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Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia Travel Blog

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Me & David, cowboys
I truly got to see many new sides of China this past weekend on my trip to Inner Mongolia. 14 of us signed up for the trip through a tour company, so we were able to relax and have all of our adventures planned out for us...definitely the right choice! Inner Mongolia, which is an autonomous region located in Northern China just south of Mongolia, has much to offer, and it would have been difficult plannin gout all of the travel and sightseeing ourselves. Daniel, the manager of the tour company, actually met us on the bus which picked us up outside Tsinghua on Thursday night. He spoke English very well and was going to be one of our guides for most of the trip. Although he was a stickler about being on time (as we would later find out), he was very nice and informative. Being part of a tour group does kind of have a field-trip mentality, with a bit less freedom, but it was worth it not having to worry about anything.
the guys


Our bus took us to Beijingxi (Beijing West) train station, where we caught the K89 to Hohhot, the capital city of Inner Mongolia. The train wasn't as nice as the previous Z-series train I had taken to Shanghai, but it was livable. Beds were stacked three high, and there were no private compartments, but it got the job done. Once we got to Hohhot, we met up with our other guide for the week, Susan, a 24-year old girl who was from the area and spoke decent English. She took us to the bus, where we met our driver Mr. Li...this guy was awesome! He was such a character, and although he spoke no English, he was extremely nice, animated, and always fought to get us the deal when there was bargaining involved.
"Rabbit" birthdays
After a nice breakfast in the city, complete with the traditional Mongolian "milk tea" and other dairy products not common in most of China, we took a 3-hour bus ride out to the grasslands. I was able to catch up on some precious lost sleep on the way there.

Once we got there, I was amazed at the scenery. It was so different from anything else in China! there was just a vast expanse of rolling grasslands, with a blazing sun, beautiful sky, and comfortable breeze. The place we were staying was comprised of "yurts" as rooms, which are like circular teepees (although ours were dressed up a bit more like hotel rooms), and a main lodge. We recieved a traditional Mongolian song and dance upon arrival, and then enjoyed a nice lunch in the lodge. Most of the food is similar to most Chinese food, although there tends to be more bread and dairy products (especially at breakfasts).
me & David outside our yurt
After settling into our yurts, we went out to ride some horses! I'm not sure if I've ever ridden one before, but it isn't too hard once you get the hang of it...at least with a horse trained to carry tourists around all day. I donned my recently-bought cowboy hat, sunglasses, and mounted my horse (I think I named him Thunder) with style. The ride through the bare grassland was pleasant, and we strolled up to an "Obo" monument (kind of a religious thing I think) which was covered in flags and stuff. We then walked the horses up to a herder's house, where a couple of yurts were set up for us to have tea and snacks in. The milk tea was delicious, and there were goodies for us to put in it such as little bird seeds, bread crunchies, a couple of dry cheeses, and some funky butter stuff.
the sunset
Overall very tasty, although I'm not sure what animal mostof the milk comes from. Maybe yak. Or goat. I'd probably rather not know (that has been the key to success when eating Chinese cuisine).

After trotting back to where the horses stay, we went to a little arena where we saw a show with a horse race and stunt-riders doing some crazy tricks on their horses. It was a pretty cool show, although there was one scary moment when one of the female trick riders missed a transfer from her male counterpart and fell off the horse onto the track. But she was ok. There were TONS of Asian tourist there trying to take pictures of us. I am just resigned to the fact that we are like celebrities over here. Asian guys look pretty funny in cowboy hats by the way. We went back for dinner, which was pretty similar to lunch, and then got dressed in some warmer clothes (since it gets cold at night out there) for the bonfire and musical dance show.
ridin' my camel
The show started pretty well, but it soon turned into a mess when every Asian tourist and their kid tried to run up on stage and snap pictures in the middle of the show. No sense of respect, these people! But it was funny to watch. It was then time to head for the yurt.

