work (other than to make us laugh). We went ahead while the guide hit Ho’s horse with a whip but we never got over a trot and mostly walked around the lakeshore. I had hoped to trot up to the top of one of the mountains and along the ridge but I guess they are fairly careful with foreigners. We didn’t have traditional wooden Mongolian saddles, ours were more like leather pillows tied around the horse.

I spent the rest of the day painting and walking around the lake. Henry was really sick and spent most of the day in bed with a fever. He had watched the Portugal match in the family’s home the night before and caught a chill. I must have been really tired because I had a nap that was a really deep sleep for a few hours. The days are so long in Mongolia that you don’t want to go to bed before midnight but are woken up early by the bright sun streaming in the top of the ger.

Megan overlooking The White Lake before sunset Toilet Megan brushing her teeth at the portable sink Evidence! Megan on a horse Monk on a horse! He didn't want to get wind on his face... Making lunch in the ger

Day 5: Moron
We were dreading the road to Moron because we knew it was going to be rough and bad. It was the one area on our map that didn’t show a road at all. We left the lake early and got caught in the rain again. The valley was flooded with water and we had to drive around to find a crossing for a newly formed river. Neema was worried about the car (he was very careful with it and washed it every day) and waded through the crossing to check for rocks. The cold rain was nice inside the car because it tended to overheat. In fact, the heating hoses didn’t lead outside, only to the front passenger seat and behind it. Add to the that the smell of gasoline and a rocking motion and you have a van full of sleeping passengers.

We noticed more farming and organized work closer to Moron Moron looks nice from afar Typical bed One of Moron's statues Moron's pretty desolate, especially in the morning Broken tiles line the sidewalks Moron's produce section

The track came and went, all dirt and a lot of it rocks. As we drove North we saw many more evergreens and more streams. Every once in a while we would climb over a mountain pass and be rewarded with a wide, green valley dotted with white gers, horses and herds of yaks, sheep and goats. One point when we stopped for a bathroom break a young herder boy came running down from the very top of the mountain. He watched us and nodded when we asked to take photos. Like most herders we saw he was wearing a baseball hat, in this case a LA Lakers hat.

Moron was bigger than the last town and quite ugly and barren. I was too lazy after the hard drive to walk down to the public shower so I washed off in the ger and waited for dinner. Some of the family members spoke some English but still weren’t able to convince us to buy their “handicrafts.”

Neema tests the river for rocks and depth Ho sleep in the van while we figure out how to get across the river in the rain Herder boy running down the mountain to see us Megan and Vanessa eat noodle soup in the ger

Day 6: Khovsgol Nuur
On the way out of town we stopped by the internet (the post office) and at a Western style grocery store with a very sad produce section. At the edge of town we stopped at a surreal scene—an old man and woman sitting on stools with a a goat in front of a basketball hoop. Bob and Henry jumped ot to take photos but I decided to stay put and not overwhelm them. They were both very gracious and allowed themselves to be photographed and it’s one of the only shots I really regret not taking. I was sitting in the front seat that day so I had a window to take photos out of. The windows in the rest of the van tilted out, which made photographing anything in front of or to the side of the van impossible.

Old man with his goat View from the front of the van Neema was a happy driver Roads out of Moron Megan drinks milk tea A brother and sister ride out to greet us along the way

The ride North to the lake should have been short but when we arrived in the town of Khatgal we realized that the guesthouse had a partnership with a guesthouse that was about 17km away from the lake. Henry was particularly upset and insisted that we go to the lake. But, like usual, all of the complaining and negotiating was left up to the Americans and Bob and I had to talk to the guesthouse owner and Neema. He was pretty upset because he was supposed to make us stay there per our guesthouse in UB. We didn’t want to get him in trouble but the idea of having him drive us to the lake each day (we were staying two days again) was absurd. We headed up along the lake for 30 minutes before we could go no further. Apparently they didn’t do this often because Neema had to drive back to town and take another road over the mountains and around the lake to take us as far up as we wanted.

