freshly roasted coffee!

Hello coffee drinkers!

This post is just to let you know that an English speaking entrepreneur in Hohhot is now selling home-roasted coffee beans right here in Hohhot!

Here is the link to his store on wechat and I think delivery can be arranged. Coffee beans come from a variety of places around the world, but all are roasted and ground here in Hohhot.

He also offers classes to locals who want to learn to make a good cup of coffee at home and sells other coffee products. 

Enjoy!

Inner Mongolia Museum

We have guests visiting us for a couple weeks (hence the lack of posts). We took them to visit the museum yesterday which made me realize I hadn’t dedicated a post to it before.

 

The museum used to be located in the building with the white horse on top in the center of the city.

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In 2007 or 2008 it opened in its current location. (map below) It’s across the street from Wanda 万达.

mseum map

It is closed on Mondays. Tickets are free but you have to stop at the ticket window on the south side of the building before entering through the main doors. And as of yesterday, they had a notice posted that foreign visitors have to present their ID to enter.

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The museum is truly well done, although the English signage is not always great.
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The third floor has three main rooms: one for the ancient peoples who pre-date Mongolians, one for Mongolians, and one for the other minorities in Inner Mongolia.
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Mongolian wrestling outfit

The second floor has exhibits about China’s space program. On both the second and third floors on the north end is the dinosaur and other fossil display. The dinosaurs move and roar and have a light show (kids will love it) but only the official tour guides can turn it on, so get in line behind a tour group if you’d like to see it.

Speaking of kids, there’s a cool room on the south end of the third floor with hands on activities for the kids. Pictures of the kids room are below.

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You can learn about more about the museum by following the wechat account nmgbwysjb.

Have you been to the museum? What do you like best? Leave us a comment.

 

Hohhot: a city of opportunity?

Last month China Wire re-posted a story from Enterprise Innovation about a study recently done on China’s 2016 cities of opportunity. (You can download the full study at the last link)

Guess what?  Hohhot wasn’t on the list.

But here are the cities that were: “(in order from north to south and from east to west): Harbin, Changchun, Shenyang, Dalian, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Xi’an, Tianjin, Qingdao, Zhengzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Changsha, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming and Nanning.” from PwC

I feel like that list of cities is a good sample of different kinds and sizes of cities, it just didn’t happen to include our little slice of paradise. (insert the emoticon of your choice here)

And guess what else? No one asked my opinion. But, that’s one reason I have this blog. So, using some of the categories the article mentioned I’m going to rate Hohhot on the same factors. I have no idea how they measured, but I’m going to use a scale of one to ten. One being the lowest and ten being the highest. Here we go.

 

intellectual capital and innovation: 3

This one I don’t have enough experience to really evaluate well, but I wouldn’t say Hohhot is known for pioneering ideas, great inventions, or cutting edge innovation.
Although I think 20 years ago or something Nei Da was involved with cloning a sheep (details hazy)

important regional cities: 8

It’s definitely the educational and cultural center of Inner Mongolia, but there is arguably more enterprise in Baotou or other nearby cities (Taiyuan, Zhangjiakou, Yinchuan, Ordos,  etc)

technology readiness: 4

This is another category I have no real knowledge in, but I feel like even apps and such are slower to take off here or are being used in other cities but not here.

healthcare, safety and security 3,8, 4 for an average of 5

I won’t give healthcare more than a 3 until there is the ability to wash one’s hands in the bathrooms of our hospitals. Assuming you stay away from dodgy places (and people) Hohhot is safe, but I rated security lower because of theft and the complacency of those in protection roles (security guards, airport/train station baggage scanners, police, etc)

transportation and urban planning 5

The traffic situation deserves a -3 or something, but other transportation factors are improving. (number of flights, diversity of locations of flights, more rail, faster rails, plans for a subway, etc). And if you haven’t been to the City Planning Exhibition Hall, check it out and see what Hohhot has planned.

sustainability and the natural environment 6

This number drops substantially if you go outside the city, but the city itself is above average when compared to other cities its size with pollution, right? Our air is better than most. There’s not much “natural” in the city, but when comparing to other similar Chinese cities, I’d say we’re just above middle ground.

culture and lifestyle    7

I think most reports say that Hohhotians have more expendable income than other cities which gives them points in the lifestyle category. (What? you actually want me to site things?  If I find a link I’ll add it here later).  Although “culture” in the sense of ballet, fine art, and theatre may be lacking there is plenty of culture in the minority arts genre.

economic clout 3

Anything that pairs Hohhot with the word “clout” gets a low rating. For some reason it still has the persona of being “backwards” or underdeveloped. Ordos is making a name for itself in the economic clout category, but I’m trying to keep these ratings focused on Hohhot.

ease of doing business 2,6

2 for the “ease” (I mean hassle) of starting and 6 to continue doing business. Having spent 8 months of the last year in the business registration process, Hohhot should just be happy I didn’t rate that one in the negative, too. Once you get up and going it gets easier, but they don’t make it easy to start.

cost 8

I mentioned this point above, but lower housing prices and decent salaries mean a pretty nice standard of living for the growing middle class. Lower commercial rental rates make business costs lower and I’m assuming taxes are comparable to other similar cities.

