Archive for August 31, 2013

How to get a Driver’s License in Hohhot


My husband is now the proud owner of a Chinese driver’s license.  If you are interested in getting one, we hope this post will save you some of the time and trouble we experienced.
Note:  As with all things in China, the process to accomplish any task can change at any time.  Also, the following applies only if you possess a license in another country already.
Here is a list of the documents you need:
-your original passport and driver’s license
-translated passport and driver’s license (more on this below)
-document from your local police station stating that you have lived here longer than three months and that you are not a criminal
-foreigner accommodation registration document signed and stamped at local police station
Translated documents:  There is only one contracted translation company that can provide you with the translation you will need.  It must be on the company’s letterhead for the department of motor vehicles to accept it.  The company is:  呼和浩特市人民政府外事办公室  对外友好交流中心。 It is located on Xin Hua Lu in a high rise glass building on the north side of the road just east of chang le gong.  The office is on the 26th (top) floor.  Pay attention to the signage above the elevators, not all elevators go to every floor.  CHECK YOUR TRANSLATED DOCUMENTS CAREFULLY FOR ERRORS.  Make sure the translators included an “issuing authority” even if it isn’t explicitly written on your original license.Next you need stamps and a 证明 zheng ming from your local 派出所 pai chu suo.   I can’t tell you where yours is, but it’s the same place you registered when you arrived (if you live somewhere other than a hotel). You’ll need to get the document called “Accommodation Registration Form for Foreign Nationals” then you’ll need to have them write and print a document that says you’ve lived here more than three months and that you’re not a criminal.

Now that you have all your documents, you can take them and go to the Department of Motor Vehicles  che guan suo 车管所.  It is located on Hailar road just west of the west second ring road on the north side of the road.  It’s a big building and you want to enter on the far west side.

The first step is to get in one of the lines on the far west to pay the fee for the required medical check. (About 60 RMB)  If all your documents are approved, CONGRATULATIONS!  You can go to the second floor, east side, to check your weight, height, vision, hearing, etc. Each station will check something and stamp a paper.  When you get all your stamps, you’re ready for pictures.

The second step requires going out the main doors and around to the east side of the building and up to the second floor to get your pictures.

Step three:  take all your completed paperwork and pictures back to the main lobby on the west side to pay the fee to register for the test. (About 170 RMB) If everything is accepted, CONGRATULATIONS!  You can go to the second floor, west side, to register for your test.  If everything is accepted there, they will give you a website where you can register for a testing date after 24 hours.

The website is such that you can only see the availability for the current month, so if it’s near the end of the month, you can wait until the 1st of the next month to see more available test dates.

Step four: register for a test date and begin studying (if you’re not already)

The fifth step is taking the test.  You only have to take the written test and it’s in English!  The English translation wasn’t terrible, but you’ll need to take some practice tests to get familiar with terms and phrases the test uses.  You have 45 minutes to complete 100 questions.  If you don’t get there early and rush in when the doors open, you’ll have to wait in line for an available computer to take the test.  You must answer more than 90% correct to pass.

Step Six:  If you pass, you’ll take all your paperwork to a series of offices to get stamps.  At the last office, you’re license will be issued.  Congratulations!

And that’s it, folks!  You can be licensed to drive in the PRC!

Another personal note….We had to make a total of 3-4 trips to the che guan suo to make all this happen. Our most successful trip was when we took our youngest daughter with us. Cute babies make friends and smooth your process 🙂

getting settled in Hohhot–buying used furniture


I haven’t posted in a few days because I’ve been busy helping some newly-arriving friends get settled in their houses.  This will be the first in a series of posts about getting settled here in the Blue City.

Many rental houses or houses provided by employers are already furnished.  However, sometimes additional pieces are needed to make the place feel like home.  Also, most Chinese homes don’t come with much storage so sometimes you may need to purchase a few more things.  OR, you may even prefer to rent an un-furnished apartment so that you can have more control over the furniture and décor.

You can, of course, invest in new furniture, but today’s post is about used furniture.

