Archive for photography

Hohhot songs

Well friends, if you’ve wanted to increase your repertoire of songs to sing at Chinese banquets or KTV that will make your local friends swoon, this is one to try out! The post below is dated yesterday and there’s a song embedded in the wechat link. You can scroll down to read the lyrics (Chinese only) as it plays.

I’ll be honest, I don’t love the guy’s voice, and the song, while nostalgic, takes “cheesy” to a whole other level. That said, it mentions all the classic Hohhot icons and it would still win you friends to learn it 🙂

There are some great photos in the post, worth a scroll through even if you don’t listen to the whole song.

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If the page doesn’t display correctly try this link.

If you’re interested in another Hohhot song, you can look up “Hohhot Night” 呼和浩特的夜晚. It’s available on xiaomi music and I’m assuming any Chinese music player app. I haven’t found the song above on player apps yet.

Also, after listening to both songs it seems there a list of things that must be included when writing a song about Hohhot. Here are some of them.

  • drinking alcohol
  • the grasslands
  • chi le chuan
  • the sky
  • evenings
  • romance (even better if it didn’t quite pan out)
  • ding xiang (lilac trees)
  • zhong shan lu, xin hua square, or other famous location
  • bei zi, hot pot, or other famous food. 

What else needs to be included to write a hit song about Hohhot? Leave your suggestions in the comments. Bonus points if you actually write song lyrics and leave them for us!

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

A Tour of Wanda: The Center of Hohhot!

Wanda

Shopping malls dot the map all over China as a symbol of growing cities and more global influence over the culture. It is always a bit funny to wander China and see giant posters of Lebron James, Justin Bieber and George Clooney everywhere next to KFCs and Stradivarius stores. Shopping malls are usually a nice escape for foreigners go back home for a few hours, enjoy a movie in English and familiar food.

A local television commercial calls the Wanda complex in Hohhot the center of the city! with the loud voice reserved for monster truck rallies back home. My wife always rolls her eyes when she hear this because it is far from the geographical center of the city. Despite this I do find myself at Wanda a lot.

The Wanda area of coWandaurse has the Wanda Shopping Mall but also has several large cookie cutter apartment complexes, in classic China fashion, right behind it. There are a few schools in the vicinity as well as some international businesses so there are clusters of foreigners that live in these complexes.

It is where I work, amazingly my wife as well works next door to the complex, a lot of my friends live in the apartments behind Wanda and in general there just seems to be a lot going on all the time. Im not saying Wanda is busier than the areas near other shopping malls such as Victory or City Mall/Mo Er Cheng but when combined with everything else Wanda does give off the air of being the center of the city.

To start the Wanda mall itself is 3 stories with a very large ground plan. It alone dwarfs most shopping malls outside of the largest cities in the United States. There is a supermarket, multi-screen cinema, all of the major fashion outlets including Zara, Pull & Bear and Levis (the only notable exception is H&M, youll have to go to Victory for that), several electronics and phone outlets and an entire floor of Chinese and other Asian themed restaurants. Pizza Hut, McDonalds and KFC each have a two story representation to round out your belly.

Behind the mall is where the fun begins. Its referred to by most people I know from the area as Waking Street although signs call it King Street. Once you exit the back door you will find a never ending stream of places to eat. Your standard dry pot and hot pot places dot everywhere with different degrees of price and quality along with neverending noodle shops and other Asian ethnic cuisine like Korean and Japanese.

Wanda

Inner Mongolia is famous for its BBQ cuisine and it shows at night when the streets behind Wanda come alive with charcoal. While Beijing shuts down by 9:30 Hohhot stays up all night. Everyone chomps down on metal skewers and washes it down with cheap beer. Every third establishment it seems will bring out their grill pits and you can feel free to pull up a cheap plastic chair anywhere you want and order round after round of burnt pork, chicken and mutton sticks as well as mushrooms, tofu and noodles until the sun comes up.

There are more than enough Mahjong parlors, KTV clubs and billiard joints lining the street to wander into to keep things interesting.

Because of the cluster of foreigners as well as being the center of the city Wanda has some of the more famous Western style eateries. Now, I love Chinese food and I love saving money even more so I frequent these places less than some, but we all get a little homesick eventually.

I met my first little group of expat acquaintances when I arrived in Hohhot at Piri Piri, an (as far as I can tell) unlicensed rip off a famous South African based chain, Nandos. It specializes in burgers, wraps, chicken and deep fried Western staples as well as a few vegetarian meals. The service is very good, English friendly, prices just about right (35 RMB for a burger, little more for the french fries, Western prices) and the atmosphere is a cut above the noodle shops I tend to frequent.

