Pig's Ear Park and Other Adventures

Author: Margaret (page 2 of 39)

Nadaam 2

Out bright and early on an overcast day . Off on our trusty brocaded wheeled steed to the National Stadium. Built in 1953 to hold 15000  on Nadaam Opening Day tickets for 20,000 are sold at 25$ ea  . Some temporary seating goes in but we had covered stand tickets along with about 500 other foreigners.

Seats are very very close together you have knees in your back but we were in a good spot. View down the stadium. Parade started at 10.30 and the opening ceremony at 11 am. Then a performance that went on for two hours think Olympic Opening Ceremony with dancers, costumes and loud music towards the end Korean Pop  which is v popular.

The performance told the story of the development of Mongolia from 1 BC to the present day, an epic and done very well. On the running track endless parades if horses, camels( did you know they waggle thier humps when annoyed?), reluctant bullocks pulling carts, soldiers, gymnasts on skegways!!!! It was all there…

The President, small man, brown traditional costume and black hat  spoke lengthily… 

Many locals were in traditional dress, women a cross between a cheongsam and a belted robe and the men in long sleeved tunics sometimes with a jacket over the top with one side tucked under the arm to enable them to hold a bow  apparently. Ornate belts, tight pants and yummy boots, topped off with a bog standard brimmed hat.

Performance o er we went locally for lunch, pushing and shoving thru 20k people then back to the stadium to watch the mens wrestling- lots of pushing and shoving not much throwing, heats go on for three days. Then over to a knuckle bone throwing competition, very serious, aim is to knock the bone off its base from 15 m with another piece of bone. Then the archery, 75 m for men 65 for women. Looked great with some spectacular whatever archers call their shots.

Then  more cashmere buying , dinner and bed. Great day

Nadaam Festival

The Nadaam Festival is on, started yesterday. It is the Mongolian equivalent of Waitangi Day but more proscribed. Competitions are held in three events, wrestling, men only, archery and  horse racing. The festival in UB is held over four days but in the smaller towns only one or two days. It commemorates the three major eras of Mongolian  history, the Khan era, the Buddhist era and the socialist era. The latter being the shortest.

Yesterday started with a huge parade in the Main Square, every service in their dress uniforms and medals. We then drove for what seemed like hours , two actually out into the countryside for the National Horse Racing  event. Two races are run each day, we saw the three year olds race. It is a bit like the child camel racers in Dubai, the riders are aged between 7  and 12. The race is twenty ks  but of course it is twenty ks out then a race back. All very exciting particularly when the lead rider left the track and fell about 100 m from the finish, he was up in a flash and still came in fifth. I got quite excited  by it all.  A few riderless horses by the end. Over three hundred horses. Rain was threatening all day but luckily never came to much, still around 28c. Group starting to look a bit rough around the edges,,long days. Twice now  when it is obvious people are tired, out comes a large vodka bottle and a tray of glasses, everyone perks up amazingly. Provided by the local guide called Oonya, she is smart!!!

Loads of people at he races ,,a few busloads of tourists. Then the long haul back to town via a cashmere factory, very modest purchases, a scarf and a hat. Good prices but not much in my size.

Also had a visit to the National Museum, golly the age of some of the exhibits. 4 BC and upwards. Excellent museum guide . 

Off to watch some wrestling and archery today and probably more cashmere. Food is still good,

The second to last photo is the dust cloud raised  by 

the riders, seen long before them!


Ger Time

Monday 8/7/19

Set off in our decorated bus , interior has brocade hangings along the windows and brocade seats to match plus faux crystal on the hand grips to get in and on the gear stick. Have not checked the steering wheel, some gear changes suggest clutch difficulties.

First stop was the giant Ghenggis Khaan statue, we knew him as Ghengis Khan.

Plonked in the countryside, cost 4 m , made of stainless steel. A zillion steps up  inside and you stand inside his hand!!

A thriving set of businnesses have been set up around it, double humped camel rides(local camels have two humps and are very hairy), hold the golden eagle or a vulture(not popular) ride a pony or drink a local hooch. I fif not give to the local industries.

very soon after  leaving UB we were in rolling countryside, complete with herders , sheep, horses, cattle and goats plus gers. All very National Geographic. Countryside is quite green as good rain in early June. 

All Mongolians are entitled to a .75 ha piece of land , so you see odd fences off bits, some with gers on, some with nothing, some with dead trucks and some with little brick houses. Better off people in the countryside or in the towns build log houses. 

The chopping up of land has the potential  to muck up the nomadic herders lives and livelihood.

40% of Mongolians are herders , was 60% so declining.  Nowadays Farm bikes are used as much as horses . The horses are beautiful, not large but not ponies either.

Finally arrived at Terelj National Parkr. A lovely valley with a river , big rock formations and lots of larch and poplar trees. Obviously been no planning or oversight as to where the ger camps can be set up, so lovely pristine landscape is being desecrated by ugly blots of the ger camps. Most have about twenty-thirty gers and a dining room of varying architectural quality. Gers are lined with felted wool but covered with white canvas so hard to disguise.

