HohHot, Inner Mongolia – Town life, Grasslands & Desert.
HohHot is located in Inner Mongolia, China. It is not to be confused with Mongolia the country.
A Ger is the correct local name for a Yurt. A tent like structure, usually circular and can stand by itself or surrounded by a mass of other Yurt structures out in the wilderness. Inner Mongolia is a huge Province so I did not have the time to explore much. The focus of my trip was HohHot with a 2-day/1-night tour to the Grasslands and Desert.
Making the journey to HohHot
After sitting on the plane for approximately 15 minutes the plane finally made a move, although it wasn’t to take off, but rather just to drive around for what felt like 30 minutes.
After being in the air about 1 hour the announcement, “You will feel some bumping due to the bad weather outside” came screeching though the speakers. Yes bumping means turbulence. This same announcement was repeated several times causing some loud giggles from us.
As the plane was due to the land the announcement was “Don’t forget to clam your luggage”. More giggles!
Accommodation - Anda Guesthouse
Day 1 – Arriving & Exploring HohHot
Prior to the flight I had arranged to use the Guesthouse airport pick-up service which cost approximately £9 (total for all passengers sharing a car). The driver was punctual, helpful and very friendly. After a short drive we arrived at Anda Guesthouse to be pleasantly greeted by the staff. After checking in we walked around the local area for hours, ending up at a park with small temples hidden in the trees plus local people relaxing in the sun. A wonderful way to start the trip.
Returning to the hostel we spent some time talking to the staff about doing a Grasslands/Desert tour. After much needed guidance and information we booked our 2 day/1 night tour through them which would begin early the following morning.
For those wondering about prices – Because prices depend on the time of year you choose to visit I have made the decision to leave out any price information. Although we were travelling on a budget and still had money left over so it wasn’t expensive at all. Plus it is one payment which includes: transportation, any entrance fees, accommodation (Ger) and meals. Excludes: camel and horse riding fees.
Day 2 – Xilamuren Grasslands
Early start on day 2 as we prepared for our drive to the Grasslands. The drive was broken up with a lovely stop at a Temple for Sharmanism which we were told is now used for Buddhism too. We walked around the temple, rubbing golden bells for good fortune.
Our local guide showed us to our Ger where we were left to make our beds and explore the surroundings a little. We were actually advised to rest but we were so excited we couldn’t even sit still.
We were lucky enough to catch some sheep and horse herding. I found the sheep particularly amusing as when they saw me about to take a photograph, it almost looked as if they were posing. What do you think?
Whilst wondering around taking pictures, our guide called us back. It was time for some Horse Riding. I don’t know about you but when I picture horses I see very tall, strong and elegant creatures. Well, Mongolian horses are nothing like what I am used to. They are very short, muscular and a little scruffy looking.
Off we went on our horse ride. A few things I hadn’t prepared for quickly became apparent. A good sports bra is necessary especially for those who have large breasts like myself. Of course this wasn’t an issue until the owner of the horses decided we should trot. Lots of boob holding whilst trying to control a horse isn’t the most fun. Thankfully I have ridden horses before so I was unphased. My confidence had peaked too soon. We began to canter which is much more comfortable. The horses then decided they wanted to gallop. If these horses had been from our home countries we would have been able to control them but these horses follow different orders so as we were trying to slow them down, we were in fact encouraging them to speed up. Needless to say, if it wasn’t for the owner wanting to slow down and thus telling the horses to do so, we most likely would have been thrown off.
Next on the agenda was Mongolian Archery. This was quite a strange and interesting experience. Firstly the target was blowing in the wind making it almost impossible to hit. Secondly, in the Western world we stand straight and aim horizontally whereas here they bend over slightly when aiming. It’s quite uncomfortable but remember they are used to riding a horse at the same time so tilting slightly makes for better control of your horse as well as your bow and arrow.
Dinner is served!
Mongolians are widely known for being mutton lovers. They are also known for using the entire animal for various purposes. Not only the meat for food, but the skin for coats etc and the bones for ornaments and games. The meal we were served consisted of noodles, tofu & duck hotpot with a large side portion of mutton. Don’t forget the many beers to round the meal off perfectly.
As the sun was beginning to set we were taken out into the grasslands for Cow Pie Picking. Yes, cow pie is cow poop! Yes, we were going to wonder around collecting that cow poop into a basket carried on our backs! Surprisingly, this was a lot of fun. Our guide taught us how to spot the difference between different animals poop and how to know when it is ready to be collected. Not a skill I will ever need again but you learn something new everyday.
We returned to our Ger with two baskets of cow pies which we then used for a bonfire. Watching the sunset sitting around a bonfire drinking beer and listening to Mongolian throat singing was a perfect end to a perfect day.
Another early start before heading to the desert. The drive was pleasant and scenic minus the bumpy roads. Where is my sports bra when I need it hehe.
Another cheeky pit stop. It’s a sort of religious shrine. The idea is to find a stone or small rock to place on it then walk around it 3 times. Brings you good luck!
Arriving at Kubuqi Desert we were immediately taken to a room to change into sand shoes which are basically big cotton socks you wear over your current shoes. Once we were ready it was time for Camel Riding. I never realised how comical camels were up close. They’re awkward, slow and stubborn as hell. After watching the owner get two of them to lay down so we could climb on, we set off on a short walk through the desert. For those who have never ridden a camel, it is quite strange as there movements/steps are very large but slow so you feel like you might slip off.
Next it was time for Sand Dunes. This brought out the inner child in me. I just wanted to slide down over and over again BUT remember you have to then walk back up carrying your sled. It is not easy to do on sand and in the blistering sun. It is a great workout though.
Day 4 – More exploring of HohHot
Day 4 was our last official day to explore so we made a full day of it. Started off by wandering along a long street filled with souvenir shops and traditional clothing stores. Even tried on a few things for fun. I decided to buy the Bone Game so I could take it home and teach my friends. I will explain the game rules at the end. We visited the food street but this time stopped to eat there and later that night we also tried a few of the bars out.
The Bone Game
You need: 5 bones (sheep bones)
Landing options: 4 different ways they can land when dropped onto a surface (because each bone has 4 sides)
Note: Some surfaces allow 6 ways to land.
- Roll the bones (the same way as dice)
- Check how many match (you are looking at the surfaces facing up) 4 same/4 different OR 3 same/3 different
- Pick up the odd one
- Throw the odd bone in the air, and whilst it’s in the air try collecting the remaining bones in that same hand before catching the flying bone piece (the aim is to use the same hand for all of this)
Note: 1) If only choosing 3 bones in part 2 - don't touch the bone left behind. 2) If 2 or more bones are leaning against each other - throw a bone to separate them.