Boy, oh boy, where do I even begin with our four-day trip to Inner Mongolia’s Hulun Buir grasslands? I thought I’d start off by posting two personal posts detailing what we got up to, in the style of a Travel Diary, and then I’ll type up an Inner Mongolia Travel Guide. Here goes…
Arriving at Hulun Buir
Adrian and I were short on time so we made the *risky* decision to fly domestically from Beijing, rather than taking the 30 hour-long sleeper train. We arrived late evening at Hailar Airport, with Adrian sticking out like a sore thumb as the only Westerner there. Our driver met us and kindly drove us to Anda International Hostel, where we would be staying for one night.
The next morning our Mongolian adventures began. After a typical Chinese breakfast of baozi 包子 (steamed buns filled with meat), we made our way to the Hulun Buir Prairie 呼伦贝尔大草原. This is one of the main attractions of Inner Mongolia because these grasslands are the best-preserved in all of China, and one of the best in the whole world.
Our driver took us to a touristy area filled with yurts, telling us that we could watch one of the shows. This was a re-enactment of a traditional Mongolian tribe riding towards the yurt camp and performing their rites. After watching the Mongolians gallop into the grasslands, Adrian and I headed over to the lake.
Our next stop was to climb some mountains deep in the grasslands (the car had taken a dirt track and we were far from the main roads!) The driver left us for a couple of hours and we walked and walked and walked. We came to a lone yurt on one of the hills, with two young children and a herd of sheep. It’s crazy to think that this is probably how they live.
Lunch was at an overpriced Hotpot restaurant (that’s the only time we paid over 100 yuan each for a meal). Despite the price, we both enjoyed it and Adrian got to experience real Chinese hotpot.
White Birch Forest
The White Birch Forest 白桦林 was next and it was beautiful. I’ve never seen that much white birch in my entire life. Refusing to pay the 70 yuan entry fee (in the words of Adrian, “who pays to see a forest?!”), the driver took us to a secluded area where you didn’t have to pay. We climbed through the white birches to the top of the hill and the views were stunning.
Enhe Russian Township
That evening we stayed in Enhe 恩和俄罗斯民族乡, a Russian township. Although we were in the middle of nowhere, the tiny village somehow had many neon lights and even a mini funfair! Our room was in a cosy building made entirely of wood and came complete with a TV and wifi(?!) Wandering around the township, we wondered whether Adrian was one of the first Westerners they had seen before. Our dinner consisted of chuanr 串儿 (meat on sticks) and rice with local beer.
This was probably my favourite day out of the four. We were driving from Enhe 恩和 to Heishantou 黑山头, stopping off along the way whenever we wanted to get out. Our first hike of the day was in an area with lots of greenery and flowers (the Chinese tourists absolutely love flowers, which is why I think our driver stopped here). Adrian led the way off from the main path and we kept walking towards the hills in the distance. The sun was really strong today and our driver had told us to be careful, and to drink lots of water.
We came across a whole herd of wild horses. How beautiful are they?! Once we climbed to the top of the hill (again, the views are incredible), we decided to build ourselves a little tower out of rocks. At the top of every mountain we had climbed so far, the Mongolians liked to build these monuments out of stone (see picture below), so we did the same here.
Driving along ,we saw some kind of toboggan ride on the side of the road. We got out to investigate and ended up climbing the mountain behind it (typical Adrian). Every time we climbed a mountain and got to the top, I didn’t want to leave. The views were stunning and there was just a complete sense of calm and tranquility. We were in the middle of nowhere with just ourselves and nature. It was beautiful.
We were to stay in a Mongolian yurt in Heishantou 黑山头. When we arrived, the yurt our driver had booked us was not the type of yurt we were expecting. Let’s just say it wasn’t the authentic experience we wanted and leave it at that. Although we had accommodation issues at first, it all turned out for the best. We managed to get an amazing deal on horse-riding (100 yuan for an entire hour) and rode Mongolian horses into the sunset. No, really.
Riding across the grasslands with the sun setting as a backdrop is an experience I will never forget.
We built up an appetite from our riding (or should I say galloping), and devoured the lamb’s leg that was put in front of us. Since we were staying with the family who were putting on a performance in the evening, we got free entry. This was an experience in itself. Everyone who was staying in the surrounding area gathered around one man and his daughter who were lighting a huge bonfire. The speakers were booming out loud music and suddenly we heard traditional Mongolian music. The father and daughter were rounding everyone up to follow along with their Mongolian dance. This whole debacle was probably put on partly because of the tourists, but it was interesting to see nevertheless.
Grasslands at night
Baijiu 白酒 is Chinese rice-wine and very popular. I said that Adrian had to try it, so we bought a small bottle that evening (370ml for £1!) The flavour didn’t impress him. I did give a warning… After we had had enough of the dancing, we left the warmth of the fire to go and watch the stars. Though the grasslands should give clear access to the sky, the blazing neon lights from the town reflected the sky. As a result, the stargazing wasn’t as great as we had hoped. Still, the open grasslands at night gave the impression that there were a million possibilities in this world. As cliché as that sounds. Quite sore from the hour of horse-back riding, we ended up being grateful for the proper beds we had and fell asleep almost immediately.
Inner Mongolia is such a unique destination so I hope I’ve managed to re-tell my first two days’ experience well enough for you.
Keep your eyes peeled for the vlog next Thursday!
In the meantime, join the adventures:
Peace and love,