If you haven’t already – read Part 1!
Our first full day in Inner Mongolia started off with meeting our driver/tour guide, Chao. Chao was part of the reason why I had such a fantastic time in Inner Mongolia – he’s a great person who actually cares about his guests, and he’s a local who is willing to work with you to create the right itinerary. By hiring an independent tour guide instead of a tour company, we got cool, unique, and authentic experiences such as staying with a local family instead of riding in a giant coach with 50 other people and staying in yurt “resorts”. Best of all, he speaks English quite well, like to the point where he can make jokes in English. If you’ve ever studied a foreign language, you’ll know that this is not easy (especially in China, where it seems like even university educated students have a hard time conversing in English).
We piled into his van, and off we went – 2 hour road trip to the Xilamuren Grassland!
The Xilamuren Grassland is flat and vast. After 4 months in Shanghai, it felt nice to get away from cities, polluted air, cars, traffic, stores, lights, people… pretty much everything, really. The sight of actual blue skies and actual clouds was very refreshing.
The grass here is kind of sparse though. If you’re looking for lush fields of green, I don’t know… go to New Zealand or something. 😛
We briefly stopped by the side of the road and followed a path through the grass, which led to these rock mounds. Prayer flags gently flapped in the breeze as I circled the central altar 3 times, as instructed by the tour guide.
We hopped back into the van and headed to our destination – a Mongolian family home in the grassland, where we would stay the night.
The Mongolian family owns a herd of sheep, but the sheep were currently grazing away from the home. Apparently, they herd themselves and come back at night to rest. There was also a fenced area with cows and roosters. According to the guide, it’s not unheard of to wake up to a cow right outside your yurt!
There’s no running water. In fact, there aren’t modern restroom facilities for miles and miles 😛
Us: Where is the restroom?
Tour Guide: Everywhere!
Tour Guide: It’s “nature’s toilet”.
Us: …………………. D:
There was, however, a toilet area on this family’s property:
After settling in, we decided to hike up a nearby rocky hill while waiting for dinner to be served. It was right about sunset – perfect time to climb a hill 🙂
When we got done posing for pictures (lol), we headed back to eat dinner, served by the Mongolian family.
As mentioned in my last post, Mongolian food tends to be salty. According to our tour guide, Mongolian men typically have physically demanding lifestyles (riding horses all day, etc.) so their meals need to be salty to replace the salt that would be lost through sweat. Because Mongolians are nomadic, meals mostly consist of meat and dairy products.
We spent the night in one of the yurts – yes, one yurt was big enough to hold all six of us 🙂
The Qin Great Wall
The next day, we headed to an ancient part of the Great Wall. There is an entrance fee to this tourist attraction, but we bypassed it by climbing up a hill…………. yes really………. apparently our tour guide does this all the time. I just did what he told me to do, okay!!!
The great wall here has mostly collapsed, but you can make out crumbling pieces of the wall. At the very least, it was a nice mountain hike 🙂
After our visit to the great wall, we headed to the city of Baotou and stayed at a hotel for the night (finally, running water!!!!!!)