Archive for expat life

I like the things that don’t change

Even if you only stay in Hohhot a short time, you’re bound to have the experience of some place you love (a gym, a restaurant, a road side park, a store, etc) closing, being torn down, moving, or changing locations. 
I think because things change so quickly and without notice here, I feel more nostalgic about the (few) things that are still the same as when I first moved here. I was re-acquainted with one of those things recently.

My daughters collectively had seven (yes, seven) pairs of jeans with holes in the knees like these pictured below. 

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Years ago when I moved here there were some older ladies who would sit outside the west entrance of Man Da and repair clothing. I’m rarely in that part of town, but even when I had been there in recent years, I hadn’t seen the ladies. I assumed they, too, were gone due to changes in Hohhot. Then not too long ago I was somewhere farther north on that street (贝尔路商业街)and I saw the ladies! But, even that had been quite awhile ago so I wasn’t sure if they were still there. Since I had seven pairs needing repair, I decided to go on a hunt and see if they were still there. 

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YES! They have moved north of Man Da’s west entrance and now sit outside the 永和豆浆大王 restaurant. There work is still as good, and inflation hasn’t changed their prices all that much. 

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These ladies don’t just sew a patch, they actually re-thread the jeans. It’s about 25-30 yuan per garment depending on how many garments, how many holes, the size of the holes, etc. If you only have one, they’ll do it while you wait. If you have more, leave them and come back in a few days.

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From father away, you can hardly see they’ve been stitched. For my seven pairs of jeans it was 200 yuan. For me that was worth the drive and wait because little sisters can keep wearing them and I can’t replace new ones for that price. 


I like keeping my old things and I love the few things in Hohhot that aren’t changing. Help me keep these ladies in business! 


I’ve also written some about how to repair other items (not just clothing) in this post. 


Do you have any suggestions about repairing items here? 


Bei Shan Park

Another cool (new to me) place I found was Bei Shan Park. North Mountain Park? I’m going with pin yin instead of English translation. 

I saw this park on the map, but had never heard of it or been there, so we went as a family today to check it out. Here’s the name and address if you want to check it out too. 



It was just a typical Chinese park in the sense of concrete paths to walk on with grassy areas you can’t walk on. No playground or attractions, but lots of scenic areas and statues to take pictures with.

It’s also newly constructed (I can’t find an exact date, but it seems it was finished at end of 2016) and on the northeast edge of town, so it’s not very crowded (or at least it wasn’t on a beautiful Saturday in May). 

Other good points: lots of public bathrooms, well-kept (or at least new enough that nothing is falling apart yet), and good views.

The main gate. Faces east, just south of the North Second Ring Road on Wan Tong Road.

The main gate. Faces east, just south of the North Second Ring Road on Wan Tong Road.

If you enter at this gate, there’s a bit of a hike up the hill/mountain. It’s nothing. Unless you have to carry the stroller and a 25 pound kid up there. Instead of going up the hill first, if you turn back toward the gate, there are stairs where you can climb to the top of the wall that makes the gate.

Both gates face east, the one is a little farther south than the main gate. Take this gate if you are pushing a stroller or carrying stuff. This gate can be identified by the fact that the gate itself is a giant abacus.

Both gates face east, the one is a little farther south than the main gate. Take this gate if you are pushing a stroller or carrying stuff. This gate can be identified by the fact that the gate itself is a giant abacus.

The park trail/road simply goes up the hill, makes a loop around a circular area at the top, and back down.

large plaza at the top

large plaza at the top

another view of the plaza at the top

another view of the plaza at the top

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scenes from the park

scenes from the park

The park overlooks a church and a water park.

The park overlooks a church and a water park.

The park overlooks a church and a water park.

The park overlooks a church and a water park.

My over-all recommendations for the park is that it sort of feels like you’re getting out of the city, even though you’re not. If you’re a runner, I feel like it would be a great place to run. My best guess is that the loop is about a mile (1.6 km) with really good inclines. (I did not actual measuring, just guessing!)

Have you been there already? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

cook like a local: hua juan(r)

A friend shared these handy photos and recipes on her wechat today and gave permission to share them. Maybe you’d like to try to make this Chinese classic?

They are a steamed bun shaped like flowers. 

Here are your instructions:


 Three full bowls of flour

 use one spoon of yeast and warm water until a soft dough is formed

cover with plastic wrap 

wait about 30 minutes and dough should look like the above picture

roll out the dough and spread butter on top 

roll up the dough and cut into triangles

They should look like this


turn the pieces over so the widest part is towards the bottom

press down the middle with a chopstick to make the flower-shaped pattern

From the bottom, pinch the middle together

now it looks like this

Put on a steaming tray for 15 minutes.
Enjoy the delicious results!


Instructions in Chinese:



iMoment Coffee Shop

If you still haven’t found your perfect hang out, we’re happy to introduce iMoment Coffee Shop. Connect with them on wechat using this QRcode.


For the coffee lover, finding a nice coffee shop must be the first thing you do in Hohhot! By recommendation we found iMoment Cafe, a mysterious cafe hiding in an office building.

Why is it called iMoment Cafe?


First, the English letter “i” shares the similar pronunciation with the word “love” in Chinese. You can tell the founder (a Taiwanese girl who speaks great English) loves coffee, wants everyone to enjoy their moment here in iMoment.


Second, iMoment Cafe is a reminder that people need to drink the premium specialty coffee. It’s not just a regular commodity, they treat every cup of coffee seriously. I am sure iMoment Cafe has high standard in its coffee. They use LOVERAMICS’s cups for the coffee, created using state of the art equipment by Lamarzocco and Victoria Arduino’s Mythos.


They also offer a selection of classic desserts to go with your morning coffee.


The other part of menu was equally impressive, king size panini with fresh garden vegetables, cuttlefish ink and other healthy ingredients on the dishes. Apart from the coffee, the food is definitely worthy trying.

iMoment Hohhot

They claim they are the furthest shop on Hohhot’s map of specialty coffee, but it’s definitely worth finding. From the warmth of the Taiwanese baristas to the food and drinks, it’s a spot to go! (and actually it’s not far at all )

4th Floor,No.15 Jinyushidaicheng,Chilechuan Avenue


photos by Hilary Lee photography, used with permission

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


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