An impure thought
I blipped these two colourful monks walking between the houses on my approach up the hill to Gandan Monastery this afternoon. After work I had planned to take a taxi up to the monastery but somewhat surprisingly couldn't find one in Ulan Bator's endless congestion. So I enjoyed the walk before the rain arrived and had this opportunity as an added bonus. The monks are understandably not partial to being photographed but these two laughed at the experience. There are several temples within the monastery and each one offers colourful accoutrement: buddhas, dolls, brass, masks, flags, ribbons, more brass. I walked into a courtyard and entered a hall where older monks were chanting in unison in between eating a lunch of what looked like cold yoghurt soup. A boy monk circulated with a large pot of tea. There were 'no photography' stickers everywhere which added a somewhat dissonant note to the surroundings. I imagined the monks had tired of telling visitors (like me) not to take photographs. They'd eat a bit, chant, end the session with a clash of symbols, go back to eating, refill tea cups, chant again. I noticed a few checked their phones during the breaks. People came in and out at random, bowed to and often placed banknotes on symbols they recognised. There was food everywhere including a large pile of cakes in boxes from one of UB's more prestigious bakeries. Something struck me about the pile but I quickly dismissed the impure thought that the cakes gifted to the monks might be yesterday's unsold stock.