My ger was identical to its neighbour , you tend to walk round and round inside!! My planning re toilet worked- thank you Lorraine and Jill.

Food was good, very similar food everywhere to

home- no boiled mutton yet! 

Next morning two hours back to UB , a visit to a buddhist monastery, in central UB. There are a lot of buddhists in Mongolia but from 1923 on till 1952 they wete persecuted by the Chinese then the Russians. Thousands of monasteries were destroyed.

Next stop the last Kings palace complex. A series of lovely traditional style one level Chinese influenced temples and alongside that, a present from Czar Nicholas, a white two storey palace/house really. Quite incongruous, contained various collections including a lot of taxidermy. Our kiwi eyes spied a kakapo and a takahe!!!! This was all built and collected early twentieth century. King was deposed 1923. Some sublime silk embroidery.

Back to the hotel, room not as good as first round plus aircon not working, suspect it will not be during my three night stay.

Cultural display  followed by another good dinner. The cultural display/concert was excellent, throat singers , cossack style dancing, ballet, etc etc even two very bendy gymnasts concluded with the Mongolian State Orchestra.

So far so good, only two in the group who I would cheerfully hire a hit man for.




Ulan Bataar

Is deeply involved with Sth Korea so no McDonalds!!!

Hotel is fine but supposedly five star- future accommodation has me worried!

Absented myself from the group welcome dinner and had room service and two healthy slugs if my duty free vodka, slept well!

UB is a mad mix of architecture, Russian/Chinese communist style, blocks of flats , yurts and tower blocks with Deloittes signage on!!

One night here than out to a ger camp(beam me up Scotty) then back here for three nights- who planned this, definitely not me. 

Visiting a National Park today. Plus a nomadic family- gosh I bet they are thrilled!! I always feel uneasy about those sorts of visits. 

Group has factioned, the blobdes in white trou, the scruffy men , the two couples , and the strays, I am in the latter. 

12 c going up to 26.

Hong Kong

Is out there somewhere but apart from a few jagged

typically Asian hills could be anywhere. Flight was fine, managed a good few hours sleep and innards behaved  because I ate minimally- sigh all the luvvy booze and food. Arrived at 7.30  and it has taken till 11.15 to get thru to the gate for Ulan  Bataar.

Seat 40 D I think that is in the cargo hold. Had a bit of a biffo getting thru the luggage check. Same drug bag has been with me for years and for years a nail file has been lurking at the bottom of it, determined little  man almost ransacked my bag like a terrier , but he found it. Bugger wish I had it now as nails are snagging. 

Quite  warm .

The group, well all I can say is it looks like a garden club group crossed with a tramping club with a few token males thrown in.

Photo is of the group lurking at HK airport. 18 of us  including the tour leader who comes across  as an amiable bungler. He left one woman behind in his bumbling to get us on the bus to the hotel. Her visa was incorrect( she should have checked it) , he finally 

Realised he was one short and went back for her. She was v cranky but wasn’t he lucky it was not me!!!



Sitting in the lounge at Houston Airport and was approached by a staff member with a wheel chair. No , I definitely did not want it!!!

Flight from Montreal to Chicago totally uneventful apart from having to eject a young woman from MY window seat. She went quietly.

50$ us taxi ride into town, had been quoted 240nz by travel agent.

Had a run around at the hotel, nice room but 10 big airconditoners rattling away on a roof right next door. Offered a dog box , refused to have it, told hotel was full, said as it was3.30 pm she had plenty if rooms she could juggle. A BIG black lady not accustomed to having little old squirts stand up to her.

Got a decent quiet room with a view.

Out for a walk, three hours later back and went next door to a very ordinary restaurant for dinner- a burger of course plus a glass of wine 26$us

Next day stricken with a widdler infection so most of the day was a right off. Staggered onto a big red bus and viewed the sights.

Had a ceaser salad that night, 28$ and pretty mundane. Whoops lost some of this – inflight internet.!



Prince Edward Island

PEI  as the locals write it has long been on my bucket list. I worked with a really nice woman from there when I lived in Canada in the sixties. 

Well, it rained, and rained and blinking well rained. I am sure it is a lovely island, they produce a lot of potatoes and have lovely red soil rich in  something which enables them to grow stuff! However it has rained so much this spring that they are three weeks late getting their crops in. Same story from Boston on, everywhere is three weeks  late.

So saw very little…. the bridge connects to the mainland, 12 ks long.

Quebec City-sunny!!!!!

What a lovely city, dating back to the 1600’s all gray stone and steep narrow  streets. They even have a funicular as some of the streets are almost perpendicular!!! I am sure there are malls tucked away somewhere but we never saw any

Then out into the countryside to visit a maple farm. Hundred year old trees  producing the maple water which is then boiled for a zillion ours and becomes maple syrup, more hours boiling becomes toffee even more hours and mixed with cream becomes maple butter.  We were given a sample of maple taffy. Some frozen snow in a trough, lines of maple syrup poured on the snow which you then rolled around a stick-yum. Basic lunch at a countryside restaurant, you get very used to classy meals on board, takes no time at all.

After lunch a visit to St Anns Basillica. 

