Express VPN

I try not to link to pages that require a VPN to load, but since this one is about VPNs, I’m breaking from my trend.

Below is a video from Express VPN called “5 Best ways to use VPN”. The majority of people use a VPN purely for unblocking Netflix and other streaming websites, so they don’t know about all the other cool bits and bobs you can use a VPN for!

Watch the video below, and if you like it, Express VPN

Use this link and we’ll both get 30 days free!

 

Toys R Us

If you’ve been to City Mall (Mo Er Cheng) recently you might have seen the “Toys R Us coming soon” display. I’m always curious when a new foreign/international brand comes to Hohhot. Although I love life here, it’s not like we’re known as being a test-market for foreign brands entering the Chinese market. Also, in a country that has pulled off fake city governments, fake Bank of China, these fakes, and where 40% of online commerce deals in fakes, I’m not eager to believe it’s real.

Hohhot itself has had its share of fakes in the past. I know of at least one fake Starbucks location (two if the one down by Madison Patio ever opened up). Hohhot had a fake Ikea in 2002/2003. Last week or so there was also an advertisement in one of the Hohhot expat groups on wechat for a teacher at a Waldorf School. Again, I could be wrong, but my best guess is that if you ask the Waldorf School accrediting agency (or whatever their formal alliance is) if they have a school in Hohhot……I think they’re going to say no. The ad also mentioned the need to contact the principal, which isn’t how Waldorf Schools work. And I’m veering away from the topic of this post now, but their foundation of religious principles, lack of testing, and emphasis on social transformation don’t seem like ideas that would be well-received here. Which is again why my best guess is that it is not a true Waldorf School.

Anyway, because I’m such a phenomenal journalist (please laugh) I’m trying to get the true story: I wrote an email to the Toys R Us corporate office to ask if our newly arriving Toy R Us is legit.

I need you to vote in the comments with your guess:

  1. They won’t even write back.
  2. They’ll write back that we are indeed being graced with the presence of Toys R Us.
  3. They’ll write back that it’s as fake as all the other things linked to above.

Da Yao Jia Bing

If you’ve lived in Hohhot any length of time and haven’t had a Da Yao yet, you haven’t really lived in Hohhot. If Hohhot had an official drink, I’m pretty sure this would be it. It’s a soda produced and bottled right here in HET. There’s the standard flavor, which according to my husband tastes like carbonated bubble gum and there’s a citrus-one. I’ve only ever seen bottles, but there’s photographic evidence below that cans also exist.

photo from Da Yao Jia Bing wechat account

photo from Da Yao Jia Bing wechat account

What I didn’t know until last week is that you can follow da yao on wechat. The link below is from their public wechat account which is a compilation of fan-submitted photos.

Take a look at it here.

Here’s what I need to know from you in the comment section:

Da Yao: love it or hate it?

Da Yao: describe the taste in your own words.

What is the best meal to pair with a bottle of Da Yao?

more visa changes

3 days ago I saw this article on Shanghaiist about expected changes to work permits for foreigners. City Weekend posted a similar article the next day, and Guide in China posted their version of the news yesterday.

You can read the articles linked above for details but in general there’s a plan to change the current system for work permits to have “grades” or “classes” or foreigners depending on a number of possible factors such as length of time in China, ability to speak Chinese, where one lives/works, the prestige of the industry/entity one works for, and others. The program will be tried in a few places first then implemented elsewhere.

As you may have guessed, Inner Mongolia isn’t one of the trial locations.

After you’ve read the articles, leave us a comment about your guesses as to what your “grade” will be. 🙂

Locally Roasted Coffee!

If you love making a great cup of coffee at home, Harvest Coffee is selling high quality imported coffee beans, roasted and packaged right here in Hohhot! Below are the types available for September and October! The owner speaks great English so don’t worry about a communication barrier.

Harvest Coffee Roasters also teach training classes to locals about how to make a good cup of coffee at home and sell equipment and implements.

 

You can order by phone or wechat (QR on image below).

