An Inner Mongolian Episode Day 2 and 3

Our first day to Inner Mongolia was definitely a memorable experience. Who could ever imagine lasting in a yurt for an entire night, whilst praying that morning would come. One of the coldest nights I’ve ever experienced in my life, probably not something I’d like to experience again but am grateful to have experienced at least once.

The second and third day in Inner Mongolia was much easier. For the second day, we made our way to the deserts. It wasn’t as hot as I had imagined it to be, but it wasn’t that cold either. Our tour guide got us a ticket that allowed us up to 5 activities in the deserts. It cost about approximately 150-200rmb. With our ticket, we were allowed to take the cable car back-and-forth from the hotel area to the desert, it also allowed us to ride the camels, gave us a chance on a short train ride and on a desert car. Our ticket also allowed us a chance to sand sled.

View of the distinction between the desert area and the area where grass still grows

Riding on the cable car that was to take us to the desert side

“Security cars” that go patrolling around the area, right beside camel pen

Riding a camel. Riding a camel is not as easy as it looks. The first time we met these camels, they looked really nice, all seated and roped together in groups. Riding them seems like an easy enough task, get on the seat-looking thing provided and voila, that’s it. Getting on the camel was not a completely easy task, even though they were sitting down, the seats were still quite high it was like trying to get on the back of a horse via a stirrup. The camels were made to stand up soon after we took our places, it was a painful surprise, especially for the guys in our small group of 5. As the camels moved, we were tossed forward and backward in our seat. Funny thing about riding a camel is that you notice the oddest things, like how they poop a lot, or how their tails move as they walk, things like that. Getting down from the camel proved an even harder task than getting on. We were given warning as to their moving into a sitting position so we could alight, but it still came as a surprise when they suddenly jerked forward (front feet went down first). My guy friend even said “我的鸟!” as the camel came to its sitting position, wouldn’t have wanted to be him then. Yikes!

Riding a train. The train ride was nothing grand, but fun all the same. It’s suppose to take you from the area where the camel ride ends, to another part of the desert not too far away. The ride is slow enough that you get to enjoy the fresh air and the view. On the train ride, you can see loads of desert dunes with varying sizes, they’re quite amazing to look at. Especially with the clear blue sky, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Just miles and miles of sand as far as the eye can see. That’s definitely not something you’ll see everyday.

Sand sculptures

After we got down from the train, a few meters away, we discovered quite a number of sand sculptures. Not your average-sized ones too, they were all taller than me, and had very intricate designs. There was one that was some sort of castle or was it a temple, and there were others with more Chinese-like designs.

Desert Car Ride. Our desert car ride was fun. This seemingly small thing is actually quite big, and can fit up to more than 20-25 people. The ride, which takes you back to the area where you first began (where you first ride the camels), is like it’s own mini roller coaster ride. The car takes you up and down big and small desert dunes, with the desert wind blowing in your hair, there’s nothing quite like it (to some extent). Me and my friends took videos of the ride which shall prove to be quite the memory a few years from now. After we got off this desert car though, we found that you can actually try the All-Terrain Vehicles they have available, though they cost something like 100-200rmb (not quite sure about the price) for about an hour’s ride through the desert. A few of my guy friends went for it, it seemed quite fun but a bit too expensive for my taste.

What the sand sledding area (on the left)  looks like from the other side of the cable car

Sand sledding. Sand sledding was quite the activity out of all other activities for that day. It looks really fun but scary at the same time. From the picture here, it doesn’t look that steep but when you’re actually there, it seems much scarier. Also, unless you’re a child or with a companion (who is willing to ride down with you), then you’re all alone. I think for most people, it’s much better to be doing it alone but then some people do go down together. They have 3 booths for going down. You’re suppose to use your hand as “brakes” while going down the slope, though I had a friend who didn’t use his hands at all. There’s nothing to stop you at the end so you have to be careful about your speed. In my case, I was quite excited to try it, but as soon as the guy at the booth went asking who’d like to go next, I moved backwards. Saying it is different from actually doing it. Once I was actually there, I was re-thinking whether or not I would really go down though in the end, I really did do it. Funny thing about riding down is that you feel like you’re going much quicker than everyone else but in actuality, everyone’s about the same. I have to say though, no long nails or well-done manicure should be done before this trip lest they just end up wasted.

For Day Three, we didn’t do much. After waking up early and leaving the hotel we were on the road for the most part. For our lunch, we spent a delicious meal at a hotpot place where each table had a whole cart filled with delectable food ready to be cooked. Meat, vegetables, tofu and other toppings, it was quite the experience. I was seated with a couple and their child (from somewhere in the Middle East or was it Eastern Europe), some new Western friends from TsingHua, and a few other friends. We had a ton of laughs especially when the father and my friend from the US and a fellow Chinoy were competing amongst themselves regarding who could eat the most chili. Another activity we did for the day was to go to this factory where they were making souvenirs for sale. We arrived around lunchtime so the workers were off on their break, but we got to see a lot of the items they had for sale. They had items like well-crafted swords and weaponry (like weapons you can see on Dynasty Warriors), they had jewelry and accessories, variously designed stuffed toys (I bought a small camel stuffed toy), gift items like wallets and other small things, clothes, and items for the house like carpets and curtains and the like.
After both of those activities, we were a bit behind schedule so we didn’t end up going to the museum which our tour guide said was on our schedule. Good thing though because despite not heading for the museum as planned, our trip home to Beijing was interrupted by a traffic jam. It took us about 6-7 hours to get from Beijing to the grasslands, but from Hohhot City to Beijing took about 12hours on the road! During our trip back home, we made at least 2 pit-stops for both a bathroom break and to buy supplies in case we got into another traffic jam. Close to midnight we all looked out our windows and with a dismayed look all cursed out loud, we were still in Inner Mongolia. How did we know despite it looking like we were in a city? All the signs had something on top of them, whatever dialect the Inner Mongolians used, so yeah, we were still there. Sometime past midnight, we finally got to the highway and were finally on the right track home. Between 3-4am, we finally arrived home in our area of Beijing. Dead tired, bodies aching, legs clamoring to get out of the bus.
Definitely a memorable trip, but I wouldn’t want to go through the trouble again. Haha.
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