If travelling to China may seem bizarre, going to Inner Mongolia, the region of China at the border with the actual Mongolia, will definitely look crazy.
Yet when I was studying at Beijing University it seemed like a pretty normal trip to do. A few colleagues and friends had already been there and together with Cheeks we said why not.
At the time we were living in the lively Wudaokou 五道口 and there we went out, we found a travel agency, we sneaked in and booked the unbelievable trip I am going to tell you about.
I am not going to tell you the name of the travel agency, not because I don’t remember it, but because it’s in Chinese! with Chinese characters! You wouldn’t be able to read it. That’s why.
But let’s get back to business.
This would be our rough itinerary:
Today, 7 years later, Google tells me it takes 13 hours to get to the destination.
So why the damn agency told us we would only need 5 hours? We don’t know.
Anyway, our trip to Mongolia started with a comfortable 17 hours journey in a bus.
In those hours, we put our life at risk in the following occasions:
- when our guide decided she had to pee, on a highway, and the bus stopped, on a highway, while she was executing what she needed to do right on the wheel of our bus, like a dog, providing us an unforgettable view
- when the driver realized he got the wrong street, on a highway, and made a U-turn, on a highway, where we kept going for at least 100 metres against the flow. When I expressed my remonstration to the tour guide she genuinely replied 我负责, it’s my responsibility. The last memory of that episode sees me shouting at her that her responsibility would be so helpful when we would all be dead. Fun fact: all of that conversation happened in Chinese.
- when Cheeks, that was already regretting first having abandoned her tv series, the having abandoned our dorm room, then being born, was almost committing suicide in a world that did not know smartphones.
The quality of the pictures taken during the road is kind of explanatory about our moods:
We only get to Xilamuren 希腊穆仁, our first stop-over, in late evening. Picturesque shared yurts were waiting for us.
Too bad there wasn’t one for us!
After a burning discussion with the tour guide we already know, she hastily runs away and me and Cheeks are stranded in the Mongolian grassland.
We decide to shamelessly sneak into an already occupied yurt and we sleep on the floor with 5 Japanese girls.
The girl don’t have any objection, they don’t even look at us. They maybe thought it was normal, 2 foreigners, the only not almond eyed ones in the area, get into your room and starts sleeping in a corner.
After a night spent teeth-chattering, where the only warmth was generated by our breath, we wake up and go look for a bathroom.
Toilet: See below
I was about to say that one could make a whole degree thesis about Chinese toilets, if it wasn’t that I actually made a degree thesis about Chinese toilets. 145 pages, to be precise.
We start our tour and we finally make it to the grasslands.
It seems the perfect moment to rent a Quad. We roar by the grassland and wander following an alleged guide, unable to communicate and highly drunk.
After a day spent moseying around with our Quad, our guide that’s slowly becoming a friend brings us to a restaurant, where we taste some stingy mutton and assist to such a show:
We also have a showman. I will leave to your imagination our ability to understand his jokes in Mongolian dialect.
The next day we are headed to Kubuqi 库布其, which is part of the gigantic Gobi desert.
The chosen destination is a very touristic place one hour away from Baotou. It’s called Xiang Sha Wan 响沙湾 or Resonant Sand Gorge, it’s 18.000 m² big and it’s a place built in the middle of the desert only for tourist’s amusement.
We really didn’t miss out anything: camel’s ride (180 CNY), chair lift ride (40 CNY) – in which Cheeks wanted to die as she is scared of heights, sand sliding (50 CNY), funny shoe protector (10 CNY), photo with 60 thai students in a school trip (free).
Here as well toilets are impressive:
After collecting sand everywhere and taking a little bit of Gobi to bring home, it’s time to go back.
We head to Hohhot. We stop in a museum that was not too worthy, then in the main square where I buy a peas ice-cream that I decide to share with this cat
After about 70.000 hours we manage to get back to Beijing.