Archive for travel

check out these hostels when traveling in China!

Each of these hostels, including Ba Fu Guest House in Hohhot, is offering a special deal to stay one night for the low price of 10 yuan plus a book! Each of the places has restrictions for when the deal applies (not usually on national holidays). 10 yuan is a great deal if your travel location and time line up with one of these deals! There are some great locations on the list: Xishuangbana, Xining, Wuhan, Taiyuan, and others!

 
Error: Embedded data could not be displayed.
 

If the page doesn’t load correctly, try this link.

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.

 

Friday’s foreigner: Preston

After a couple weeks off, we’re back with our Friday’s foreigner series. This week, meet Preston!

**I’m editing this post to include a link to the guest post Preston submitted for us some time back about buying a car in Hohhot.**

What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Preston Decker, and I’m from the Greater Boston area in the USA. I’m here in Hohhot because my wife is a Hohohotite, or Hohhotian, or Hohhotanese, or whatever you call someone from Hohhot. We came back here together in 2014 after working in Xiamen the two years previous to that.

QQ截图20160331065336

If you are doing something different now than when you first arrived tell us about that also.

When Linda (my wife) and I first came here, I had just stopped teaching English at a high school in Xiamen, and was preparing to set up a translation service in the States (I already had several years of translation experience at the time). The translation service is going strong, and so I now have a translation business in the States. We’re only in China for a few months a year at most, so I don’t need to look for a job in Hohhot when we’re back.

If you have free time, what do you do with it?

I’ve been studying the Uyghur language for the last four years, which I became interested in during my year of teaching English in Xinjiang. Progress has been very slow, but that’s my main personal project at the moment. Other than that, exercise, preferably off in the Da Qing Mountains, or up on the plateau, but most often at the gym at Hailiang.
You’re recently returned to Hohhot after some time away. What, if any, differences or changes did you observe upon your return?

The Second Ring Road! My wife’s family’s home is right next to the south Second Ring Road (南二环). Last year this whole area was an absolute hellhole (sorry for the language, but it’s true), with tons of dust spewing into the air from construction, and roads that looked like they came right out of a Texas horror movie (potholes galore). We left to go back to America in June 2015, and just got back here a month ago—what a difference! The second ring road is beautiful, and we’ve saved hours already off our driving times (I have a driver’s license and my wife and I bought a car here two years ago). It used to take me over an hour to fight through city traffic up to the Da Qing Mountains to go hiking, but it now takes only 25 minutes via the Second Ring Road. Only 20 minutes to get to Jinchuan, whereas it used to be 45. 15 minutes to my wife’s driving school, down from 30. Good job by Hohhot on this one!

You’ve also lived in other parts of China, what comparisons and contrasts can you make about Hohhot in relation to other places?

I’ve lived in Tianjin, Beijing, Xiamen and Kuitun (Xinjiang). The easiest comparison is with Xinjiang, especially in terms of the terrain and cuisine—lots of open space and mutton. I still contend that there’s no better place in the world than Xinjiang because of its wonderful mix of deserts, alpine forests, grasslands, history and culture, but Inner Mongolia comes in a pretty close second of the places I’ve lived.

All of the cities I’ve lived in Northern China (Beijing, Hohhot, Kuitun) have been pretty bad in winter in terms of pollution, and Xiamen definitely comes out a cut ahead in that regard, although I’ve heard things are getting a bit worse there too.

Hohhot is definitely the most free-wheeling of these cities. I’m pretty sure some of the more gentle inhabitants of Xiamen would go running back home if asked to take an e-bike out into Hohhot traffic. I’d also say, oddly enough, that people in Hohhot are more parochial and conservative in their attitudes towards outsiders (and foreigners), even if they’re more boisterous with friends and relatives.