Wanda

Next door to Piri Piri is Marc Starry Diner. I am a big fan of Marc Starry and I think the food is delicious. They have pizzas, brugers, pasta dishes, it tends to feel like a more formal experience with large booths and a million fake plants everywhere. It is of course pricier but they actually know how to make spaghetti (hint, dont use brown wheat noodles). Marc Starrey is a place to take a date on a Friday night after work with its calm interior.

The Cheese Factory is not far and I would say this offers the most authentic Western (Im biased towards the United States in this regard) dining experience. The menu is quite large and has steaks, pizzas (you should be seeing a trend by now), cheesecake and other deserts and a large selection of imported beer and wine. The decorations and theme are very authentic to TGI Fridays type places and you can feel yourself disappearing back home if only for an hour or two.

Across from this little strip is a sign that says American Rodeo. It immediately brings to mind memories sloppy buffets on the outskirts of town with one type of meat deep fried in the juices of other meats and enough potatoes for a small nation. When I finally found myself there I was verrrrrrrry dissapointed.

In China, when eating Western food, you will either get Western food or Chinesey Western food. Pizza made with mayonaise, wheat pasta with garlic sauce presented as spaghetti and shoestring thin french fries served in a large bowl for everyone to dip their hands in are examples of the latter.

The American Rodeo is over priced, has very slow service and food is just above edible. I would not advise anyone to try it out.

Farther up the street is one of the most famous places in Hohhot for foreigners, Yummy Box. They have a screen that plays a massive playlist of Western hits round the clock as well as showing Daily Show reruns in a little TV in the corner. The menu is totally Chicago oriented with deep dish pizzas being the star along with deep fried everything you can imagine. A large selection of imported beer, a lot of it for very good prices or Buy One Get One specials, round out the menu.

Yummy Box Hohhot

Many will argue that Yummy Box is the best foreign food place in town. I think Marc Starry has better actual food but Yummy Box transports you the Midwest with ease and Im amazed they havent tried to cater to western sports crowds.

The last place I have to point out is a new micro brew called Small Kidney. It is located a little out of the way, if you exit Wanda from the back and take a right past the all night fruit and vegetable market and hug the fence with the construction you will find a nifty little bar. It is two stories and feels incredibly Western on the inside. It is new to the area but they are lining their shelves with all the imported beer you miss from home.

This article barely scratches the surface and doesnt even mention the loud as hell night club, Milk, located in the front of Wanda. There are merchants selling clothes, shoes, toys, purses, etc. next to greasy food vendors on the sidewalk. About a dozen wine stores will satisfy your tastes with bottles from all over the world. Even pharmacies are across from your favorite hot pot restaurant to fill a prescription for the sore tooth the spicy food gave you.

Places like this are located everywhere and only stand to show how large and diverse even a small city like Hohhot is.

Steven Ayy writes for The Culture Bum Blog and Podcast series. He has lived in China for a year and loves to write about places to go and see in Asia, tips to save money, ESL methods and advice and anything else that comes to his mind.

Hohhot’s Air Quality

See how Hohhot’s Air Quality compared to other Chinese cities in the first half of 2015.The full article is below, but the place names are in Chinese so I’ve listed the factors relating to Hohhot and Inner Mongolia here.
The first list is the provinces/ARs of China listed in order from worst to cleanest air. Inner Mongolia is number 24 of 31 total, making us in the top third.

Next is a list of Inner Mongolia’s leagues and how they rank, again from worst to best. Here’s the list:

  1. Tongliao
  2. Wuhai
  3. Baotou
  4. Bayinnor
  5. Wulanchab
  6. Chifeng
  7. Hulunbeir
  8. Alxa
  9. Xingan
  10. Hohhot
  11. Ordos
  12. Xilingol

(Please note there are alternate spellings for most of these places).

 

And once again, there are much worse places to live in China than in Hohhot.

The article ends with beautiful pictures and the bright blue skies of Inner Mongolia. 🙂

 

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Changes in Hohhot

The post below, shared from Hohhot’s daily news service, does a really great job of highlighting just how quickly Hohhot has changed in recent years. The full article is posted below in Chinese, but I’ll do my best to share the highlights. If it doesn’t display correctly, try this link.

The first kind of change mentioned is the increase in population. Here’s the rundown:

2015 3.05 million

2010 2.86 million

2000 2.43 million

1990 1.91 million

1964 1.11 million

1953 790,000

 

Next, there has been tremendous economic change. In 2014, Hohhot’s urban residents’ per capita disposable income increased by 8.5%.

 

Next, as evidenced by rush hour traffic every single day, is the increase in the number of private vehicles. The number of registered vehicles in Hohhot as of February 26, 2015 was 801,746 which according to the article means that on average every household has a car.

In 2006, there were 4.5 vehicles for every 100 households and in 2000 the number was just one car for 100 households.

