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vbx000 Xilin Hot - A travel report by Veronica
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Xilin Hot,  China - flag China -  Inner Mongolia
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vbx000's travel reports

A Few Days in Inner Mongoila: Xilinhot

  17 votes
Page: 1 2
Most people who visit Inner Mongolia go to Hohhot but my roommate and I just couldn't give in to the status quo and decided to go somewhere else. We picked the largest town in east Inner Mongolia called Xilinhot.

Traditional horse between modern machinery. This was the runaway.
Traditional horse between modern machinery. This was the runaway.
Inner Mongolia is still home to the nomadic tribes that was once the Mongol Empire. Genghis Khan paraphanilia litters every tourist shop even in our small town. The main attraction for tourists is horseback riding in the grasslands. The Mongolian horse is a small sturdy creature with a rugged apperance. These were some tough little creatures that gave me, an experience rider, a hard time. Catching glimpses of the traditional life of a Mongol herder is rare, especially since they are more frequently using motorcycles instead of horses. Although they still live in yurts, traditional animal skin tents, their life is modernizing quickly.

Interestingly, there is quite the gap between the Han Chinese and the Mongols in this region. The Han mostly live in the cities while the Mongols stick to their nomadic lifestyle. It gets VERY cold in Inner Mongolia, apparently in Xilinhot parts of the month they are completely snowed in. They said tourists can't even safely some after August!

Since the Mongols control the herding aspect of life in Inner Monglia they control the meat. In summer, the Han eat "light"meats like pork & chicken b/c lamb is too expensive. The Mongols like to keep the better meat for themselves apparently.

Once winter hits it is too cold to eat anything other than lamb so the Han have to submit to the high prices the nomads set.

I found this aspect of the culture in Inner Mongolia really interesting, the nomads- who live simply always moving with the herds, hold the upper hand even though one thinks of "city" as "center of power."

Favourite spots:
Riding to Water. The gloves were due to bleeding hands.
Riding to Water. The gloves were due to bleeding hands.
Xilinhot is the easternmost capital city. Once, when Inner Mongolia was divided between east and west this was the capital. Apparently, for a long time east Inner Mongolia was closed off to tourism and people needed special visas to visit, but as of 1992 you can now go freely. This was a small city that offered little entertainment except horseback riding and swimming. Both of which could only be accomplished by hiring a cabbie to drive you at least 2 hours into the grasslands to find such treasures.

What's really great:
Alex and his trusty steed.
Alex and his trusty steed.
This is a great story: My roommate and I missed the 9 hour bus that would have taken us to Xilinhot. As we were living the station, contemplating if we should suck up our pride and just go to Hohhot, some men on the corner of the long distance bus station asked where we were going. At first we brushed them off, but something (and I don't remember what) made us talk to them. It turns out the man could arrange for someone to take us to Xilinhot within the hour. Price haggling started. There was a second bus leaving but the price of it went from 150rmb to 220rmb. These men were willing ot take us, in a private car, for 200rmb. At first, we were weary of just hopping into a car with some random man who promised to take us to our destination, but China has instilled some sort of trust in us that erases all of our American triggers of caution. I don't even stop at gas stations when I drive through Detroit but I was about to hop into a strangers car for a 9 hour ride...

The bastard that ripped my hands open.
The bastard that ripped my hands open.
The next day our cabbie took us to a place where we could swim. We found a driver in a search for horseback riding and he was eager to take us to a swimming hole the next day. He brought along his two sisters too. He was a really friendly man but still charged us a lot for all the hours of driving.

We enjoyed ourselves swimming but once the sun stopped keeping us warm and the water grew too cold we ventured off for more riding. What can I say, I'm stubborn.

This time, we found random yurts with horses that in the end weren't even theirs. They put me on a horse that clearly just wanted to go home and kept attempting to break into a run to get there. Another fight, not happy riding. More bleeding hands. Not a happy Veronica.

thats right, he's walking a deer.
thats right, he's walking a deer.
Well, since Alex and I didn't know anything about this city or what we would do when we got there- we also had no idea where we would stay.

One of the two other people in the car offered to get us a good rate at the hotel he was staying at if we liked the looks of it. This was by the end of our 7/8ish hour ride. Even though we left two hours after the bus, we beat it there by at least 2 hours.

Our hotel was not bad, two beds and a bathroom and about 25rmb a night! There is really no need for location since its a small city- although there was one really expensive hotel near the town square specifically set up for tourists.