The next morning, we got up, had breakfast (more milk tea), and got on the bus to head for the Gobi desert. It was a long drive, but I caught up on some reading. We stopped in Baotou for lunch, and it was really enjoyable. Baotou is a very clean and organized city with a big mining and manufacturing industry (actually the largest city in Inner Mongolia). I think the Russians acutally helped build and develop the city back in the day.
the dune sledding
When we finally got to the desert, the view was really cool. It was like the hilly grassland just spilled out into endless sand dunes. The place we went was pretty touristy, but had some cool attractions. We rode a sweet cable car over to the main dune area and got to put on some sweet sand socks. I was lookin' pretty cool in those yellow booties. We first hopped on some camels for a ride, and it was fun! They were much more tame than the horses, and tied together, but I thought it was pretty comfortable in between the humps. Unfortuneately, a storm moved in and it began to rain on us, so we had to cut the ride short. The workers rushed some jeeps over to us to take us back to where there was shelter. About 7 of us got stuffed in one jeep, and it was a crazy ride! Our driver was flooring it over the dunes, and sometimes we would slide (once almost into another jeep) while on the side of a dune.
nice booties
The rain pouring on the windshield through all of this reminded me of the Jeep scenes from Jurassic Park. it was pretty freakin' awesome!

After the rain stopped, we got two rides down the dune slide, which was basically a large dune that they had maintained to ride little wooden sleds down. It was pretty fun, although the sand tends to get in your face if you don't cover up. Overall, the trip to the desert was well worth it. I think the rain just made  it that much more interesting. We then hopped on the bus and Mr. Li took us back to Hohot. When we got there, Daniel let us know that we would be staying the night in a 5-star hotel, the nicest one in Inner Mongolia! He wasn't lying, this place was awesome. Nice plump beds, bathrobes, plasma-screen TV, all the amenities.
Thomas in out 5-star room
..I couldn't have asked for a more relaxing night. And "Hot Fuzz" was playing on HBO!

The next morning, we also got a wonderful buffet breakfast. The waffles pretty much made my day. We spent the rest of the morning checking out some temples in the city. Daniel had left that morning, so Susan took us around and told us what everything was. After a nice lunch (although very similar to what we had been eating all weekend) we visited some nice tomb thingy (not sure who it was) which also had a museum on Hun culture. It was fairly interesting. Doesn't compare to the grasslands or desert though. The rest of the day included a shopping mall, dinner, and heading ot the train station. Pretty uneventful, but necessary in the progression of getting back home. We said our goodbyes to Mr.
going to the pagoda
Li and Susan (complete with generous and well-deserved tip) and made our way back to school, getting back just in time to be a bit late for class. It was a wonderful trip, and I am so glad that I got to experience this unique side of China! Riding real animals and wearing my cowboy hat made me think of America again and hanging out in the counrty. Definitely some good times. Only two weeks left in Beijing!
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Me & David, cowboys
Me & David, cowboys
the guys
the guys
Rabbit birthdays
"Rabbit" birthdays
me & David outside our yurt
me & David outside our yurt
the sunset
the sunset
ridin my camel
ridin' my camel
the dune sledding
the dune sledding
nice booties
nice booties
Thomas in out 5-star room
Thomas in out 5-star room
going to the pagoda
going to the pagoda
our bus
our bus
reception song
reception song
Chris & grasslands
Chris & grasslands
Melissa, Thomas, & yurts
Melissa, Thomas, & yurts
offering me a drink at lunch
offering me a drink at lunch
outside the yurt
outside the yurt
the grassland
the grassland
Chris & David
Chris & David
guys again
guys again
view from my horse
view from my horse
ridin the horse
ridin' the horse
Thunder
"Thunder"
the Obo
the Obo
Daniel
Daniel
girls learning to dance
girls learning to dance
Me & Adrienne
Me & Adrienne
horse race
horse race
stunts
stunts
inside the yurt
inside the yurt
David, Kristi, & I at sunset
David, Kristi, & I at sunset
posing
posing
me & David
me & David
Brokeback Mountain style
Brokeback Mountain style
the bonfire
the bonfire
bonfire show
bonfire show
Jenn & I riding the cablecar
Jenn & I riding the cablecar
Gobi Desert
Gobi Desert
cablecar
cablecar
camels!
camels!
Lightning
"Lightning"
Susan
Susan
temple entrance
temple entrance
big Buddha
big Buddha
Mongolian shopping street
Mongolian shopping street
a big pagoda
a big pagoda
me & Melissa
me & Melissa
the tomb thingy area
the tomb thingy area
Hun museum
Hun museum
atop the hill over the tomb
atop the hill over the tomb
singing at the table
the girls giving it a go
a quick glimpse of some of the ho…
first impressions
in the Gobi desert
10,617 km (6,597 miles) traveled
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