During the Mid-Autumn holidays last September 22-24, me and my friends decided to join the Inner Mongolian trip of a friend who is studying Mandarin in a nearby Chinese university. He mentioned that him and some other fellow Pinoys would be going on the trip, so we decided to tag along since Inner Mongolia sounded like an adventure. There were a heckload of preparations as we decided to join them the week of the trip, and we needed to be prepared (clothing-wise). While preparing for the trip, I realized that I had left behind my duffel bag at home, so I had to go and purchase a new one elsewhere. Another thing we had to prepare for was the cold Inner Mongolian nights, so I had to buy a fleece jacket at a nearby underground shopping market which my friends frequented. In preparing for Inner Mongolia, buying boots were also necessary as I didn’t have the necessary footwear for the trip. Aside from sandals and slippers, my running shoes were not your normal rubber shoes as they had breathing holes on the bottom and on top of the shoes, plus they were white.
Me and my flatmates were out of the house by around 4am (or even earlier than that) as we had to be at the meet-up place by a certain time. Meet-up place = Mcdonalds. Soon after we arrived and purchased breakfast, we were able to meet-up with the other Pinoys who were going with us on our trip. Looking at our group, we actually took up majority of the tour group, with Pinoys taking up more than half of the tour group. We left our meeting place sometime before 6 as the bus arrived a little late, and we arrived at the Inner Mongolian grasslands around noon. On the road heading there, we passed by a few stops for bathroom breaks and at one point even passed by a part that had a great view of part of the Great Wall.
Upon our arrival at the grasslands, we were welcomed by a rowdy group atop some horses. Staying alongside the bus, the men on horses led us to the entrance of the “yurt hotels” as I would simply put them. Our tour guide mentioned that it was a custom to accept the alcohol that would be served as we were descending the bus. Each of us were given a small cup half-filled with alcohol which we had to down, the last person to get off the bus had to down 3 full cups of alcohol. Luckily an American guy we befriended on the trip volunteered to be the last one to get off.
The biggest yurt-looking building in the area was the dining area. We were served with a lot of Inner Mongolian dishes. We even got to see another set of tourists who ordered an entire lamb for their meal. Expensive as it was, at least we had the opportunity to see it for ourselves as we couldn’t afford to order it for ourselves. Haha.
After our lunch, we went back to our bus to gather or leave behind any things we didn’t want to bring along with us as we were about to go horseback riding (Horseback riding experience cost us 150rmb). Riding atop horses (which I haven’t done in a long while since my grandmother has forbidden us to ride our horses back home), we took leisurely steps whilst getting used to the horses. The horse I took going to our destination was somewhat of an alpha male/female as “it” was taking the lead most of the way. My horse would get ahead of the group and had to be scolded by the handlers at various times during the initial trip. IT would even gallop on its own at times, which I wasn’t really afraid of since I’d ridden horses once or twice (or thrice) before. 🙂 Honestly though, it did hurt my behind a bit when my horse would gallop, so I had to try to copy those equestrians who would lift their behind a bit up so as not to have it hit the saddle every time I would bounce. The grasslands were just amazing. Sadly I wasn’t allowed to take pictures as the handlers said it might spook the horses into a frenzy, so no pictures at all.
We arrived at our destination sometime after. We had a few Inner Mongolian snacks like some cheese and such. After, we were led to this field and told to cross it to get to see a river on the other side. So we all trekked to the other side of the field and got a very good view of the river. It was amazing, like something you would see out of a postcard. Actually, the view reminded me of the Microsoft Windows but even better.
It was amazing. The grasslands seemed to run endlessly, with no large infrastructures in sight. No pollution, no noise, nothing. It was like you could sink into it and sleep peacefully forever. Of course, the one thing that got all of us was the cold. The wind would whip up once in a while and strike us with a very cold wind. Me and my friends took loads of pictures here, especially jump shots, as the background provided for amazing photos.
When the time to go back arrived, we all had to get new horses and I couldn’t find my old horse and had to get a new one. We rode back in just one group, which I had to say was not a very good experience as we were all clumped together and apparently, some horses just don’t get along with other horses. There were times that the horses were just walking normally, and at times the handlers would hurry us up a bit as it was already dark so the horses would begin to gallop. A few of my fellow Pinoys were a bit afraid of the horses so when the horses would begin to gallop, they would begin screaming. At times, some horses would go astray and gallop on their own so the handlers had to chase after those horses to calm them. All in all though, it was a really great experience, I’d do that part again.
When we arrived back at the dining area, I had a bad cold which I got from the temperatures outside, I guess as well from the wind blowing into my face as I was horseback riding. For dinner, my friends at the table I was in decided that we should be bold and go try the lamb, so we ordered one dish of the lamb worth 380rmb and divided it among the 10 of us. It was DELISH, despite my not really tasting the dish to its full extent as my cold was sort-of blocking my sense of taste.
In that “hotel” that our tour agency booked, we were given the option of renting 2 different kinds of rooms. One was the normal yurt that had a communal bathroom and was big enough to fit 6 people. The other more expensive yurt, which was more costly by about 50rmb would fit only 2 people but had its own bathroom. That was the solar-powered yurt.
Because I wasn’t feeling too well and wanted to avoid the extreme colds that were said to be the weather at night there in the Grasslands, I went to bed ahead of my friends. With a fleece top, as much clothes as I could fit underneath, as well as a fleece jacket and socks and leather gloves, I tried my best to sleep. Sadly, sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up to some noise outside. Apparently, again, I had been locked inside a room. Luckily though, this time, it had nothing to do with the lock from the outside. The wooden bolt on the inside had apparently fallen when someone closed the door, thus locking it.
Also, waking up made it hard to go back to sleep as the weather outside of the yurt as well as inside of the yurt was already cold. Just to get myself to feel a little warmer, I made a trip to the neighboring yurt belonging to friends and asked for a few shots of alcohol as they were already well into drinking to stave off the cold. After that, it was back to bed…..though numerous times I woke up in the middle of the night praying that morning would already come so that the weather wouldn’t be as cold. Luckily though, we were able to borrow extra blankets from the yurt of some friends who weren’t going to use them so that helped to keep away some of the cold during the night. Still, it was such an ordeal. Coming from a country that never gets that kind of temperature even during the coldest nights, considering we were in Inner Mongolia during early Autumn, it was extremely difficult to adjust.
Still, I wouldn’t mind maybe repeating that episode once again, I’ll be sure to be more prepared next time. Haha.
Travel to Inner Mongolia can be arranged via a travel agency. Large groups can head there via a bus, cheaper but takes longer, or via train which is much quicker but costlier.