I know of 4 used furniture stores.  Descriptions, names, and locations are below:
1.  Name unknown and not marked with signage:  This one is located on Xhe Li Mu street just north (about 200 meters) of Gong Da’s west gate.    It’s in a hutong or ping fang style  building and you have to wander in and out of each courtyard to find what you’re looking for.
Best find:  dining room table for 60 RMB.
2.  旧货市场  jiu huo shi chang “Old goods market”  This is located on the north side of wu ta si xi jie (Wu Ta Si West Road).  It’s in a large warehouse style building with stall after stall of used items, in some cases stacked to the ceiling. They have furniture, commercial/industrial kitchens items, appliances, some new furniture, and items to random to list individually.
Best find:   Commercial/Industrial Oven for 800 RMB
New 3-door wardrobe/closet with many finishes/colors available:  300 RMB
3.  旧家具店  jiu jia ju dian “Old Furniture Shop”  This is a very small shop located just west of the intersection of E’erduosi Road and Zhao Wu Da South Road on the south side of the street.  (red sign)  The selection is large considering the size of the shop, but definitely doesn’t have as much as the others, but they seemed to have a good selection of TVs.  The owner is really nice.
Best find:   Standing coat rack for 30 RMB
4.  Name unknown.  Location is on the north second ring road.   I haven’t personally been to this one myself so maybe those who have can comment about it.  I know it also is located in hutong/ping fang style buildings.

I’m sure there are others, but this is a list to get you started.  Happy

Welcome back, students!


Most universities begin the last week of August or first week of September, so if you traveled for the summer, welcome back!  Or, if you’re new to the city, welcome!
Leave a comment about what you’d like to see on this site.

If you are interested in studying in Hohhot, here are links to the websites of the universities that I know have programs for foreign students.  There may be others that have foreign students from time to time, but these are the ones I know have programs.

Nei Da

Nong Da

Hong De (Honder)

Shi Da

Gong Da
I know Inner Mongolia Technical University has foreign students, but I can’t get their website to load correctly.

And maybe this resource can help you:

How many foreigners are there in Hohhot?


 Good question.  I get asked this all the time.  My response is also a question….what do you mean by “foreigner?”  Do you mean white people?  Do you mean anyone who is not Asian?  Do you mean anyone who is not holds a passport from a country other than China?

If one assumes we are counting all foreign passport holders my best guest is roughly 6000.

Here is how I reached that number:

English Training schools:  10ish schools with 10ish foreign teachers each=100
University teachers:  10ish Universities with 3-4 teachers each.  Some have more, some have less and we’re counting all foreign teachers (Japanese, German, Russian, English, Mongolian, etc)= 35
University foreign students:  600-700 at Nei Da, plus Hong De, Shi Da, Gong Da, Nong da=1000??
Foreign workers other than teachers=a few hundred would be my best guess.  I’m including Asian businessmen from Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, etc.
Mongolians=several thousand.  It’s my understanding they don’t need a visa if they leave every 30 days so they can just run to the border and back each month.  I know there are many marriages where one spouse is from Outer Mongolia and there are many others here working. I know most wouldn’t count them as “foreigners” because of the cultural similarities and the language and because they don’t stick out that much, but for the purpose of this  post we’re counting all non-Chinese citizens.

Again, this is nothing official, just my best guess.  What do you think?  Is my guess way too high or way too low?

What countries do you think have the largest representation here?

Fun Stuff for kids to do in Hohhot


We’re welcoming a family with two kids who are coming for a visit today.  We’ve also recently been introduced to two families with children who moved here recently and we’ve heard two more are on the way.  Then, when school starts back up and the foreign teachers return, there will be a few more.  Anyway, as we made a list of possible activities for our friends who are visiting, we thought we’d share the list here so that our readers can check them out.  For questions about specific locations or other details, leave a comment or ask in the forum.

Da Qing Shan Zoo
A’er tai Amusement Park
roller skating
ice skating
tour a milk factory (or some other factory and I’ve heard Yilin gives tours of the bakery)
the Inner Mongolian Museum has a moving dinosaur exhibit geared toward kids
Bai Ta (White Tower, this is what the airport is named after) expend some energy climbing up lots of stairs
Zhao Jun Tomb has some nice flower gardens and space to run around
any local park has kids activities
most shopping centers have play areas for smaller children

Happy Playing!



My daughter’s birthday was yesterday so I’ve been busy being “mom” instead of “website editor/blogger.”  But, today I added a link on the language tab for some great resources.  Check it out and I’ll be back in the swing of things in the next few days.

Welcome Travelers!


