A couple weeks ago we traveled to Inner Mongolia. Quick geography lesson - Inner Mongolia is a province of China, but Mongolia is its own country. My other posts about Mongolia and the Nadaam Festival were about the country of Mongolia - but just a couple weeks ago, we returned from a trip to Inner Mongolia, a Chinese province.
I think the biggest reason we went was so that we could 1. check Inner Mongolia off our "Chinese provinces I've been to" list (which will be totally checked off by the time we leave China), and 2. so that we could compare the province to the country of Mongolia.
In my opinion, Inner Mongolia is pretty much just another Chinese province. A couple differences: the roads in Mongolia were really rough, infrastructure was undeveloped, whereas in Inner Mongolia, the roads and infrastructure are typical of a developing & advancing China - awesome. Also, the nomadic culture is still very much alive in the country of Mongolia, whereas in Inner Mongolia, everything about the nomadic culture is more a remnant of the past, but is kept alive through tourism and giving us tourists what we want. People who stayed in yurts in Inner Mongolia stayed in a cement-bottomed yurt while the "nomadic family" lived in their concrete house that was behind the yurt. With that said - we didn't go to the best area of the province to see traditional nomadic culture, and the tourist-centric grassland & "nomad experience" was very unauthentic. However, the grasslands around Hailai'er and Xilinhot are supposed to be better.
The really dry "grasslands"... more like a desert, this year!
Majorly touristy yurts...
Something great that came out of the experience... we met a family, chatted with them all day, and they invited us to their home in Anhui Province! We are going to visit in September, when the husband's parents visit. We plan to see Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui Province, and now we have some friends to show us around. (How lucky are we that this sort of thing seems to happen to us everywhere we go?! What can I say - Chinese people are usually really impressed when two white Americans can speak their language!)
The Zhang family, and my husband
In my opinion - if you want a true Mongolian experience, I'd head to the country of Mongolia where the nomad lifestyle is still very much alive and authentic.
The most interesting thing, I think, about the provincial capital of Hohhot is the unique architecture remnant of the Middle East. Hohhot does have a large Muslim population & one of the main attractions is a mosque. Unfortunately I had a dress on and was unable to enter.... the man also shooed us away and told us not to take pictures.
A Buddhist ceremony-thing we stumbled on in the streets
The White Tower
We took a cab out to the white tower... its actually out a-ways from the city.... on the way my husband assured me it would be easy to find cabs out there, because it is a major tourist spot. Unfortunately, we arrived & realized we were the only people there visiting the tower! We wanted to stay but knew it would be impossible to find a cab way out where we were... and our cab driver was getting off work. SO, he gave us TEN minutes to visit the tower, and if we weren't back then, he'd leave us. So, we hauled butt, took a few pics, and left.
These next pictures were taken of or around the 5 Pagoda Temple in Hohhot.
Well thats about it for Inner Mongolia. I have to say, one thing that was really obvious was the staring. Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, is definitely the place we have been stared at the most during our travels. Adults and children alike would stare at us, often times open-mouthed, or to the dismay of other bike riders as they actually stopped looking where they were riding so they could turn their entire bodies to stare at us as they rode past! Besides on the flight over, we didn't see any other Westerners the entire time we were in Inner Mongolia!
In just a few days we are off on another trip, this time a 15 night trip out to a place that is famous for being the farthest point away from the ocean in the entire world. We are going through several areas and small towns, so internet will probably be sporadic, but I'll post if I can!