Travel Journal

Naadam festival UB (Mongolia)

(Friday 13 July 2007) by Lynda
The train ride from Ulan Ude to Ulaanbaatar took 24 long and hot hours. We had to stop at the Russian border for 6 hours and repeated the same process again at the Mongolian border for another 3 hours. During that time the train just stood there in the blistering sun and of course the air-conditioning didn't work; we couldn't stop thinking about a dip in freezing Lake Baikal....

So I'm in Mongolia now and this is really a great country. Such a big difference with Russia, the people are much more open en friendly and definitely more tourist oriented. We even had people from the guesthouse waiting for us at the train station when we arrived with signs: Welcome to Mongolia!
Traditional costumes
Traditional costumes
I love this place and it was great catching up with all the people I did meet along the Transsib. UB is a great place during Naadam, a bit like Kohsan road in Bangkok in the early days.

The next day we did the Naadam festival trip, first the opening ceremony in the stadium with horses, music, traditional costumes and a lot of ceremonies. We had a quick lunch and headed out of UB to the race track..... of course an enormous traffic jam because everybody was heading in the same direction. The Mongols drive the same way as they ride their horses: everywhere!!!! So if the road was too jammed, they simple started driving on the pavement or outside of town they just leave the road and go off-road covered in big clouds of dust. Not surprisingly a lot of cars simply break down because not everybody has a land cruiser. The horse racing was great but extremely dusty, everybody was covered in dust. The horse racing is amazing, 5 to 12 year old kids ride the horses (615 this year) without a saddle for long distances. Depending on the age of the horse, the race is 15 to 30 km. We've seen a lot of horses passing the finishing line without a rider... a lot of accidents happen during the races but still every kid in Mongolia wants to participate in the race because the winner will be a national hero for a longtime.
Opening ceremony Naadam
Opening ceremony Naadam

In the evening we had our own little backpackers party and simply had a great time meeting traveling companions and exchanging stories and drinks....... I missed most of the second day... the hangover was simply too big for me but still I made it to see the award ceremony for the winning horses.

Yes, the Naadam festival is definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far.

Tomorrow I'll go on a 5 day tour to Central Mongolia to see the desert, the Prezvalski horses, ride a camel and do some horse riding. We start with this short tour to prepare ourselves for a long big trekking to West Mongolia we are planning at the moment. Yes, really looking forward to that, UB is nice but the real Mongolia starts where the pavement ends!!!!

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