Whenever he saw a ger camp he would look at us and we would push him further. There was a town marked on our maps and in the guidebook named something like Toiglit which we were aiming for. Finally when we got there we saw only one Mongol camping ground and a tourist ger camp. The guesthouse in Khatgal had told us that it would cost closer to 15,000T to sleep on the lake and Henry had been insistent on pushing further so we assumed he was okay with a higher price. The tourist camp was full and they told us that it was closer to 30,000+ to stay there. Now we had driven for hours longer than we had planned and were tired. A local man said he had a guesthouse 8km further but we had heard that the road is almost nonexistant past Toiglit and didn’t want to push further to pay 15,000T for uncertain accommodations. I was suspicious and my intuition was really going off when the man quickly upped his price to 20,000. It seemed as if this was just a local herder who was going to rent out his ger. If I am going to pay 20,000 I would like to at least have a shower available.

Henry was very happy with the 15,000 deal and urged us to push on. The local man got a woman from the tourist camp to translate and we all sat on the ground over the map explaining it to Neema. He was very tired from the hard driving and the next trip we had to take was already going to be long before we headed further up the lake. We wanted to be sure he would be able to do it all in one day and stick to our 10-day plan. Neema was doubtful and Bob, Victoria and I didn’t want to go 8km further on a bad road to who knows what.

This was the only big conflict our group had on our trip and Ho had already said that he didn’t mind staying at an expensive place if that’s what the group wanted. Now that the local man had upped his price I wasn’t going to stay with him. Victoria, Bob and I wanted to head back towards town and stay at one of the tourist ger camps we had passed. Henry said he wouldn’t pay more than 15,000 for anything even though it was his idea to drive up to the nice area of the lake where demand is higher. I had to bring out my decisiveness and put my foot down. A lot of Europeans see it as an arrogant American trait but I’m quite proud to stand up for what I want. I told everyone “that’s it, we’re going back to the other camp.” Henry pouted and grumbled and Neema worried and promised Henry he could sleep in the van. Well, that “wasn’t acceptable” to Henry so all I could figure was that he wanted his cake and to eat it too. I just said “It’s 4-1, we’re leaving. Come on Neema.”

The group contemplates heading further up the lake Megan in the beautiful clean tourist ger The Blue Pearl ger camp

Neema wasn’t impressed with the mess we had made earlier so when we pulled up to The Blue Pearl he told us to stay put and rely on his negotiating skills. The camp was surprisingly empty and Neema negotiated 10,000 a person per night. The camp had around 20 gers decked out in traditional wooden Mongolian beds that were elaborately and colorfully painted. The staff was wonderful, running around lighting our stoves (it was quite cold) and taking care of us. The rock bottom price didn’t include our showers or food but we were given two gers for the 5-person group (Victoria and I made the boys sleep together) and Neema even negotiated a ger for himself! It was all around an excellent decision and I’m glad I stood up to Henry. I suspect he was just used to getting his own way all of the time.

Bob investigated and figured out we could still order from the restaurant. He wasn’t traveling an a backpacker budget and wanted something besides the instant noodles (ramen) we had brought with us. We order every meal two hours in advance and were rewarded with gorgeous meals. I had gulash one night and a meat patty the next. All of the meals were served with a potato, vegetables and extras. We also tried the potato and carrot salads—all excellent. This place deserves a special write up in guidebooks because of the food alone but the only thing written in The Lonely Planet is that it caters to Korean and Japanese tour groups. The staff was attentive and spoke a bit of English as well.

Megan on the lake Animals bathing in the lake

We were originally going to go horse riding but I was still sore from the horses at White Lake and the ride to Moron so I declined. I think the camp was disappointed to not make a lot of money on horse tours but they were happy when we decided not to drive back to town the second day and stay our second day at the camp. Neema was so happy up there, he even tried to learn Victoria’s tin whistle. He often has to sleep in his van so he had it made. The three of us also chipped in to buy him some meals and he was fine staying a second night. I washed some clothes with lake water and hung them on our ger to dry. After a morning of painting by the lake (and being overrun by a herd of animals) Bob, Victoria and I headed up a clearing in the evergreens to find the top of the mountain. Victoria turned back part way up but I kept telling myself that the view would be worth it. There was a section that was quite steep but every time I stopped I got eaten by mosquitoes. There were no bugs by the lake but many hiding under the trees.

