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.

dec 2013 053
The museum is truly well done, although the English signage is not always great.
dec 2013 054
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.

 

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.

1-160202163421121

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!!!

 

pod728x90b

 

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

« Older Entries