Saturday, 12 July 2008


We drove in to Ulaanbaatar (or just UB) and the rain just kept on coming. The traffic, something we hadn’t seen for a long time, was terrible and every other junction had a small car crash on it. UB is nothing like the rest of Mongolia - there’s cars, high buildings, traffic lights and even people! Common sense was in short supply amongst the Mongolia drivers and the whole city centre was gridlocked. After driving around in circles very slowly for several hours we eventually happened upon a lovely hostel. We dined out on Korean food that night and had a few beers, culminating in hunting for an open Karaoke bar at 2am.

The next day we visited the embassy and met with Peter, the Deputy Head of Mission there, who gave us a few tips about the city. We then hit the Black Market where you can buy pretty much anything, but we all decided that we didn’t really want anything that they had, least of all a tshirt with a terribly translated English saying on it. We nearly got pick-pocketed about 10 times with groups of men barging into you and heavily thrusting their hand into your pocket. However they were all terrible at it and we repeatedly thwarted their attempts.

That night we took part in the pub quiz at a traveller’s haunt and were taken out on the town by another Pete, who’s just set up a cracking cafe here called Cafe Amsterdam. If any of you are passing through UB anytime soon we can recommend their coffee and sandwiches.

On Friday it was the first day of Nadaam, a big festival which is the highlight of the Mongolia sporting calendar. The three sports played are wrestling, archery and horse racing. We loved watching the archers, who were exceptionally accurate at knocking down a pile of little wicker baskets 75m away. Alarmingly a group of people stood around each pile of baskets to put them up again, but once in a while a stray arrow took one of them out. Luckily the arrows had rubber tips but it still seemed to hurt.

We managed to get into the stadium for free and watched some wrestling. It was the preliminary rounds and with no weight categories to speak of it seemed to be big, fat wrestlers consistently beating wirey, lanky ones! That evening we dusted our suits off and headed along for drinks at the embassy. We had a pint with George who runs a big catering firm and has very kindly offered to give us with a cool box full of gourmet delights such as English sausages and marinated steaks! I’m salivating at the thought of it, many thanks George.

Umbrella seller at the Nadaam festival

Umbrella seller at the Nadaam Festival

We were planning to head out of UB today, but it’ll probably be tomorrow now. We’re off to the Gobi to explore the desert and drive up some sand dunes.

- Spike

No comments: