Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The hightlight of our trip....

The first night in our Ger was a wee bit chilly. It had dropped down to -5C, but lucky for us, the staff at our camp came in around 7am and added more wood to the fire to keep us all nice and toasty.

After breakfast, we went to the ancient town of Karakorum, which use to be the capital back in 1220. Chinggis Kahn moved the capital from Khentii about 375kms from Karakorum. So, at this point you have to really use your imagination, as it looks more like an outpost than a capital city, that held the mighty Kahn.

We headed to Erdene Zuu Khid which was the first monastery in Mongolia and was started back in 1568. See the history lesson you get when we travel? Like the capital city mentioned above, it was abandoned and then vandalized by the Manchurians.
We headed back for lunch, and since our guide, Tseke mentioned to us what a real Mongolian BBQ was, we asked if that may be an option for dinner. To have a truly traditional BBQ, you first need about 8-12 people as there is a lot of food, mainly meat to be had.
Luckily we met two Germans who were also living in China and visiting Mongolia during the National Holiday, so we put our idea to them, and they were up for it, along with our tour guides and both drivers.

After lunch, we headed to the market to pick up the meat. The local market was fun, as you had goats, horses, and yaks up for sale, along with clothing both used and new, meat, vegetables, and lots and lots of tires. After driving one day on these roads you can see why the tire store was the most popular.
We found the meat store, and let's just say it's not for the weak at heart. There was lots of meat, including a horse's head. Our guides helped us purchase the mutton making sure the meat was good, and fresh.
Later that day, we started the process of the BBQ. First you have to get flat wet stones, they cannot be dry, so the cooks went to the river and found a bunch. They cook the stones for about 40 minutes until they are very hot. After which, the stones come out and placed in a very large stainless steel bowl, alternating between stones, mutton, stones, veggies, and so forth until all the meat, veggies and stones are in the bowl. You add salt, salt and more salt. Yup, the only spices that Mongolians seem to use. The lid comes on and you patiently wait until all the food is cooked about 35 minutes. Voila, one Mongolian BBQ ready to be served.
Plates and glasses came out, and the food was dished out on your plates. Apparently you don't use forks or knives here, just your fingers. It was delicious and we were so lucky that we had enough people to actually enjoy a traditional meal as this is something many travellers don't have the pleasure of enjoying. In fact our guide, who had been doing this for the past four years, had never had a BBQ with any of her guests, so she was very excited to be taking part in this adventure.

Well, within 10 minutes the first bottle of Vodka was completed and we grabbed the next one, only to later pick up a couple more bottles of vodka. Yea, I wouldn't get into a drinking contest with these Mongolians. They love their vodka.

Later, a gentleman who appeared to be much older than we thought (we found out later, his age) came by, and he was a musician that plays to many of the camps during high season. We invited him for some food and vodka where he was more than happy to join us. He sang songs, played instruments and tried to pick me up, but alas, as tempting as it was, I told him I was married. He later went inside and changed into his traditional garb to perform for the tourists who were in the restaurant. He came back performing for us again, while enjoying some vodka. We bought his CD.

Our tour guide left early on, which later we found, would be the smart thing to do, while the rest of us stayed up until midnight. It was probably the highlight of our trip, sitting outside, enjoying good company, food, drink and the beautiful starry skies. You can't beat that!

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