Tag Archives: naadam festival

Naadam Festival – day 2

Second day of the Naadam festival was the traditional horse racing. As i”ve mentioned in my previous post, we booked this tour with Chez Bernard.     

The call time was at around 7am at the Chez Bernard cafe. Breakfast was included in the packaged tour so everybody was expected to have breakfast at the cafe before heading off to the race track. We arrived a bit late because we preferred to have our breakfast in our hotel.  If I still remember it correctly, it was more or less an hour drive from the city. On our way to the race track, our tour guide gave us some information about the horse racing tradition and also advised us be careful and to stay away from the big crowd after each race as the locals would run towards the winning horse to touch it. They have this belief that the sweat of the winning animal will give them good fortune all year round.  Once we got off the bus, I was like.. “where’s the race track?” All I could see was a sea of people; thousands of people, Mongolians and tourists /travelers from different parts of the world. Well, I guess it was a bit ambitious to expect a proper race track in that part of Mongolia.     

Naadam festival

 

 The locals were dressed as if they’re going to a party,  ladies were wearing high  heels.. i don’t think high heels and grass work well together. There are also a lot of food stalls around but the only thing I could buy was a can of coca cola, just didn’t want to have an upset stomach again.    

cola burger

 

Lunch was part of the package, it was said to be a barbecue lunch. We camped a few hundred meters away from the big crowd and everybody waited for our lunch. When the lunch came, X and I were like… “I’m starving but I cannot eat that  meat”. They said it was beef ribs barbecue but it didn’t look like barbecue to me. It looked like boiled beef with potatoes, and the smell was horrible, I really couldn’t eat that meat unless I havent eaten for weeks.  I was really surprised to see everybody enjoying the “barbecue” but X and I just had a few slices of potatoes and a can of soda. When we returned to UB, we ran off to our favorite French bistro once we got off the bus to have a proper meal.   

lunch

 

Our lunch didnt look and smell appealing at all. 🙂

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Naadam Festival – Day 1

The Naadam festival in Mongolia is a yearly event celebrated in July. This is one great event that every single person in Mongolia looks forward to and definitely one big tourist attraction in the country.            

I was able to witness this event two years ago along with hundreds of tourists and travelers. Many tour operators in Ulaanbaatar sell  packaged tour of the said festival. We bought a two-day package which includes a guided tour to the Stadium to watch the opening ceremony, wrestling and archery matches, lunch for 2 days, horse racing (2nd day) and transportation. On the opening day the plan was to walk to the stadium from the Sukhbaatar square but I really didn’t want to walk, walking is one thing that I’m not fond of. Fortunately, there was one tourist who arrived at the assembly place about 30 minutes late, so our tour guide decided to take a taxi to the stadium and that was a big relief.  We had an english speaking guide and she was really nice and friendly. We even had a little conversation and I learned that she was  a post graduate student and been to New York and South Korea to study.   I also learned that a lot of students in Mongolia, the ones who can speak the english language properly [if not fluently] do tour guiding job during summer breaks.This is also their way of practicing and learning the language.         

opening day

 

The opening day’s events include the colorful opening ceremony, speech by the president and of  course we didnt have a slightest clue what he was saying, wrestling and archery matches. I was really surprised to see how Mongolians dressed up for the event. A lot of women were in evening dress and high heels while the older ones were wearing the traditional Mongolian costume and the crowd was in a very festive mood.            

traditional mongolian outfit

 

After the opening ceremony, we headed to another stadium to witness the archery match. It was a smaller stadium and getting in was a great deal of effort as there were too many people all wanting to see the match. I must admit I didn’t enjoy it that much. Well, as the saying goes, when in Rome.  I took a few photos and after about 15 minutes we decided to leave and headed to the park where our packed lunch would be served. I caught a really interesting sight inside the stadium, while everyone was busy watching archery, and couldn’t resist capturing it.            

she's getting a really nice tan

Ulaanbaatar under the ‘state of emergency’

Traveling to a place that is under the  state of emergency may sound worrying… yet exciting especially if it is seeing the place for the first time.           