 

The gives us an overall rating of 4.9.

 

So this is my blog and therefore my ratings. Leave your ratings in the comments. :)

 

12th Annual Inner Mongolia Food Expo

April 15-17 the Inner Mongolia International Exhibition Center is holding the 12th Annual Inner Mongolia Food Exhibition.

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You can see more about the event here and here.

A few people asked in the wechat groups about the time of day it closes each day, but I couldn’t find that information on any of the sites.

And you can find all the events happening at the International Exhibition Center here.

And here is a map of where the center is.

international exhibition center

Use ChinesePod to learn Chinese

We’ve written about some of our favorite ways to learn Chinese, but ChinesePod is now offering a special just for us, Hohhotians! (Is that what we decided to go with? or is Hohhotites better?)

 

Use the link below with the promo code “HOHHOTPOD” and receive $50 off an Annual Premium subscription!!!

 

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They have hundreds of lessons for free, too, but with just some pocket change you can have access to thousands of lessons you can listen to at your convenience!

Have you used ChinesePod? Tell us about your experience in the comments

changes in Hohhot, 1991-2015

I found this post in my drafts today from way back in August that never got posted….mind you, I was having a baby then so please give some grace.

It’s in Chinese, but if you can’t fully read it, you can see the history of changes in Hohhot just by looking at the pictures and seeing the dates.

If it doesn’t display correctly, try this link.
Error: Embedded data could not be displayed.

What would you say the biggest change in Hohhot has been since 1991? since you arrived here? Leave us a comment.

Friday’s foreigner: Preston

After a couple weeks off, we’re back with our Friday’s foreigner series. This week, meet Preston!

**I’m editing this post to include a link to the guest post Preston submitted for us some time back about buying a car in Hohhot.**

What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Preston Decker, and I’m from the Greater Boston area in the USA. I’m here in Hohhot because my wife is a Hohohotite, or Hohhotian, or Hohhotanese, or whatever you call someone from Hohhot. We came back here together in 2014 after working in Xiamen the two years previous to that.

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If you are doing something different now than when you first arrived tell us about that also.

When Linda (my wife) and I first came here, I had just stopped teaching English at a high school in Xiamen, and was preparing to set up a translation service in the States (I already had several years of translation experience at the time). The translation service is going strong, and so I now have a translation business in the States. We’re only in China for a few months a year at most, so I don’t need to look for a job in Hohhot when we’re back.

If you have free time, what do you do with it?

I’ve been studying the Uyghur language for the last four years, which I became interested in during my year of teaching English in Xinjiang. Progress has been very slow, but that’s my main personal project at the moment. Other than that, exercise, preferably off in the Da Qing Mountains, or up on the plateau, but most often at the gym at Hailiang.
You’re recently returned to Hohhot after some time away. What, if any, differences or changes did you observe upon your return?

The Second Ring Road! My wife’s family’s home is right next to the south Second Ring Road (南二环). Last year this whole area was an absolute hellhole (sorry for the language, but it’s true), with tons of dust spewing into the air from construction, and roads that looked like they came right out of a Texas horror movie (potholes galore). We left to go back to America in June 2015, and just got back here a month ago—what a difference! The second ring road is beautiful, and we’ve saved hours already off our driving times (I have a driver’s license and my wife and I bought a car here two years ago). It used to take me over an hour to fight through city traffic up to the Da Qing Mountains to go hiking, but it now takes only 25 minutes via the Second Ring Road. Only 20 minutes to get to Jinchuan, whereas it used to be 45. 15 minutes to my wife’s driving school, down from 30. Good job by Hohhot on this one!

You’ve also lived in other parts of China, what comparisons and contrasts can you make about Hohhot in relation to other places?

I’ve lived in Tianjin, Beijing, Xiamen and Kuitun (Xinjiang). The easiest comparison is with Xinjiang, especially in terms of the terrain and cuisine—lots of open space and mutton. I still contend that there’s no better place in the world than Xinjiang because of its wonderful mix of deserts, alpine forests, grasslands, history and culture, but Inner Mongolia comes in a pretty close second of the places I’ve lived.

All of the cities I’ve lived in Northern China (Beijing, Hohhot, Kuitun) have been pretty bad in winter in terms of pollution, and Xiamen definitely comes out a cut ahead in that regard, although I’ve heard things are getting a bit worse there too.

Hohhot is definitely the most free-wheeling of these cities. I’m pretty sure some of the more gentle inhabitants of Xiamen would go running back home if asked to take an e-bike out into Hohhot traffic. I’d also say, oddly enough, that people in Hohhot are more parochial and conservative in their attitudes towards outsiders (and foreigners), even if they’re more boisterous with friends and relatives.