 

Harvest Coffee

Harvest Coffee, Hohhot

 

Sorry, I know the image isn’t super clear, if you need the pdf, add my wechat and I’ll send it to you:  hohhotjill

 

14 years in (and out of) Hohhot

 

Early September marks the anniversary of my first arrival to Hohhot in 2002. Although I haven’t been here continuously, coming in and out for 14 years I’ve gotten to see some pretty amazing changes in the city. I posted articles in the past from news sources about some of the changes, but this post is my own reflections on what has changed in the Blue City since I first arrived.

Airport Arrival

When I arrived in 2002 the current airport wasn’t in existence yet (the old HET was a few hundred meters to the east of the current location) and the road (Xin Hua) into Hohhot proper wasn’t paved.

Western Food and amenities

There were 4-6 locations of KFC, two locations of Dairy Queen and that was the extent of international establishments. The newest big “thing” was the mall that’s now called Kai De, although it had a different name then.

There was, surprisingly, a decent sit-down Western restaurant that could rival, and arguably upstage, Hohhot’s current Western restaurants.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Communication

I didn’t have a cell phone. Some foreigners and very few locals I knew did, but they weren’t a necessity. Every convenience store had a red public use phone one could use for a few mao.

This situation meant that one had to know the full Chinese name of one’s local friends because you weren’t calling them directly. The mother, father, roommate, etc might answer the phone and one had to be able to ask for Wang Shao Hong (or whomever).

I also think this made us (foreigners) learn the city better since we had to be able to get to a location without the aid of being able to call multiple times along the way when going to meet someone.

Transportation

EVERYONE with the exception of professional drivers and government officials rode a bicycle. I didn’t even know anyone who owned an electric bike until 2006 and didn’t know anyone who owned a car until 2007. (And I wasn’t a hermit who sat inside and didn’t know people).

The only vehicle on the road were taxis, public buses, deliver vans, and black government cars….and LOTS of bikes. Lots and lots of bikes.

Also, the size of the city was much smaller. The second ring road was an anticipated enigma much like the subway now and places that are now six lane roads were dirt alleys then.

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Standard of living

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the standard of living in the average person’s residence. Housing in Hohhot has come a LONG way in 14 years. For the first few years I lived here, one would have to inquire if a home had hot water all the time, or just the standard two days per week. The public water service provided heated water through the pipes at set times, twice per week, and landlords were only just becoming willing to fork over money for a hot water heater if one wanted hot water all the time.

I only knew of one complex of “high rise” apartments (I think it’s called the Metropolitan, west on Da Xue Lu). Otherwise, most lived in 4 or 6 story walk-ups and some in ping fangs.

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Many homes still had plain concrete floors and interior design wasn’t a thing.

BUT, we’re all paying for those upgrades in our rent now. The first two bedroom house I rented was 450 RMB/month. The second one, 4-5 years later was 600 or 700. Even in 2007 I only knew 1-2 people (families with kids) who were paying more than 1000/month.

Interesting enough, though, it was much more common to be invited to someone’s home for a meal, instead of being invited out to eat. My guess is that economics is the reason for this. Meals could be prepared at home much more affordably than eating at a restaurant, which was still a luxury for many.

Entertainment

There was roller skating, bowling at the Xin Cheng, and KTV was big. The squares, particularly Xin Hua, had lots of cool things it doesn’t have now….a camel to ride on and take a photo with, and cars like these, below. They weren’t bumper cars and they weren’t for kids. Just small electric cars for adults to drive around the square.

mayfair 303 mayfair 302

Other old photos

Chang Le Gong

Chang Le Gong and the New York New York Club used to be located in the same building.

I've heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

I’ve heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

back at it

Well, that was an unanticipated and longer break than I intended. We had all kinds of issues on the back end, but I think we’re back up and running now.

I have a few posts already for the coming days, so we’ll see how this goes!

How have you, lovely readers, been in the past six months????

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.

IMG_2838

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.
dec 2013 056

dec 2013 063

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.

IMG_20150602_103828 IMG_20150602_103845 IMG_20150602_103651 IMG_20150602_102910 IMG_20150602_103550

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.

 

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