Before our departure, we learned that Ulaanbaatar was in the state of emergency after a violent protest in the streets of the capital city. We’ve already booked everything more than a month before the departure as it was really difficult to get a nice accommodation in UB during the Naadam festival. I was really looking forward to coming to Mongolia that’s why the thought of canceling the trip didn’t occur to me even for just a single minute.           

There was an announcement [in a huge framed poster] at the boarding gate in Seoul airport about UB being in the state of emergency. Everyone was reading it and talking about it but there isn’t any sign of worrying in their faces. We were even joking about locating the embassies first once we land in UB so that there would be a place to run to just in case the situation gets worse lol It was late night already when we arrived in UB and everything seemed alright and the city was very peaceful.           

announcement

 

We decided to explore the city on our first day in UB. We hailed a taxi and tried our very best to tell the driver where we’ re going but he couldn’t seem to understand a single word of english, we even showed him the map in  Lonely Planet but he just gave us a blank face and shook his head. Even the word ‘square’ didnt seem to ring a bell. We wanted to go to the States Department Store, but we told him to drop us at the Sukhbaatar Square  instead, hoping that it would at least give him an idea what we were saying. After a few more unsuccessful attempts on getting a taxi, we hopped on the bus not knowing where it was going. Based on the map, there was only one major road in the city center so can could just get off  somewhere and then figure out how to get to the department store, fortunately the  bus dropped us at the Sukhbaatar square, a famous landmark in UB, after about 15 minutes only.       

sukhbaatar square

 

First stop was a cup of coffee at Chez Bernard. This place seemed popular in the area maybe because it’s in Lonely Planet 🙂       

outdoor tables at chez bernard

 

Second day in UB was spent at the museum, temple and some souvenir shops. We went to see the dinosaur fossils and the rest of Mongolian history at the museum.  We were informed that visitors are not allowed to take photographs inside the museum with their own cameras but if wanted to take some photographs, there would be a certain fee for each photograph taken. Well, as what others did, we still managed to secretly take a few photographs using our cameras… 🙂    

a stolen shot

Lost in Gobi desert

July 2008… I will never forget that Mongolian holiday that my boyfriend Richard and I had for his birthday. I flew from Manila  to Seoul Korea at 12mn then got stuck at Seoul  airport for 12 hrs waiting for Richard and for our connecting flight to Ulaanbaatar. Ulaanbaatar was in the state of emergency that time so it made our trip more exciting.   
We stayed in UB for 2 days then headed to  the mighty Gobi desert.  Flights to Dalanzadgad were fully booked as it was  Naadam festival. We tried booking the flights 2 weeks before the trip but there was no luck so we opted for an overland trip from UB to Gobi on a 4×4, just us and the driver. I guess the 14 hr overland travel  and getting lost in Gobi desert (about 10 times) is not the usual holiday experience you hear everyday. The worst part was spending the night with complete strangers in a tent in the middle of nowhere on a windy night with the sound of crying goats and camels, desert sand on my face, and waking up the following morning with rashes all over my body. We had to spend the night with a mongolian family in their tent as we couldnt find the way to our camp and it was 11pm, in the middle of the desert without any sign of a single road, no spare tires and with a driver who’s a complete idiot. The following day was still another adventure as the driver still couldnt find the way to the camp and it took us nearly 4 hours to get there. We were like running in circles in the middle of Gobi, GPS was not useful as there were no proper roads, before you know it, you’re already on the opposite direction. We just forced ourselves to be a little more patient and enjoy the scenery instead until we got to the camp, the Three Camel Lodge, the most luxurious accommodation in Gobi desert that time.
flat tire in the middle of nowhere with a beautiful sunset

 

the place where we stayed for the night

 

I wish I could see that family again so I could thank them properly for the hospitality they showed us. They even offered us boiled goat’s milk and mongolian tea, we tried to sip a bit as we didnt want them to feel offended. I was really amazed by their nomadic life. Small ger in the middle of the desert, a small solar panel just enough to power a small tv and 2 light bulbs, simple food that (mostly dried goat’s meat). Never had the chance to take some photos with them especially with the children as I was not feeling well that morning and all I wanted was to get to the camp to get some rest, a nice shower and of course hot meal. Whenever I look at the photos, I cant help but smile.. my one great adventure that I’m sure most people havent had before.
three camel lodge