Mongolian Mutton and Madness
Boarding the Irkutsk to Ulaan Baatar train I was delighted to find I was sharing the compartment with 2 english students hannah and George. Since I hadn’t been to bed I soon crashed out sleeping several hours into the journey but unfortunately missing what I am sure was fantastic views of Lake Baikal. Once we all woke up it made such a pleasant journey just being able to freely chat. It seemed like no time before we were at the russian border filling in what felt like dozens of forms. Just over 6 hours later we were on our way into Mongolia another dozen forms and 3 more hours later we were headed to Ulaan Baatar. I felt so spoiled being picked up at the station by the hostel but since it was free it would’ve been rude not to!
Once in the hostel I was constantly asked if I was copper Sarah since that’s how Casper had described me!! Thanks mate 🙂
I was told there was a Buddhist monastery a short walk away where in the mornings you could hear them chanting. I tagged along with Eric and Casper and another English girl also called Sarah. This proved to be the best thing I could ever have done! The temple was fascinating and beautiful with a Buddha at least 40foot tall in it. In the library the monks were chanting and playing different instruments including symbols a bell and a kind of horn. They ranged in age from about 8 to 85!
After the monastery Sarah and I treated ourselves to a cafe lunch having a huge and delicious chicken burrito and drink for less than £3! We fast realised we had a lot in common not least that we’re both mad and a bit older than most of the other travellers. And I think I have made a friend for life!
After lunch it was raining so we headed to the hostel to catch up on emails before going to Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan. Kim our delightful if not slightly mad host had said it was a waste of time and money but UB doesn’t have an abundance of things to do so we decided to risk it.
On the way to the palace a young Mongolian managed to open my backpack but luckily didn’t get anything because Sarah heard him do it and shouted at him. This upset me a little as I hadn’t ever imagined anyone could do that without me feeling them and a short while earlier I had felt a baby playing with one of the toys I have on it.
We carried on walking and after sheltering from the torrential rain we were accosted by a dirty old beggar. As normal we both said no and went to duck past him. I got past him but he blocked Sarah and got hold of her she shouted at him and I grabbed his jacket and pulled him off her the encounter ending with him shouting F**k you to us (nice English!) and my reply of you wish! He didn’t manage to get anything or hurt us so alls well that ends well but it shook us up since we have a lot of combined years of travel neither of us had experienced either situation and we were very glad we were together!
When we finally made it to the palace we found a delightful deserted run down place that more than justified the walk there and the £1 entrance fee! Words fail me to describe the intricate details of the wooden buildings apart from to say every time you look at them you see new details. LP described the palace as having ‘an extraordinary array of stuffed animals’ I thought this was strange not least when I realised that it meant taxidermy rather than cuddly toys!!! I swear sometimes I don’t have a brain but at least it gave Sarah a giggle!! 🙂
We decided to treat ourselves again for dinner and ended up in Czech restaurant where it seemed extremely rude not to share a bottle of champagne priced just £4! We had a lovely meal followed by a couple of beers and it rounded off a good day.
The next day we headed off early into Terelj national park where me, Sarah, a German guy and 2 Americans were going to spend a night in a Ger (Mongolian nomadic house). The drive was great passing barren land with horses sheep cattle and yaks all grazing. We even saw a couple of camels the first I had ever seen with 2 humps. On arrival the first thing Sarah and I did was go for a hike picking the highest peak we could see for some fantastic views across the valley.
This was followed by a traditional yummy meal of mutton potato and pasta with Mongolian tea. It was then for the horse ride! To say I was apprehensive would be understating it! My horse and I clearly didn’t trust each other but it made for an interesting time. The boys from the family were riding with us listening to Mongolian rap music on their mobile phones (not at all what I had been expecting!) they took great delight in riding their horses behind ours to scare them and make them go faster! I have to say their horseback skills were amazing it was like the horse were an extension of them!
In the evening it was more mutton this time with spaghetti and then we passed a pleasant evening eating biscuits and chocolate drinking Mongolian vodka and playing cards! Toasty with our little stove.
The children from the family were delightful there were 3 little girls 1 dressed in traditional Mongolian robes and the other 2 sang us a little song! We took lots of pictures which we showed them and they loved.
The next day with very little sleep (due to the german man snoring and sleeping on what felt like concrete.) we were happy to head back to UB for a shower unfortunately there was still no water or electricity in the hostel this making it 4 days without a shower.
We instead headed off for another extravagant and delicious restaurant meal with john before Sarah and I went for a wander round the shops picking up a new billabong t shirt for £4 🙂 later it was out for a couple of beers before back to the hostel to finish the vodka and gossip with Sarah a good talk with Lloyd on facebook 🙂 and an early (ish) night before my train to Beijing!! I am now on the train unfortunately still not showered an looking forward to a sleepless night since I am again with the german man. I’ll update when I get to Beijing I love and miss you all and again thank you to all those who’ve been in touch it really does make my day to hear news and gossip from home.