Article by Lucy Liu
Thanks to my job as travel agent, I usually get the opportunity to explore the places requested by our clients. Finding the beauty of the grasslands of Inner Mongolia was one such time on one of my working trips.
There are 9 popular grassland areas in Inner Mongolia, and in summer people are attracted by the cool temperatures of the grasslands so the quiet grasslands gradually turn busy during this period. For our first stop, we decided to go deeper to avoid the crowd.
What we found was Darhan Muminggan Joint Banner, in the middle of Inner Mongolia. We took the overnight train from Xian to Baotou, which takes about 12 hours. The overnight train has hard sleeper compartments, with 6 bunks in each room, and soft sleeper compartments, with 4 bunks each. Personally, I prefer the 6-bunk compartments, as it is easier to get in and out of the room and has better ventilation. The light was turn down at about 10PM on the train to remind people to go to sleep. Decades ago, people used to worry about the risk of theft on the train, but now safety is much better, so people worry more about how to kill time on the train instead.
After breakfast at Baotou train station, we drove out into the grass. Not far outside Baotou, we encountered the Great Wall of Qin Dynasty, which at this location is a low stone wall running along a ridge of mountains, quite different from Great Wall of Ba Da Ling and Mu Tian Yu. In Chinese history, there were 4 main construction periods for the Great Wall; in the Qin, Han, Jin and Ming dynasties, and in each of these periods, the Great Wall has remained in Inner Mongolia. So far, according to research, Inner Mongolia has biggest remains of Great Wall in China, and 1/3 of the Great Wall passes through Inner Mongolia.
When we spotted some walking animals, it reminded us that our destination was nearer. The van parked right outside a Mongolian yurt, and the hostess, Mrs.Long, and her dogs waited for us there. Our first impression of the area was the smell of grass, strong and clear. The hostess told us the grass would be even better in July and August.
As it was our first trip to Inner Mongolia, we were excited about what we would meet next. After a short break in the yurt, we drove to a deeper area of the grassland. The deeper we drove, the quieter the area until we even could even hear the sound of the wind. Wild rabbits were running here and there, horses were dedicatedly eating grass, though the cattle would stop and stare at us passing by. All creatures were busy at their job, and they did not interfere with each other. It was peaceful and lovely.
That evening, Mrs. Long cooked a mutton dinner for us. It was delicious. After dinner, we sat outside the yurt and waited for the stars. The sky did not darken until 8:30pm. Night sky was very clear, we recognized Polaris and then we found the Big Dipper. There were many other beautiful stars, though it was regrettable that we were not able to name them. The night was cold, and it was the right decision to ask extra bedding from hostess.
The sun rose about 5:00am. After got up, we went to climb the mountain behind the yurt to look for rock paintings. The rock paintings were found in a big area along Yinshan range, with the earliest painting dates back 8000-7000 years ago, some time in the stone age, before written script was invented. People carved their thoughts in to and onto the rocks. We were not sure how old the paintings we found were, but it was definitely a deer.
After bidding farewell to Mrs. Long, we continued the trip. Along the way, curiosity told us something interesting was happening when we met people by the stream. We followed them, eventually arriving on the grasslands. There we saw people dressed up, racing horses, wrestling, competing in archery, and having song and dance performances. A senior man told us that it was a rehearsal for the Naadam Festival. It really was a bonus for us.
There were further stops and activities that we participated in, like horse back riding, but, personally speaking I liked Mrs. Long’s yurt more because it was less commercial. Hopefully COVID-19 travel ban will be lifted by July and people can get chance go to Inner Mongolia & enjoy the vast grasslands.
Lucy Liu is a travel agent at TourEasyChina and would love to help you book your next China vacation. Customized trips and itineraries are available. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org