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Another Chinese region visited…

fullsizeoutput_3a2When I lived in Beijing some years ago, I arranged to visit Inner Mongolia on two separate occasions but on both times my return flights were cancelled and I ended up cancelling the whole trip as I was very concerned I would get stuck there for nearly week; and really once you have seen the downtown/a museum/temples and the grasslands there is not that much to do because it’s either very hot or very cold!

But on this occasion our flights were not cancelled and we flew from north/east China to Hohhot the capital of Inner Mongolia.  I had arranged a tour guide and we were collected from the airport and taken for some lunch then to do some sightseeing (more on that later).  We arrived at a lovely series of buildings one containing our restaurant.fullsizeoutput_3b3fullsizeoutput_3b4The interior of the restaurant was quite interesting and I couldn’t work out if the artificial flowers were a regular feature or there was a special event [perhaps a wedding] later that afternoon.fullsizeoutput_3ae

But the food was pretty good as I was concerned being a vegan in Inner Mongolia.  As the Mongols eat an incredible amount of mutton and drink Yaks milk, I thought I might have to eat  a lot of almonds that I had brought from Australia…but at this restaurant there were no issues.  I enjoyed ma po dofu [tofu cooked in a spicy chilli sauce], a fabulous noodle dish and the largest pile of bread I have seen in a while.  Lucky our guide was there to da bao [take the remaining food home].fullsizeoutput_3af

On our second day we drove from Hohhot to the Xilamuren Grasslands in Baotou City which was about a four hour drive.  Our first stop was to be what I thought a wonderful cultural event.  How wrong was I!!  The place was old and unfortunately reminded me of a tacky theme park.fullsizeoutput_3a6We arrived in the middle of no-where to a [rather bored] locally dressed welcoming committee who gave us a local spirit to drink in a small silver bowl [tasted exactly like Chinese alcohol {bai jiu} which is definitely not on my favourite drinks list] and a blue nylon scarf [hada] was placed around our necks as a welcoming gift.

The area contained many yurts which is used as accommodation for those wishing to stay overnight.  I have no idea what you would do here for a few days.  We walked around a bit and went inside one to see what was inside the yurt.  It was pretty basic but clean and tidy.fullsizeoutput_3a0fullsizeoutput_3a3Our guide then took us to a large yurt where we had lunch and as it was 1230pm, the majority of Chinese visitors had finished and we were quite alone in this cavernous room.fullsizeoutput_3b5I mentioned before the lunch was good; so different on this day.  I was given a plate of cabbage in some yucky sauce and my friend Jon had mutton soup [which he said was disgusting – way too oily] and some mutton cut up.  Also said this was awful.  Even our guide apologised and said the food in the grasslands was not good and he disliked it.  But staff were very friendly so I just drank Chinese tea and omitted to take photos as food was not appealing even to look at.

Our guide then asked us if we wanted to see Mongolian wrestling and horseback riding which was an additional charge, following which we could take a horse ride.  Horse racing, wrestling and archery are the main sporting traditions of the Mongols but it was all a bit too commercialised for me and if the wrestlers and horseback riders were as excited as our welcoming committee, I knew we were not in for a treat.8523559147_11332f9d14_b(source: Wikipedia)

Also I dislike riding horses, so I asked if our guide could take us to the grasslands for us to walk around and take some photos.  He was very happy to do this and on our way out we saw Chinese visitors coming in with luggage [looking very happy to be there – guess its horses for courses] and some taking a horseback ride.fullsizeoutput_3a5We drove about ten minutes up a mountain and this enabled us to walk around for the next hour or so.  IMG_2865As it was September, the grasslands were not green but I still found them beautiful.  The sky was a gorgeous blue and cloud formation lovely.  I enjoyed breathing in the fresh air and taking in the sights.  This was definitely what I came to Inner Mongolia to do and see.IMG_2897IMG_2891For anyone who does not know, Inner Mongolia borders Russia and Outer Mongolia and is about 1000 metres above sea level.  It’s a pretty large land surrounded region, actually the widest in China covering 2,500 kilometres from west to east.  Our guide told us that the following week would be his last tour to the grasslands as the weather turns and becomes too cold for visiting.  I think I was therefore very lucky to be able to walk the area with a little bit of sunshine.fullsizeoutput_3aafullsizeoutput_3abfullsizeoutput_3aafullsizeoutput_3a4We finished our walk and headed back on our four hour drive to Hohhot.  Whilst we did have some laughs, I am incredibly happy I made the effort to go to Inner Mongolia as this was a pretty special day.