Surprisingly enough, Xinjiang has the most easily understandable Mandarin of these four cities. I think it’s because the Han people there mostly move out there in scattered groups, or as part of more diverse movements (the bingtuan 兵团, etc.) ,and so were forced to drop their local accents in favor of one with which they could communicate with each other more easily. Beijing has that great hamburger gurgle, while Xiamen residents struggle between being made fun of for their Mandarin (fu instead of hu, etc.) and trying to maintain their local language which is in danger of dying out. Xiamen Minnanhua really is a completely different language from Mandarin—I’ll never forget going to a church there filled with old Minnanhua speakers and listening to an interpreter translate the priest’s Mandarin into Minnanhua sentence by sentence.

What’s surprised me is how different the Mandarin accent is here: even after 15 years of Chinese study and 5 years in China, I still struggle to pick up Hohhot’s local Cidihua accent, especially when spoken by my wife’s family who live up near Bailingmiao (百灵庙)。

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

Definitely Shao Mai and mutton of all kinds.

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

How about a road that runs a circuit around the city at 80 km per hour and has no traffic lights? Oh wait…

Jokes aside, probably better trash collection. We live in the old part of the city, about a mile and a half south of Dazhao temple, and while it’s fun to wash the local dogs play amidst 10 feet high piles of trash, it would be nice to see those piles get cut down in size a bit.

If you had a friend visiting and could take them to only one place in Hohhot, where would it be?

The Da Qing Mountains or anywhere on the Inner Mongolia Plateau. I really like the country near Xilinhot, though that’s a long car trip away.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?

Last year I developed a bit of an obsession for a little place on the Mongolian border north of Bailingmiao called Mandula (满都拉). It’s a secondary border crossing with Mongolia, only open during certain periods of the year, and I had the fantastic idea that it would be fun to go up there for a visit. So I drove up there last June. It was a beautiful drive, and I drove up past Zhaohe, before continuing through Bailingmiao and heading off towards Mandula.

Mandula is about 120 km past Bailingmiao (which itself is about 150km from Hohhot). There were no signs to warn away foreigners (I had been worried about that), and the country was beautiful, with alternating grasslands and hills. I even saw a couple of herds of camels.

I got up to Mandula and found it to be a one road town with a few earth houses and shops hugging the road. A cow lounged in the street. The border crossing had just closed two days before, and so the town was nearly deserted, although there was plenty of foreign goods (and I’m sure fake foreign goods as well) like alcohol and chocolate in the few stores that were open. If you’ve been to Erlian, you know the type, as all these goods come over the border from Mongolia.

I was having a grand time walking up and down the street, when a soldier in army fatigues spotted me and came over. He was clearly suspicious, and quickly called in his superior officer, who took me back to the base. They kept me there for four hours, questioning me about why I would ever come alone to see a place as remote as Mandula.

In fairness to them, the soldiers were quite nice and polite, and all border areas in China are rather sensitive, but it was still a nerve-wracking experience. As it turned out, part of the reason it took them so long to let me go is that none of their superior officers wanted to take responsibility for my situation, meaning my case got passed up a long line of officers, and then, as one of the soldiers said “we’ll have to wait a long time for the final decision to get passed back down that line.”

Luckily, the final decision was to let me go, which is why it’s a funny, not alarming, story.

So I guess the moral of the story is that although the surrounding area is beautiful, and although there’s no sign prohibiting a foreigner from driving a car up there, it’s probably best to stay away from Mandula.

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?

Marrying me!

 

 

Hohhot made CCTV’s facebook page

You can check out this video of police nabbing a thief. The video is complete with dramatic music and everything.

You can follow CCTV on facebook for news all over China.

 

What do you think about the video? Have you been pick-pocketed? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

 

Also, happy Li Chun!

I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it’s today and I think it is the first day of spring according to the lunar calendar. If that’s correct, the lunar calendar and I disagree about the meaning of spring.

 

 

traveling with little ones

Mostly, this blog is about our life in Hohhot. But, part of our life in Hohhot is the travel required to get here, to visit home, to process visas, to have a baby, to exit/re-enter as required for our visa, and on a rare occasion to travel for “fun.”