It’s August…that means it’s peak travel season here it Hohhot and all across Inner Mongolia.  Hotels are full of tourists from all over China and beyond, the grasslands are lush and green, summer exchange programs are underway, and the weather is about as good as it gets all year.
Because it’s peak travel season I’ll give a few of my thoughts about hotels in HH and travel beyond.
First, my brief review of some of Hohhot’s larger hotels:
Shang-ri-la: This one definitely has the best reputation, but probably also the highest prices.  The hotel staff probably have the highest English level.   I haven’t personally seem a room but I’ve heard no complaints and the photos I’ve seen were impressive.  We like it because the few times we’ve been there, they let us park our trike up front near the door whereas some of the other hotels make anyone not driving a car go park in the far back and use the employee back entrance.
Inner Mongolia:  The restaurants are fantastic.  Again, I haven’t personally seem a room but I’ve heard no complaints.  The service doesn’t rank as high as some of the others in my opinion. (See above comment regarding parking in the back)  English level of staff seems fair.
Jin Jiang International:  (not to be confused with Jin Jiang Zhi Xing, a chain hotel with many branches in HH)  Rooms are very nice.  The construction is newer than many of the others in this list and therefore some features seem nicer and cleaner than the others.  English level of staff isn’t great.
Phoenix:  I can’t offer a fair unbiased view on this one since I was previously employed here.  Rooms are great and most have undergone recent renovation and upgrading.  Restaurants are great, service is fantastic, and English level is good.
Holiday Inn:  My impression (no facts to verify) is that more foreigners stay here than anywhere else.  Rooms are great, service is satisfactory, location is in the most crowded area of the city.
Sheraton:  I haven’t seen a room.  I wish I had something good to say, but my personal experience wasn’t good.  Again, we had to park around back and use the employee entrance when we tried to eat, then we were turned away from eating at the restaurant because of a group booking and the cleanliness of the bathroom wasn’t just bad for a fancy hotel, it was bad for China.  However, I do know others who have had good experiences.

Travel outside of Hohhot:
The grasslands are the biggest attraction.  If you want to see the touristy yurts, ride a horse, and eat an overpriced meal, any travel agency can arrange that for you.
If you just want to see the grasslands (a vast expanse of prairies) my personal recommendation is that you rent a car and driver and drive there yourself.
Most travel agencies have partnerships with specific places to eat, ride horses, see a show, etc and even if they discount the price of the actual travel the cost will more than be made up for in the price of the other attractions.  If you hire a car/driver you will need to tell them up front you don’t want to go to the tourist places or they will still try to take you there.

Travelers, if you have questions leave a comment or post in the forum.  Locals, what other advice would you give travelers?

Rules of the Road


Yesterday I saw an electric bike get crushed by a car.  The bike was crossing on green, the car was going straight on red.  Then a few hours later I saw a pedestrian get hit by a car while she was walking on a sidewalk.  The car was driving in reverse on a sidewalk and the driver wasn’t watching behind him.  These incidents reminded me to remind you…..BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!  And for those of you who are new to our city, here are just a few things I’ve learned about how to safely (or perhaps with less frustration) navigate the city.
1.  I’ve heard traffic flow described like downhill skiing….one is only responsible for what is in front of them.  This means bikes swerving side to side or people stopping in the middle of the flow of traffic aren’t at fault, the folks who run into them are.
2.  There are more protected left turns now than before, but generally left turns are made at the end of the green light.
3.  Most big intersections now have traffic police in the center or a citizen with a whistle and a flag  making sure you stop on red.  Give them a break and listen to them.  Their job has to be rough.
4.  Share space when you can.  If a car is parked in the bike lane, bikes move over to the car lane, and cars move over to the left lane.  Just go with the flow.
5.  Give a courtesy “honk,” “beep,” or “squeak” as you pass someone if they are getting to close to you or the road is narrowing.
6.  When in a head to head situation with another vehicle, I’ve learned that swerving whichever way feels most unnatural to me as a Westerner generally ends up avoiding the encounter.  And you can bank on the fact that in a head to head situation older Chinese women will get off their bike and walk along side it until the situation is abated.
7.  No matter the color of the light or the direction traffic should be coming from, always, ALWAYS, A L W A Y S, look both ways before crossing.  Please.  (This piece of advice is coming from someone who was once hit by a bus while crossing in the crosswalk while the light was green).

Do other people have other helpful traffic rules or observations?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Rain, rain


I know that all this rain is really good for the grasslands and for those in the rural countryside.  However, as a mom living in the city it’s frustrating that out of the short time each year that the weather is nice for kids to play outside, it seems a majority of those days have been rainy.
A local friend told us yesterday he heard on the news this year’s rainfall is five times the normal.  My husband thinks that statement is high, but based on my memory of how little it rained previously, it seems plausible to me.
I tried to do some brief research today.  Wikipedia tells me the normal average rainfall is 398 mm.  So far, I can’t find how much has fallen this year, but I did find an article which said this year’s rainfall has doubled last year.  That’s not five times, but it’s a lot of rain.

The article is linked below.

What are your thoughts?  Is the rain a much-needed relief for the desertification of the province or an unwelcomed inconvenience?