4 am and I’m jumping a fence, duffle bag in hand, to go to a 4 days adventure.
I had a weeklong vacation just a month after starting classes, tour guys where wandering the school halls handing out brochures about where every foreigner National’s Holiday trip should be in: Xian, Shanghai, Hangzhou, you name it; with good prices and a lot of “beautiful scenery” included. At the beginning I was planning to go to Shanghai, but none of my friends wanted to join me in that trip, so when my roommate told me she was planning to go to Inner Mongolia I quickly called home to tell them about my new destination.
Going to Inner Mongolia was a no brainer to me. In 2014, when I participated and won my country’s Chinese Bridge Competition my speech was about that province, and my performance was an Inner Mongolian song. Why not see it for myself?
Before the trip I prepared some food for the 8+ hours long bus ride: Fruit, cookies, peanuts… I read some packing lists and was prepared for everything.
October 2, four o’clock in the morning, Beijing Normal University’s doors are closed and the bus could arrive in any moment, my roommate and I help each other jump the school fence, after just a few minutes the bus is here. I take my seat, and an Australian girl sits next to me, we eat snacks while chatting: tons of snacks, tons of chatting (8+ hours, remember?) I learn about Australia, and I get surprised when she tells me they eat kangaroos (who knew?).
Fast forward to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. First stop a… craft store? gift shop?… kind of both. We walk through the store and see a lot of stuff we can buy for a not so small fee, instead, we take pictures with knives.
End of day one.
We left the hotel at seven to go to Inner Mongolia Museum, learn about the story of Inner Mongolia and see some folk dances.
We got on the bus again to go to the prairie where we did some horse riding, archery and drove cars. Galloping on the prairie was different than anything I’ve did before, these horses where not trained to respond to western commands, they only responded to sounds, and the horse trainers didn’t want to make it any easy for us: they told the horses to go as fast as they could, leaving us pretty sore. Anyways, it was fun , and we saw a lot of beautiful natural scenery.
Till now the food has been plainly bad, this was not the exception. The tour agency didn’t provide a good picture of Chinese food, serving over and over the same disappointing dishes.
That night we were sleeping in a yurt, but before, we shared some drinks and music surrounding a bonfire… until some guys got crazy, start burning wood stairs, and one of my yurt-mates ends up with a bump on her head.
The temperature at night was so low I had to sleep with a lot of clothes on, winter boots included.
On the third day we went to a Buddhist Temple and then to the desert.
We took fast sandcars to get near the attractions: camel riding, four wheels, sand sledding…
I did first what I came to do: riding a camel. It was fun, camels are cute and soft skinned creatures. Afterwards, I was ready to do some other attractions, but I had lost my ticket! I walked the camel track by foot to see if I found it…I didn’t… I almost lost hope and then I found someone else ticket, and kept it.
I did everything but the four wheel ride, I’ve never like it since one of my middle-schoolmates broke her leg riding one. This time, one of the guys in our travel group ended up using crutches the rest of the trip.
We set out from the desert to the hotel at 7:00pm, but after 8:30pm busses couldn’t be in the highway, so we reached the hotel after 1am.
We woke up early and had breakfast on the bus: plain milk with plain bread.
We had to wait in the bus before departure because one of the guys lost his cellphone and went to the police to see if they could find it (they did).
Then, we arrived to Yungang Grottoes, located in Datong, Shanxi. There I was able to see lots of Buddhist statues of the V and VI centuries in amazingly good condition.
We arrived to the floating temple, our next attraction late, ONE WEEK LATE. It was closed because of a landslide of rocks that happened a week before (how organized…!)
Day 5, 1am, we reached home, four hours later than planned (no big deal).
Our time in Inner Mongolia was short, we spent more than half of it on a bus and met a lot of new friends. It was fun, interesting, unforgettable.