We made it to the top and discovered that what we thought was simply tree line actually was a large hill in front of the mountain and there was no way for us to go any higher. I picked the little wildflowers I saw along the way and we headed back down racing a thunderstorm. Every night at the lakes we had thunderstorms that were quite impressive. Because the sky is so vast you can see the storm coming from about an hour away. Huge swaths of grey stream down in patches and lightening glows behind the mountains. Everything I have read describes Khovsgol as the gem of Mongolia and the most beautiful lake in the country. It is very beautiful, surrounded by tree-covered mountains but it isn’t quite everything it’s made out to be. Getting very far up the lake requires a horse and there are no snow capped mountains anywhere in sight. It looks like the sort of scene you might find in Minnesota but with gers along the lake instead of cabins.

Neema had been pacing back and forth all day, worried about Henry who had gone off without telling anyone early in the morning. He explained that there most Mongolians were good but every fifth one is very bad. Neema was worried that Henry had run into one of the fifth Mongols and had been beaten up. Henry returned after the storm without any bruises and we had another wonderful dinner.

Day 8: Hutag Ondor
We left after 7am from the lake because we had such a long drive ahead of us. Even so, the staff got up at 6 to light our fires and stood in a line by our van to see us off in the rain. We were all sleepy and rather subdued for the ride but we did have an eventful stop along the way. A huge heard was inside one valley and they were using camels—very unusual for the region. When Bob and Henry tried to photograph the camels a large, hairy black dog came around barking and running them off. Neema was quite pleased and said it was a good Mongol dog. Ho wasn’t willing to act as a distraction so they were stuck. Neema spoke to a few of the herders and they were form the Uvs area and were taking their sheep to Ulaan Baatar. They had already been traveling for 30 days and suspected it would take them another 20 to get to UB. I got out of the van to photograph the quieter man and he was very excited and dropped his cigarette in order to button up the top collar of his del properly.

Lunch Bob tried to scare Neema with bugs The herder for Uvs buttons up

When we arrived at the beautiful valley next to a river, just past the town of Hutag Ondor it was deserted. We walked around, watching large groups of horses pass through scratching each other and rescued a dog tied to a tree. The bugs were pretty annoying and none of us wanted to sit in the ger because it had obviously been flooded recently and smelled of mildew. Neema poked around the family’s ger and tried to make us eat yak candy. If anyone ever offers you yak candy don’t get excited because the word “candy” is somewhat deceptive.

Neema went off to find someone and ended off sending off some men on motorcycle to get the family for us. They were working in town and hadn’t expected us. We went ahead and cooked noodles and the man, woman and little girl arrived around 10pm. Neema and Bob had disappeared and I found them by the river throat singing together. Victoria and I slept in the family’s newly built log cabin restaurant because we just couldn’t stand the mildew or bugs. I had a very pleasant night on the floor.

Neema beats Henry at Mongolian wrestling Abandoned dog Toilet Deceivingly beautiful camp

Day 9: Amarbayasgalant Khiid
The next day we passed through some big towns, including the second largest city, Erdenet. We had lunch at a resturaunt from the guidebook in town and were met with outright rudeness. It was a hot day and we were all a little tired. World Cup was on but as soon as Henry started watching it the waitresses changed the channel. He asked them to turn it back and they did for a few minutes before switching it. This continued for quite a while and they were doing it all on purpose. We read that there was a huge copper mine on the way out of town that allowed foreigners in so we asked Neema to take us. The day took a turn for the worse when he refused and got very defensive. Bob spoke up to him, insisting we try to go and Neema didn’t talk to him for the rest of the day. At what we thought was the entrance to the mine Neema was turned away. Apparently it’s still run by the Russians and is off limits to Mongolians. We weren’t sure that we were at the right place because we thought there were tours.

Out of Erdenet the road was paved but we seemed to be driving slower than we did on the rough dirt roads. Neema told Bob he wasn’t taking us to the monastery, just straight to UB but we know he was just pouting. After what seemed like forever we pulled off onto a dirt track and headed through the mountains for an hour. The monastery complex was nestled in a valley against a large hill covered in traditional Mongolian script. We were totally exhausted but Neema dropped us off and drove off to the house we woudl be staying at. We wandered around the lifeless complex until we found a boy with keys to unlock the buildings. He reluctantly agreed to allow us into more than the main room but wasn’t very excited about us being there. The complex has fallen into disrepair and the young monks run around like Lord of the Flies. Huge flocks of birds nested in the roof were trees and grass grew. Around the complex were misplaced shoes, parts of gers, satellite dishes and broken glass.

