Inner Mongolia provides the perfect escape from big cities

By Luo Yunzhou Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/17 18:17:40

Resonant Sand Bay Photo: VCG





With more youngsters in China seeking out a freer and more relaxed lifestyle, Inner Mongolia has become a dreamland for those who just want to chill out on the prairie as they appreciate the local wildlife.

"Here you have the opportunity to see the world's most azure sky and the flourishing grasslands, " Zhang Qian, a young man I ran into from Hohhot, the provincial capital of North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

"Since ancient times, Chinese poets have been attracted by the beauty of this place. One of the most popular folk songs during the Northern Dynasties (386-534), "A Song of Chi Le," describes the vast wilderness and herds of cows and sheep," Zhang added.

The Mausoleum of Genghis Khan

The first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan founded what would become the largest contiguous empire in history. Born Temüjin, he became the top leader of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia, and eventually took on the name by which he is known today - Genghis Khan. Under his command, the Mongol empire conquered a large portion of China and expanded its territory to Central Asia. 

Genghis Khan spent his lifetime fighting with other tribes and nations, including the Qara Khitai (1124-1218), Khwarazmian (1077-1231), Western Xia (1038-1227) and Jin dynasties (1115-1234).

The Caucasus region also fell under his control during that time. After his death in 1227, his descendants continued to expand the empire's territory through invasion and war. As a result, the Mongol Empire became a fearsome legend throughout history.

After Genghis Khan's death, his remains were buried at a secret location. Since then several temples dedicated to the father of the Mongol Empire have been built over the centuries.

To commemorate the khan, between 1954 to 1956, the Chinese government built a mausoleum to Genghis Khan in the  Kandehuo Enclosure in the Ejin Horo Banner, Ordos Prefecture of Inner Mongolia.

Unfortunately, the mausoleum was severely damaged during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). With the help of local authorities, it was restored during the 1980s, and new replicas of other temples were also built around the original structure.

Standing on the grassland, the mausoleum is an impressive monument to Genghis Khan. The white coloring of the structure makes it look both elegant and solemn. Though there is coffin inside the building, it actually only contains a headdress and other accessories similar to those that would have once belonged to the khan.

Resonant Sand Bay

Another recommended site for your Inner Mongolia vacation is Resonant Sand Bay, a desert surrounded by grasslands. What makes this place really special is that the sand gives off a singing sound whenever someone slides on it. This interesting facet is what gives the area its name.

Since the area is China's seventh largest desert, you can experience the typical desert climate. When the wind is strong and dry, it causes sand to randomly shift from one place to another. If you are sliding on the sand with others, it sounds just like an airplane is passing over head.

To explore the desert, horse riding and camel riding are two good choices that can allow you to appreciate the landscape and see the local wildlife.

Motor racing on the sand is also a great activity for those who crave something a bit more exciting. The soft sand makes riding around a very different experience than driving over hard-packed earth or concrete. The bikes are far more difficult to control on this type of terrain, so make sure you don't go too fast!

If you are looking for something more relaxing, a sandbath might be a good option for you. Lying down on the warm sand and feeling the breeze of the wind kissing your cheeks, is far more comfortable than I ever imagined.

A meat feast

If you head to Inner Mongolia, a traditional Mongolian dinner is something you shouldn't miss out on. If you are lucky enough to have some local friends, ask them to introduce you to the most distinctive Mongolian food!

"The food here will definitely impress!" Zhang told me in an excited voice.

"We have kumiss, hand-served mutton, special cheese and milk tea. They may all be a bit greasy, but they are really tasty."

Every time I walked into a Mongolian restaurant got my stomach rumbling. Since meat is served everywhere, it felt almost like I was visiting a museum of meat, as entire roasted cows, lambs and pigs hung from hooks or had been placed on tables not far from where we sat.

Looking at these roasted delicacies, we could just point at what we want, and the server brought it over to our table.

"The lambs here are from the prairie, where the weather is dry, which provides a really good natural environment for grass, but not for any other plants to grow, so lambs and cows here have a plenty of food," Zhang explained.

Except for meat, some staple foods such as beizi, a kind of bun, and shaomai, a kind of steamed dumpling stuffed with lamb are also worth trying.

"I heard from the older generations that shaomai and beizi were probably brought from North China's Shanxi Province, when people started moving from Shanxi during the mid-Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). This lasted for 300 years, until the end of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), since overpopulation in Shanxi caused many problems such as food shortages and Inner Mongolia at that time was still developing."

Nadaam Fair

Once a year, a traditional festival is held in Inner Mongolia at the end of summer, usually around September 11-13. Locally called the Naadam Fair, or "The Three Games of Men," the festival involves three activities: Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery. In recent years, more woman have been participating in all women races and archery competitions, but wrestling is still reserved exclusively for men.

As one of the most popular festivals among ethnic Mongolians, the Naadam Fair can be traced back to the sporting competitions and military parades in ancient times, when the three events were widely held to celebrate special occasions, including spiritual gatherings and wedding ceremonies.

There are some must-haves for any Nadaam Fair. The first is a splendid opening ceremony, during which many beautiful young ladies wearing traditional Mongolian clothing will perform traditional dances.  Then comes the introduction, when athletes and musicians make their appearance. The games then begin after the opening ceremony.

This interesting festival was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO in 2010.

Rules of thumb

What to wear: The weather is dry and temps can range from very cold to extremely hot, so summer clothes are suitable for the afternoons, but long sleeves are required in the early morning and at nighttime.

Getting around: Taxies and buses are cheap and convenient when in cities, but there are no subways. Make sure you have some coins ready for public transport.
Newspaper headline: The sound of nature



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