For all of the hard work I’ve put in this summer, it was really nice to get away for a week and go on a little vacation. Five others and myself traveled to Inner Mongolia and spent a week in Hohhot, China. Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region and doesn’t share many of the same customs as the rest of China. They have their own written and spoken language, but most people can speak Mandarin Chinese as well as their local language. We took and overnight train to Hohhot, but when we purchased our train tickets there were no sleeper cars left so we had to ride in seats for 12 hours. Unfortunately, a few hundred other people had “standing tickets” and they packed into all of the cars with seats. I didn’t leave my seat for the whole 12 hours worried that my seat would be taken by a standing passenger. When I think back about it though, I don’t know if I actually could have gotten out of my seat we were literally packed like a can of sardines with all of the people and luggage.
Once we got into Hohhut we headed to our hostel, where we stayed one night before heading out into the dessert for the next two days. It took us about four hours to make it to the Gobi dessert from the city. The ride was terrifying. We learned that on the highway, going 60 miles-per-hour, if there aren’t at least three cars side-by-side in two lanes, someone isn’t driving correctly. There are no traffic laws here, people just want to get where they’re going as fast as they can. We finally got to our destination and took a transformed military truck out to our campsite. We spent the next 15 hours in the dessert, just enjoying the scenery. We rode camels back to the base camp and headed back to the city where we found a nice hotel with showers powerful enough to wash of the half-inch of sand we were all covered in. We took the next day off, rested up and then headed out to the grasslands for the next two days. While in the grasslands, which seemed to be more dry than the dessert due to a lack of rain, we rode Mongolian horses. Mongolian horses are much smaller than horses in America, but were just as fun to ride. There we yurts at our camp, traditional Mongolian tents that we used when the Mongolian people were more nomadic. Yurts can be put up in and taken down in about an hour and stay cool during the summer and warm during the winter. Through the tour we took, however, we were given “luxurious” yurts. Our tents had beds, a T.V., and a bathroom. Our lodgings were definitely not traditional but were very comfortable. Later at the bonfire, we watched traditional dances and heard traditional songs. Afterward, however, we became the center of attention and everyone wanted pictures with us. Many of the guests there were from areas of China where no foreigners ever visit. It was a big deal for them to have a picture with us, so we all played models for about a half hour taking a total of about a hundred pictures. We headed back to Hohhut and again relaxed for another day before heading back to Tianjin. While we were in Inner Mongolia we ate some new foods we’d never tried before. We had some of their local dairy products that were dry and similar to candy. We also had some very strange breads. Lamb is very popular in Inner Mongolia so of course we ate our fair share of that too.
Overall it was a really fun trip. It was nice to have a break. I have a few more days of class and a few tests to take, but I’m excited for the rest of my time in China.