A cultural crossroads
Hohhot Travel Blog› entry 315 of 658 › view all entries
People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)
The train arrived into Hohhot at 07.20 and the first priority was to buy a ticket out of there. It wasn't that we didn't want to investigate Inner Mongolia, it was just that we didn't have much time and we already knew what a bitch it was to score any train tickets. I stood in a queue for 20 minutes with my piece of paper that contained what we required written down, in my wonderful Chinese handwriting.
Thankfully the window that i had chosen to queue in had a woman who could speak a tiny bit of English, enough to explain the inevitable 'Sorry, this train is full'. But now is where she became a huge help, she explained that there was a 12.
Our bags were dumped in the baggage storage room and we were left with 4 hours to see what we could of the city, which from Lousy Planets advice wasn't a great deal. After brushing off all the touts at the station, who were trying to sell Grasslands tours, we headed south, away from the impressive train station.
Our first stop was Xinhua Square, where a large group of Chinese people practiced Taichi in the wonderful morning sun. Just around the corner from here was a bakery, where we stopped for some breakfast and so i could give my laptop battery a charge for a short time.
Fed and watered, a route was selected at random on how to get to some temples listed in the book. Thankfully we chose to walk down Tongdoa Beilu, which was a street that contained some fascinating Islamic architecture that screamed 'Welcome to Central Asia'! The street was a fantastic clash of cultures, with Islamic and Chinese buildings, foods and writing co-existing side by side. Minarets, onion domed roofs and red tiled Temples dominated the skyline, although we did manage to find one Church in amongst it all.
We spent a long time on this street and my favourite building was one that was built like a Chinese Temple, but had a minaret and i guess was actually a mosque, like none that I've ever seen before. Steles were also in the compound, with Chinese characters on, but above the gate was a photo of Medina and Arabic writing on many of the buildings.
By the time we got down to the Temples, we decided that a quick look from the outside would suffice, as we had spotted a much more fascinating structure on the horizon. I'm not really sure what the white building was that we walked to, but it looked of Arabic influence and seemed to be something religious.
On our way back to the train station, we stopped at Wuta Pagoda, but there was no way we were paying 35RMB ($5) to go in and see it, as you could see the same from the roadside. One thing was becoming clear in China, they were jacking their ticket prices up to stupidly high levels, and this accompanied with the improving Yuan was making it a much more pricey country to travel around in.
The final few kilometres were made easier as we flagged down a rickety version of a tuk tuk, to keep out of the sweltering sun and also to free up some time to use the internet.
The reason that we had wanted to be back on the internet was to check on the progress of both Portia and our friend Hannes, to see if and when they would be joining us on the Silk Road... exciting times ahead!