Surprisingly enough, Xinjiang has the most easily understandable Mandarin of these four cities. I think it’s because the Han people there mostly move out there in scattered groups, or as part of more diverse movements (the bingtuan 兵团, etc.) ,and so were forced to drop their local accents in favor of one with which they could communicate with each other more easily. Beijing has that great hamburger gurgle, while Xiamen residents struggle between being made fun of for their Mandarin (fu instead of hu, etc.) and trying to maintain their local language which is in danger of dying out. Xiamen Minnanhua really is a completely different language from Mandarin—I’ll never forget going to a church there filled with old Minnanhua speakers and listening to an interpreter translate the priest’s Mandarin into Minnanhua sentence by sentence.

What’s surprised me is how different the Mandarin accent is here: even after 15 years of Chinese study and 5 years in China, I still struggle to pick up Hohhot’s local Cidihua accent, especially when spoken by my wife’s family who live up near Bailingmiao (百灵庙)。

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

Definitely Shao Mai and mutton of all kinds.

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

How about a road that runs a circuit around the city at 80 km per hour and has no traffic lights? Oh wait…

Jokes aside, probably better trash collection. We live in the old part of the city, about a mile and a half south of Dazhao temple, and while it’s fun to wash the local dogs play amidst 10 feet high piles of trash, it would be nice to see those piles get cut down in size a bit.

If you had a friend visiting and could take them to only one place in Hohhot, where would it be?

The Da Qing Mountains or anywhere on the Inner Mongolia Plateau. I really like the country near Xilinhot, though that’s a long car trip away.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?

Last year I developed a bit of an obsession for a little place on the Mongolian border north of Bailingmiao called Mandula (满都拉). It’s a secondary border crossing with Mongolia, only open during certain periods of the year, and I had the fantastic idea that it would be fun to go up there for a visit. So I drove up there last June. It was a beautiful drive, and I drove up past Zhaohe, before continuing through Bailingmiao and heading off towards Mandula.

Mandula is about 120 km past Bailingmiao (which itself is about 150km from Hohhot). There were no signs to warn away foreigners (I had been worried about that), and the country was beautiful, with alternating grasslands and hills. I even saw a couple of herds of camels.

I got up to Mandula and found it to be a one road town with a few earth houses and shops hugging the road. A cow lounged in the street. The border crossing had just closed two days before, and so the town was nearly deserted, although there was plenty of foreign goods (and I’m sure fake foreign goods as well) like alcohol and chocolate in the few stores that were open. If you’ve been to Erlian, you know the type, as all these goods come over the border from Mongolia.

I was having a grand time walking up and down the street, when a soldier in army fatigues spotted me and came over. He was clearly suspicious, and quickly called in his superior officer, who took me back to the base. They kept me there for four hours, questioning me about why I would ever come alone to see a place as remote as Mandula.

In fairness to them, the soldiers were quite nice and polite, and all border areas in China are rather sensitive, but it was still a nerve-wracking experience. As it turned out, part of the reason it took them so long to let me go is that none of their superior officers wanted to take responsibility for my situation, meaning my case got passed up a long line of officers, and then, as one of the soldiers said “we’ll have to wait a long time for the final decision to get passed back down that line.”

Luckily, the final decision was to let me go, which is why it’s a funny, not alarming, story.

So I guess the moral of the story is that although the surrounding area is beautiful, and although there’s no sign prohibiting a foreigner from driving a car up there, it’s probably best to stay away from Mandula.

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?

Marrying me!

 

 

market finds

Well, first let me tell you what I didn’t find at any of our local stores…all those Smithfield products that were there just a few weeks ago. They went from having entire cases to a couple of packages of ham. Maybe the Weiduoli at City Mall still has some but both the large stores near us have sold out with new replacements in sight.

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Someone with better Chinese than me confirm, but I think those are pecans. Too bad Thanksgiving is half a year away.

 

IMG_20160329_135026When choosing the wipes that will be exposed to all the things that come out of my kids, I always choose the Fashion Choice :)  Not really, I get the cheapest one, but this made me chuckle.

 

Vaccine problems in Inner Mongolia

I wasn’t blogging last week, but I was still on wechat. If you were paying attention to your moments (朋友圈) at all, you were probably inundated with the news of expired/damaged/unsafe vaccines being distributed and given to babies and children in 24 provinces across China, including Inner Mongolia.

If you somehow missed the news, here are a few articles in English about the situation:

Shenzhen Daily

China Daily

Guangdong Emergency Management

 

And here are some links to the articles that were circulating on wechat (in Chinese)

Vaccines

BeiFang

TianTianKuaiBao

This one a doctor posted with the title “Be more reasonable about the vaccine situation” so perhaps it’s a little less alarmist

And I think you’ll like this infographic

 

If you have a child you think may have received an improper vaccine, my understanding from the articles above is that the chart on the articles above is for the contact person for each region where you can call to get information about when and where in your area the improper vaccines were distributed.

 

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