国庆节快乐！This week celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic China and so I have a week off of classes! As this is really the only break that we have this semester, I wanted to go somewhere cool and so my friends and I headed to Inner Mongolia! Pro-tip: Check out the local clubs on campus, especially ones directed at study abroad and international students. Because we were a part of a 50-person group of students in the Western Students Union we were able to go to Inner Mongolia for far cheaper than if we’d booked it ourselves, and we met a ton of really cool people from all over the world!
Just to remind everyone, Inner Mongolia is not the Mongolia you’re thinking of, Inner Mongolia is the autonomous region directly to the south of Mongolia and is a part of China.
It was an amazing trip! After a ten-hour bus ride we arrived at a spot on the grasslands that rents out yurts for people to stay in for the night. They were by no means luxurious, but it was super fun to experience and was surprisingly warm.
That same day we also got to ride horses across the grasslands! Mongolian horses are a lot smaller than the horses you’d typically ride in the U.S. and were very herd oriented. I rode horses for a long time when I was younger, but it was very difficult to control these horses. If one ran, they all ran. If one decided to veer off in the wrong direction, they were all going to go in the wrong direction. It was rather amusing. But it was incredible to ride with 50 other people and just look across endless rolling hills. I can’t imagine what it would have looked like in spring with the grass all green and flowering.
We also mingled with some of the other Chinese tourists staying at the yurts and started a makeshift soccer game. They were way better than all of us but it was a fun time and it was great to talk with them!
For dinner they fed us lamb, which they roasted somehow and brought out on a giant spit. Then there was a bonfire outside under the stars and they had someone who could do throat singing. I highly suggest you look it up, because it is one of the strangest sounds you’ll ever hear come out of a person’s mouth, but so amazing! It got really cold that night, but a bunch of us went out onto the grasslands and lay down on the grass. There is so little light and pollution out there that you can see that actual Milky Way. We sat there for a really long time just staring and talking. We even saw a shooting star!
The next day was just as action packed! Our next stop was the desert. Here we got to ride camels around the dunes, go zip lining, roll down a giant sand dune, and go sand sliding! It by the end of the day we were just covered in sand! It was actually kind of strange how all of a sudden we went from plains and farmland to sand dunes. I wonder how that happened!
Our final stop was the provincial capital of Inner Mongolia, Hohhot. By China standards it isn’t that huge of a city but there are tons of temples and mountains circling the city. I admit that I was asleep for a lot of this, there were many early mornings, long bus rides, and busy days leading up to it. But we did eat Mongolian hotpot, which is a feast! You receive your own bowl of bowling water and then you add whatever sauces and ingredients to it that you want! There were tons of different kinds of meat, including some more adventurous things like pig stomach, and so many vegetables.
In addition we rented out a giant room at KTV for the 50 of us to sing karaoke. Karaoke is a huge thing in Asia and even if you aren’t confident in your singing abilities (this girl right here), it doesn’t matter because it’s auto tuned and everyone is singing with you anyway. They have songs from all over the world too so whether you want to sing Green Day, T-Swift, or Girls Generation they have a song for you! There is no need to be nervous at all about singing here, it’s just too much fun! The next night we went to see a band play and somehow they knew Bon Jovi and played that for us!
The people were of course the best part. Nothing makes a ten-hour bus ride go by faster than talking to people about your favorite foods back home, or a European’s take on the election. There are so many different ways of looking at the world, and you have no idea how many until you talk to people from different backgrounds. I met people from Cameroon and I met people from the next town over from mine in Illinois. There was so much we could have talked about.
See you next time!