In Hohhot you can stay in yurts instead of hotels but we couldn't even find any yurts close enough to town- and you can't beat 25 rmb per night.

Day II of horseback riding nightmare.
Day II of horseback riding nightmare.
To continue the story, we decided to trust these men and go to Xilinhot. We are spontaneous goods, just having done our spree of crazy actions such as bungee jumping and body piercings. So, what's another one to add to the list right?

Between the time we were scared of accepting the offer and considering waiting for the 6pm bus the tickets for that bus sold out. The men quickly uped their price to 300rmb because they knew we had no other means of transportation.

We haggled back down to 250 before they flat out said in Chinese Look, we are ripping you off because you hesitated and now there is no other way to get there. Take it or leave it.

They had a point, and we took it.

Alex and I being pretty.
Alex and I being pretty.
The first night, after settling down in our hotel, we walked the length and width of the city. This city wasnt used to tourists because EVERYONE stared, I mean they stare a lot in Beijing but we were on exhibit in this town. People invited us to eat and drink with them, smiled and waved as we walked back. It was a little unsettling at first.

Then, we hunkered down at one of the many chuar (skewer) outdoor restaurant type things.

We began eating as much chuar as our bodies would let us. And they were sooo good. We met some boys who just happened to be students in Beijing, home for vacation. We talked with them and they invited us to watch their basketball game the next morning. This was all in Chinese and the first time Alex and I had to depend completely on our Chinese skills, because no one, at all, spoke english.

The food in Inner Mongolia was the second best to Tibet. All lamb, we had lots of lamb/mushroom mixtures that were deellliiccioous. And, no one does yangrou chuar better.

This little boy made the trip.
This little boy made the trip.
Riding... the reason I dragged my devoted roomie 9 hours out of Beijing. Was a rather big disappointment. This place just wasn't used to tourists and we had to hire a car to take us 3 hours away to find good horseback riding. Then, I think they just grabbed who ever had two horses to spare and gave them to us. My first horse was just an hour long fight for control that ended in my hands being ripped open by poorly tanned reins.

When they finally found another horse to give me I thought I could ride for four hours in happy peace, but no, about 2 hours into it, as we were exploring the lake, my horse wades into the water for a drink... then LAYS DOWN in the lake. Leaving a massive bruise on my leg, causing me to kill my roommate camera by dropping it in the water, and me barely escaping a broken leg/hip by sliding out from under him before all his weight landed on my poor unsuspecting thigh. Horses don't lay down with people on top of them!

Other recommendations:
Father and Son.
Father and Son.
The best part was that the third night our driver (fromBeijing) called and invited us for dinner. It was incredible to eat with a Chinese family. We met his father, mother, his wifes sister-her son, and their adorable little boy. I can't explain how it feels to sit down with a family from such a radically different culture and chat like old friends.

My best advice- go to Hohhot if you want to go to Inner Mongolia. The remoteness ended up hurting us in the end because it was more expensive to get places (200-250rmb per day of driving around the grasslands) and the horses weren't safe at all. They were poorly trained or just used to one rider/their owner.

For the first time my i hate tourist trap philosophy beat me. I ended up coming back with a really painful sunburn, ripped up hands but a feeling of liberation for accomplishing such a remote outing all in Chinese.

Published on Thursday November 10th, 2005

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Sat, Aug 05 2006 - 12:32 AM rating by paulvan

Great story, Veronica... I'm Paul, Canadian 51YO dude going to China for first time, April - May 2007. We have friends in Xi'an and elsewhere in China, and I have a bit of Putonghwua, so we can travel independently... in a few years, I'm dreaming of taking my KLR (motorcycle) over to China and Mongolia... dreaming of vast open spaces. Whaddya think??

Tue, Nov 15 2005 - 09:52 AM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Veronica
This is a nice report but the pics do not measure up.

Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 05:23 PM rating by eirekay

Veronica, you got to marvelous, off the beaten path places! Thanks for sharing!

Mon, Nov 14 2005 - 02:21 PM rating by toribio


Sat, Nov 12 2005 - 08:34 AM rating by horourke

The range, energy, adventure (and the awful risks) recounted here in one of the most readable styles i have ever read, leave me speechless.

Fri, Nov 11 2005 - 01:14 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

nice report

Thu, Nov 10 2005 - 07:34 PM rating by rangutan


Thu, Nov 10 2005 - 04:13 PM rating by davidx

You had a real achievement anyway - well told!

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