14 July 2019

Inner Mongolia... Baotou, China!

Yes, Nèi Méng Gǔ! My summer holiday had finally arrived, packing my hand luggage and my sense of adventure I headed for Beijing Railway Station to reach my first Inner Mongolia destination! Baotou would be the first of three places visited in under 4 days, that included the overnight train from Beijing to Baotou. I was so ready to see another of China's autonomous regions!

Boarding my Z317 overnight train from Beijing Railway Station to Baotou was like a piece of cake! Reading those Chinese signs led me to my hard sleeper bottom bunk, it was a major relief not to repeat the same experience that I endured from Dandong to Beijing. Comfortable with much needed air conditioning being fed into the carriage and the motion of the train rocked me to sleep, don't snore otherwise you'll be reprimanded! My deepest apologises but such behaviour won't ever be tolerated! Waking up to views of Hohhot's rolling countryside impressed me much, at that point my train only had one hour till it reached my Baotou destination. The skies were looking mighty blue, checking my pollution APP revealed to me that no significant pollutants were in the air within that Inner Mongolian corner of China! My summer holiday had started, leaving the busy semester behind felt like heaven! Yes, yes BAO!

Meeting my tour guide Cherish was no problem at all, with my evening meal the previous night the only thing I had eaten up until then I was feeling pretty hungry, I needed breakfast! Heading across the road from Baotou Railway Station allowed me to grab something to eat before the days itinerary started. Heading to Baotou's Wudang Zhao Lamasery allowed me to see the unfolding beauty with my own eyes, the construction sites of the city melted away as the rolling lush green hilly scenery came into view, it felt like a different world compared with my corner of Beijing City. The air was fresh and the sky was the bluest that I had ever seen for a long time, well it was pollution free and no fierce winds were present, it was bliss. I was looking forward to seeing a place that reminded me of the Tibetan monasteries that I had seen in Lhasa. Baotou wasn't originally part of my tour, I opted to add the days excursions to my tour package for my Inner Mongolian summer experience. Baotou, go, go!

Now that we had found Baotou's Wudang Zhao Lamasery, I could be transported back to a piece of Tibetan beauty since leaving the heavenly city of Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region. Living for the ultra blue skies during that mornings hour, catching glimpse of some buddha inspired boulders and stones that led to the lamasery's East  Mountain. The fluttering red, blue, white and yellow flags danced in the breeze as the Inner Mongolian sky allowed the clouds above to float by so effortlessly, I was loving that rare moment of calm and then some. As the monastery came into sight I had some amazing flashbacks to when I had the immense opportunity to explore Lhasa's Sera Monastery, those white washed walls and slanted Tibetan style pleased me to no end! My decision to enhance my China Highlights experience in Baotou was worth every Yuan spent! For certain, I felt a higher love for Tibetan Buddhism.

The rich interiors of the Lamasery allowed the memories of Tibet and the previous semester infuse, the latter had been settled. Lunch took a different angle, embracing the change it was a great chance to try some local cold noodles and some Inner Mongolian yoghurt. Both the noodles and the yoghurt tasted lovely, with such scorching temperatures it was a relief to have something chilled for lunch during the afternoons heat. More about those noodles, known as 'Liangpi' I really enjoyed their sesame taste. Back on the road towards the city once again, the views captured from all directions gave me a sense that I was not in Houshayu, Beijing anymore! Stepping out of the car to see some Tibetan Buddhist flags was really nice, seeing them fluttering in the breeze with the rolling green scenery as the backdrop. The peacefulness of the Lamasery and the lush surroundings had me feeling all kinds of goodness within China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Baotou had it all sorted!

If truth be told I wasn't sure what Baotou's Northern Weapon City was all about, with an open mind I was willing to find out for myself. At first glance I saw a gaggle of silver tourists who were arguing in Chinese that they qualified for the senior entry price, it was amusing to be able to understand what they were complaining about in Chinese. Informed by my tour advisor, this Baotou attraction was something of an outdoor showroom for old Chinese artillery, fighter jets and armoured vehicles that were either used before the People's Republic of China was created before October 1st, 1949. Taking a stroll around the grounds of the Northern Weapon City allowed me to see similarities with Pyongyang's Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum due to such items from combat that were on display, similarities all the same as Pyongyang's military back-catalogue hailed from a different time and combat. Next B!

The days sightseeing had almost concluded, before going to the hotel we stopped a what looked like a normal roundabout. I had done some pre-trip research to find that Baotou was the city of deers, scouting down that roundabout revealed the 'Deer Monument'. I had requested to see during my day in Baotou, for the reason it represented the meaning of the city. Content with the days offerings it was time to check-into the hotel, funnily enough we were all staying at the Baotou Hotel. I had booked this hotel independently on the grounds it was cheap for the one night spent in the city. Needless to say I was taken by surprise, the questionable quality of the hotel was below sub-standard but for one night I made the best of that low quality accommodation. My next hotel and Mongolian Yurt would prove better options for the remaining nights. It wasn't right but it was okay because the whole day had gone smoothly, from the train station pick to seeing the three places mentioned above.

Famous for its lamb, beef, milk and yoghurt, I wanted to try some local Inner Mongolian Chinese food during my one night stop in Baotou. After consulting my 'DianPing' Chinese style 'TripAdvisor' like APP, I had found a local chain restaurant called '西贝'. My chosen Baotou restaurant served me up a delightfully hearty serving of roasted lamb chops with onions and sliced potatoes. The sliced roast potatoes weren't part of the meal but with potatoes plentiful and cheap in China, I asked in Chinese if I could combine a third option for my first Inner Mongolian meat feast. The answer was 'yes', after waiting patiently for my food I enjoyed my lamb chops without a care in the world. Finished with my main course, it seemed only right to finish my evening meal with a chilled Inner Mongolian yoghurt. With my stomach satisfied it was time for me to be civilised for once, an early night would be on the cards for me. Not bad!

My restful nights sleep was very much needed! The overnight train from Beijing to Baotou was a cinch, things from there to the Wudang Zhao Lamasery progressed in a smooth fashion with only a slight alteration for lunch. Those chilled noodles and yoghurt helped the scorching temperatures and the used artillery at the Northern Weapon City interested me. The natural blue skies gave me life, with no pollution in air it was like breathing in new air into a new set of lungs. The hotel may have been sketchy but my early morning pursuit for a KFC breakfast the next day allowed me to see that outside the big smoke of Beijing, a passerby thought I looked lost as I unknowingly looked for share bike, the thought counted! Shantay, he could stay! Starbucks was playing games, not opening until 9am! Nobody has any time for that negativity! Regrouping the next morning before 8am allowed us to depart from Baotou for our next destination without any hitches. Why yes CN, Baotou served it all!

Boss Baotou!

Joseph Harrison 

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