Excitement grows as the Naadam approaches
10.07.2011 - 10.07.2011 26 °C
With rain the previous evening our morning excursion to Naran Tuul or the Black Market was set to be both muddy and wet. Located a short distance outside of the city we were able to take a state operated bus there, although with unintelligible signs and maps this was more by luck than planning. Our driver clearly thought of himself as the next Mongolian Michael Schumacher as we lurched, violently, through the chaotic traffic of Ulaanbaatar with neither bus nor neighboring car giving way or acting in anyway helpful to each other.
We knew we had arrived at the market when the entire busload of passengers decided to disembark en masse. As with all group activities in Mongolia this involved everyone pushing and shoving to get off first. Why we are unclear. Hanging back we avoided the rugby scrum and lost only a few seconds of time. Clearly, Mongolians cannot afford these unnecessary seconds of delay!
The market is billed as a locals market, which it clearly is. As one of the largest markets in Asia, with up to 60,000 visitors every day the vast number of stalls provide for the purchasing of a Ger and all of its associated paraphernalia, horse riding tack, clothes, shoes and handbags. With only a couple of souvenir stalls broadly speaking there is little to hold the interest of the tourist, yet the sights and sounds are fascinating.
Young Mongolian’s could be seen purchasing their first del – the traditional all-purpose coat often worn by men and women, new stoves for heating a ger through the winter were being examined and a variety of riding crops tested for strength and flexibility.
Yet, the market as we had been warned did have a darker side. Pickpockets were an issue. At one point a middle aged lady, selling boots, blocked my path. The blockage looked accidental. Yet at the same time a stooped youth approached and tried to put his hand in my pocket. Internal zips on my Rohan trousers, a long shirt and vigilance presented insurmountable challengers for him, yet the approach was disconcerting. Later in the morning another attempt was made on my jacket pocket. Success would have yielded an unused wad of toilet paper (for that is rarely supplied at the required moment) but the pickpocket was never to know that. Later in the week we were to meet up with a Dutch friend, from Olkhon Island who had been pick pocketed three times in the same day. I guess we were lucky that our would be pickpockets were totally incompetent.
Disillusioned and a little disappointed by the market we spent the rest of the day exploring more of the city. Wondering its streets and enjoying the pre-Naadam atmosphere.
After an average Indian curry supper we by chance wandered through Sükhbaatar Square to see the presentation of the nine Yak tail banners. Typically, displayed reverentially at the Parliament building, in the morning they would be taken, with all due pomp and circumstance, to the Naadam Stadium to formally open the games.
This evening traditionally dressed Mongolian soldiers in their blue and red uniforms processed the banners around the Parliament in a pre-Naadam parade to wild excitement and applause from a clearly excited crowd.
Even the on duty police seemed to be enjoying the sight keen to take cell phone pictures and talk to their friends, a sight one rarely sees from a professional on duty English policeman.
As the ceremony came to an end a couple of Mongolian news reporters tried and failed repeatedly to conclude their televised report on the evenings event. We offered our Producing services!