A most impressive building, St Ann still performs miracles apparently. The interior decorations were paid  for by a local benefactor in the early 1900’s after it was rebuilt after a fire. Boy, he let rip, mosaics everywhere and in the lower church, under the main church they even had an Indian Madonna noticeably pregnant, hand on tum a la Meghan. She and Joseph have since been relegated to glass cases along the wall. 98% of Quebec is Catholic. Plus naughty Quebecians only have signs in French , the bilingual message   did not reach there.  

Last visit was to a huge waterfall. Basin underneath abounds in trout and salmon, yes there was someone fishing there. The sun being sort of out made a hige difference to the trip.


It took to Quebec  to get the feeling we were actually on a river and it is from Quebec that it gets narrower. Had to leave promptly or the tide would have been too high to go under a bridge just out of the city. Montreal is only 100 k upriver so it was a quiet dawdle overnight.

Managed my luggage, well not really, just looked pathetic a few times and nice men carried it-truly. Even the taxi driver carried my bags into the hotel, nice tip helped.

Montreal is very substantial and has some yummy shops. Perhaps a framed picture is a step too far. Hotel is on the edge of the historic district  which is heaving with tourists and  shopaholics. Buildings are several stories high in this district unlike Quebec’s one and two story buildings.

Large number if skyscrapers and most signs feature English as well. Will report more when I have done my red bus  ride.



Sydney, Breton Island but still in Nova Scotia

Later start this am , quick zip around Sydney, smaller population (20,000) than Halifax. Has a real success story with its First Nation tribe-Manatoucs, they have a thriving parallel town. 

Sydney area had huge coalmines, still has one today , it is under the sea, golly that gives me the willies just thinking about it.

Visited a small museum in the Wentworth area which was/is very multicultural and now has Unesco status.

Wooden houses, some quite scruffy but I guess that goes with the climate which must play havoc with paint. Too expensive to build in stone or brick as it has to be brought in.

Poles, Lebanese, Blacks, Chinese, Greeks you name it they all came here to either work in the steel mills, now gone or in the coal mines. Not nearly  as  prosperous as Halifax. No way could I access anywhere that sold sim cards so am parked up in a cafe drinking cheap coffee  and eating carbohydrates. 

Even colder here and expected to rain and blow so better get hopping back to the boat.



Lovely duo on board last night

Severe landscape, wooden houses

Wild blueberry bushes


V chilly, leaves not even furled let alone tightly. Golly Nova Scotia has a turbulent past, typical English /French shenanigans. Strong Scottish influence. Gaelic is taught in schools!!!

The fort on top of the hill in Halifax has mock soldiers all done up in kilts, students hired for the summer.Nova Scotia even has its own tartan. The accent is softer here than in USA.

Went on a seven hour tour here and even got to hold a lobster had to ooh and aah… There is only about three inches of topsoil on the area around Halifax so fishing and tourism are all the go. Very few flowers, very few gardens, just too harsh an environment. Walked thru  the Victoria Gardens, small cheese compared to NZ public gardens but we do not have months of snow. Tulips only just in bud.

Bleak landscape but would be softer in summer when/if the leaves ever get out. Chowder for lunch in a pretty manky cafe but the chowder was good.

Still cold, about 10c by the time we got back to the bus. Guide was shorter than me but not quite as old…

Boat building is big here and the Canadian Navy has a strong presence. Tourism is up there too as an earner. Someone made a very bold  move with the boat building , set up training programmes, free training for the needed trades as long as they agreed to an apprenticeship. 


Houses along the coast

Sideways Margaret

Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove

Houses at above

Trees  trees  and more trees

Cemetry in Halifax has 129 Titanic victims buried in it

Boat building area

Fort with a finger

Downtown(Halifax seems v prosperous


Have no Canadian sim card and can find nowhere in Sydney Nova Scotia to buy one. So, am holes up in a cafe  writing this. The ship charges100us so boo to them.

Left Boston courtesy of an Uber taxi, she got lost finding the ship!! Cabin is fine,, food is very good can feel weight chasing me trying to latch on…Took a couple of days to get the wine package sorted, think it was a perk for this voyage, however it all seemed like 8$ cheapies from the supermarket  so paid a bit more and am now a happy camper. Put a limit on myself as can have 15!!!!! free drinks a day…

Dinner companions are ok, retired policeman and talkative wife, about herself  and  another retired couple, pleasant as well. Policeman  is now a semi professional gambler!!!!

Bar Harbour, would be much prettier ina couple of weeks time as the leaves are still tightly furled. Cute wee town, did a tour with a local geologist, Bar Harbour and its surrounds are set in a caldera from earthquakes aeons ago. The coastline has some interesting geological formations including a whiye stripe in one place which is compressed ash!

Bar Harbour is holiday home territory to the rich and famous. Boy I bet there is a hireachy there with the local serfs being bottom of the heap. Pleased to go there though as it has featured to a larger or lesser degree in many books .

Cold wind , about 12c.


Luggage mountain, cabin, I occupy 20% of the bed, blow hole up in Acadia National Park , nr Bar Harbour,gray sea gray day.

Loved the crafty wee chair.

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