When one thinks of hazing, one usually thinks of college fraternities and sororities. But, my friends, the American Greek system has nothing on the Mongolian nomads.
During my trip to Outer Mongolia this summer, I learned about the Nomad Code — which, according to my guide, Timur Yadamsuren from Intrepid Travel, is basically, if anyone rolls up on your door, you have to give them food, drink, and shelter. “If you don’t, they might not survive. And the next time you are traveling, they will give you shelter — or you might not survive.”
The road trip started off so well… and sober.
My crew and I called on this Nomad Code outside of the Singing Sand Dunes in the Southern part of the country, with a friendly ger (yurt) family headed by Ankhaa. We were quickly joined by his curious neighbors. But Timur had neglected to tell us about Mongolian hospitality — or, as Americans might call it, hazing.
The local poison sold at every kwickie mart in the country. Photo credit: Richard Hirst/Flickr.
After eating camel milk curd, drinking camel milk tea, and then milking said camels to replenish the liquids we had downed, my crew and I were about to go on our way when we remembered the bottles of vodka we had bought for presents to give out to helpful families during our road trip. Our host Ankhaa and his neighbors definitely qualified, so we whipped out a bottle of Chingghis Khan vodka for the families.
What we didn’t realize is that if you present a bottle, you are also expected to drink it with the host. We also were unaware that Mongolian “shots” are soup bowls, and you are expected to down it in one go … and that you cannot have just one.
My producer Nicola with her fifth bowl of vodka. Togtoy!
Even for a girl raised on and below the Mason Dixon, drinking an entire bowl of vodka with just camel curd in my belly was not an easy feat, but I did it. After my turn on the soup bowl full of vodka, I got up.
“Where are you going?” Timur asked.
“Um, to the car?” I said.
“We are not done!” he said. “You cannot leave until the bottle is finished — it would be rude.” There were eight of us in the circle. Which meant two bowls for me.
I figured I could handle it, until the neighbors started bringing out bottles of their own.
She just wouldn’t stop pouring… or serving camel curd and candy.
Eight (ish?) bottles of vodka and one Lionel Richie dance party later, our new best friends finally ran out of vodka and we were allowed to leave, with our dignity barely intact. For your enjoyment, my crew kept rolling — so you, too, can experience a night of Mongolian hazing. Camel cuddling was also involved but thankfully not captured on camera. (Ed note: One should never attempt to cuddle semiwild feral camels unless extremely drunk. And even then it should probably be avoided.)
Thankfully, our driver, Moogi, doesn’t drink and we could actually leave — else I and my crew and our pickled livers might still be in that ger.
Our driver Moogi, and his drink of choice: Camel milk tea — which is not as good as it sounds.
But you’ve been warned. When traveling in Outer Mongolia, bring your strongest hangover concoction. You’ll need it.
The next morning it felt like wild monkeys had held a cracked out rager in my brain.
Thanks to Intrepid Travel for showing us such a good time in Mongolia!
Check out our original adventure travel series, “A Broad Abroad.”
For more on Yahoo Travel’s travel policy, click here.