Huge heating pipes leading into Erdenet Buddhist bookcase Lock Megan in the monastery Random things litter the grounds

A few of us walked up to the hill overlooking the monastery for a good view of the valley but were swarmed by flies. Bob wanted to make the most of his last night in the countryside so we walked around the small area talking photographs of camels, the little monks assembling gers and sat down to watch the monks play each other in a game of soccer. We even ran into a Peace Core volunteer who was teaching English to the monks as a summer project. Peace Core volunteers here seem to be very young and unfocused. I have met a few older, more experienced volunteers but they seem to be working at colleges or in the city. Her work wasn’t doing much because only one of the monks said hello to us.

Monks playing soccer Slimy soup Eagle

Day 10: Bayongol
The next morning we discovered that the two brothers who we stayed with looked just like Mr. Miagi from the Karate Kid. It’s possible that we were all very tired at this point. We thought that the ride back to Ulaan Baatar would be very boring but along the way we stopped beside the road where a large group of horses and riders had gathered. We got out to take photos while Neema investigated. It turned out that it was a small local Naadam celebration. We watched some of the horses, topped by little boys in colorful hats and capes, take off toward the mountains and Neema rounded us back into the van. He was very excited to find a Naadam for us and drove us into town where a wrestling ring was set up. There were only two rows of cement benches for the spectators surrounded by a rope behind which people sat on top of their horses.

Gathering to watch the start Grandpa proudly watching his son speak English There were lots of mullets Little girls were dressed up in their best

The town must have been short of wrestlers because a number of skinny boys in military uniforms filled in some of the matches. The wrestlers swapped shirts when one didn’t have one and wore the traditional blue bottoms and large boots. They were very open to photographs and one in particular posed with all of us. He was probably one of the more muscular wrestlers. Neema explained that this was a baby Naadam and the wrestlers in UB would be much bigger. He is a big fan of the Ulaan Baatar Naadam. I walked around the horses carefully avoiding their legs and a 20-something girls rode up to me and asked to have her photo taken. She thought it was great and came back 10 minutes later to show her friends, who also wanted their photo taken.

We were really lucky to get so close to a Naadam and get great photos. Toward the end we were all ready to go when all of a sudden everyone started shouting and running. The horses were coming over the mountain. Neema ran to the van and we piled in to driive to the finish line. After the first boy crossed the line the excitement died down. We could see a small track of dirt being kicked up by the racers along the mountain path. We were all happy to get one last taste of the countryside before finishing the drive back to Ulaan Baatar.

Wrestlers do the eagle dance A local woman asks to have her photo taken Megan with a wrestler The group on our last day The horses come in

4 responses to “Two Lakes, Two Monasteries and One Mini Naadam”

  1. Nicktay Avatar

    Nice photos!! 🙂

  2. lucas Avatar

    Great read

  3. Warden Avatar

    Looking with interest at your travel log. I have recently
    returned from “the land of the blue sky” haven driven from the Scottish Borders (UK) via Siberia to UB.with a 40foot semi
    trailer rig for a charity in UB.
    Mongolia is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen and its people some of the friendliest in the world
    Western women have a hard time in relationships with locals
    as they are considered strident and masculine. One said to me “how can you make love to women with sutch big noses”?
    were just different and thats the buz I suppose.
    I got some photos. of Mongolia in the 1960s and they dont look
    unlike yours exept for the 5 star hotel in Batar square today
    Did you go in a “female taxi” when you were in UB? thats the
    ones with a big women in the passenger seat (his wife) if
    a woman uses any other taxi she is considerd of easy virtue.
    so easy to upset the natives aint it.

  4. Megan Avatar

    I used pretty much all unregistered taxis (just people’s cars who stopped when I stuck out my hand) and there were no women in the front seat ever. I do walk a lot faster than the locals but I also don’t wear 3″ heels like many women in UB do so that’s fine by me. I knwo Asians think Western women are too muscular and walk to assertively and that’s fine. I like having muscles and being assertive so I don’t pay too much attention to it.

    I cant imagine driving a truck all the way you did. It must have been an adventure!