 

If you’re following along with the embedded article’s photos and graphics, we’re now at the pictures of folks leaving work (by bicycle) in the 1950s followed by what getting off work time looks like today on Hohhot’s streets.
Next, the article has pictures of buses and highlights some of the changes to Hohhot’s public transportation. The first picture is Hohhot’s first bus for its first bus route in 1954, when the city was called Gui Sui, before it became known as Hohhot. (more on this topic in a future post). The next picture shows 4 buses that drove the Number 3 Route. The next picture shows that in 2012, double decker buses had been added and the city had 102 bus routes. Then in 2013, double length buses were added to Hohhot’s two free bus routes as part of a green initiative.

Public transportation continued to improve in 2015 with plans for high speed trains and two lines of a subway to be complete in 2020.

Also, the high-speed portion of the second ring road was scheduled to be completed in July 2015. (I don’t think it’s all finished, but I heard that the portion between Jin Qiao and Jin Chuan is finished and that it now takes just 20 minutes to drive between the two).

The fourth change mentioned under the public transportation heading is how much Hohhot’s airport has changed. There’s a picture of the airport in 1958 and then a present-day photo. (You can read about Hohhot’s plans for an even newer airport here). 

 

You can keep scrolling down for even more contrasting then-and-now pictures of Hohhot. (famous places, universities, and city scenes)

 

What has changed the most since you arrived in Hohhot? Leave us a comment with your thoughts.

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the Highways of Inner Mongolia

I said somewhere in an earlier post that our family has been traveling more in Inner Mongolia this spring and summer than we normally do (and more than we’d like!) Most of our trips we’ve rented a car and driven ourselves. This post is a compilation of all the “interesting” things we’ve seen along Inner Mongolia’s highways.

Some of these items should be typical for driving in China, and others are specific to Inner Mongolia.

1. Potholes

beierhuan

Potholes! This is Hohhot’s North Second Ring Road, but you see ditches across highways or potholes like those pictured here.

 

2. Swirling Dirt/Dirt Devils/Dust Devils/Tiny Tornadoes/whatever you want to call them. No matter what season or what direction we’ve travelled, I can’t remember a single trip we’ve taken that we didn’t see one.

dirt devil

Dirt devils. We’ve seen these every direction we’ve travelled, not just in one particular area of IM.

3. Livestock and other animals.

First, horses.

horses

and more horses. This herd was spotted somewhere between Saihantala and Erlian.
more horses

 

Pigs. We didn’t see as many of these, but this large lady was crossing the highway somewhere north of Siziwang Qi.
pig

 

Of course in Inner Mongolia, you can’t go very far without seeing sheep grazing in the pasture along the road.

sheep

But, sometimes they are also crossing the road.

sheep crossing

just south of Gegentala Tourist Area. You can see it just beyond the sheep.

 

Camels. We’ve seen a lot of these in Alxa and close to the Mongolian border, but not so much in other places.

camel

And, lots of cows.
cows

And cows next to backed up cars.
cows and cars

 

And cows next to backed up cars with a car driving the wrong way down a divided highway.

cars and cows 2

 

4. Wide Loads
wide load

I only have pictures of hay, but isn’t it amazing the amount of stuff they are able to carry in a single load? The recyclers in the city and the farmers outside of the city both have a unique skill set for packing it on!
lots of wide load.

5. Road Signs.

This one baffles me a bit. It’s the highway marker sign for most of the journey between Hohhot and Erlian. I’ve thought it over quite a bit on our drives and I can’t think of anything it’s intended to represent other than Mickey Mouse or a teddy bear. And either way, I’m not sure why Inner Mongolia chose that shape for their road signs. If you have some insider knowledge as to why this shape, please leave a comment to enlighten us all!

road signs

6. Toll Booths

Our first car rental experience we drove to Wushen Qi in Ordos. We were surprised at the number and expense of tolls. It’s about 200-250 RMB to go to Wushen Qi, about 150 RMB from Hohhot to Erlian, and about 200 RMB from Hohhot to Kangbashi. No highways are free and generally the bigger/better the road, the more expensive the toll.

toll booth

7. Closed Highways

Ahhhh, the frustrations. This is one of the highways between Saihantala and Siziwang Qi. We didn’t know there was more than one until this one we normally take had a fence built across it between our last two trips.

The time we went to Kangbashi, the main highway between Dong Sheng and Kangbashi was also closed. The on-ramp was barricaded. We stopped and asked a few folks for another way to go, but everyone just kept directing us to the on-ramp that was closed! We found another way, but it delayed our arrival by an hour and a half or so.

road closed

8. Speed Bumps. On the highway.

I understand speed bumps as you enter a toll booth, but on the so-called “gao su lu” (high speed road) it seems funny to have these every few kilometers as they are between Hohhot and Siziwang Qi.

IMG_20150707_102530

That’s just a small sampling of the joys and frustrations of Inner Mongolia’s highways.

 

Have you road-tripped here? What were some of the more unusual things you saw? Leave us a comment and tell us about your experience.

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