There isn’t much about traveling with little people that is fun. A local friend is currently in America, but before she left, she asked me what I do to entertain myself on the long plane ride from China to the USA. Entertain myself, really? I haven’t had the opportunity to do that in 4 1/2 years! In fact, I haven’t even had my body to myself on a international flight since we moved back in 2012. Since then, I’ve either been pregnant or nursing an infant every time we’ve traveled. So for us, those long flights are all about SURVIVAL. For us and everyone else around us.

Tomorrow we’ve leaving for Hong Kong. I’ve been preparing some things to (hopefully) make our travel easier (you’ll see those links at the bottom) so the theme of today’s post is navigating this country with kids.

How we travel

If by plane: We travel in economy class, with as few bags as possible, and generally we don’t get our kids a seat until they’re required (2 years). This is clearly less comfortable than paying for an extra seat, but we’d rather save the cash.

If by train: Generally we try to get a soft sleeper compartment and get the whole compartment. This is baffling to the ticket agents that we actually want to pay the adult price for our kids who don’t have to have a ticket, but we like the privacy and having the whole compartment to ourselves. All the stares and conversation is sometimes too overwhelming for me if we have to do the hard sleepers. I’m normally happy to pay extra for a door we can close.

soft sleepers

We took a train to Chengdu (24+ hours) with a 2 1/2 and 4 year old.

We don’t have a nanny or grandparent or anyone crazy enough to travel with us. (Except the time I was pregnant and James needed back surgery and couldn’t really move or lift anything…the Gears helped us get back to America that time otherwise we WOULD NOT have made it).

My point is, we’re not one of those families who sits in first class while the nanny minds the kids in coach. And, none of our kids are old enough to really carry anything so we pack as light as we possibly can because in addition to carrying our bags, inevitably a kid will also need to be carried. So when we plan our travel we try to create some kind of balance between sanity for us and not breaking the bank.

How we pack

I’m not the best person to offer advice here, but we try to take only what we feel like are “essentials” but those vary for every person and every family. And what is essential also changes based on the age of our kids. I long for the day when diapers are no longer a necessity.

I’ve written a bit about what we do for hotels before, but what we pack also depends on where we’re staying and what kind of kid-friendly implements they have.

One of our best purchases was a “pea pod” a tent-like baby bed that folds up small enough to put in a carry-on.

travel with kids

This was our month long trip to Hong Kong in 2013. Two backpacks, one suitcase, stroller, and diaper bag…not bad for 4 people.

 

travel with kids backpack

Our daughters have these small backpacks that these use as their carry-ons. I put a couple changes of clothes in there and let them choose a few small toys. We always have crayons and paper in there and some of the other activities mentioned in this post.

How we entertain the kids

Our philosophy on this to make travel as easy as possible for us, to be polite and respectful to those around us, while still maintaining most of the normal expectations we have for our kids.

scavenger hunt: I have a laminating machine so I’ll laminate this to use in the future too. Because we’re trying to encourage our girls to improve their Chinese, I plan to add this together with the ticket reward system below if they can say they the items on this list in Chinese.

50 ways to entertain a kid on a plane by Parent’s magazine Some ideas were great, and as you can read in the comments some require taking along too many things and some might make other passengers angry.

practice writing: We’ve printed these with the girls’ names and they can trace and practice writing. If you laminate them they can be used and re-used as crayon or dry erase marker will wipe off.

ticket reward system. I prepared these today for our trip tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

IMG_20160105_200225

I bought some magnetic fishing puzzles at the Culture Market for 15 RMB. The fishing poles can be re-used for other games. My oldest is learning to recognize words so tomorrow we’ll try fishing for the words (paper clip on the cards to catch with the magnet) and read the words she catches.

IMG_20160105_195511

We don’t use chopsticks at home but it’s a skill I’d like my girls to get better at so we’ll try playing with these tomorrow on our tray tables. The airline provided cup or water bottle will serve as a container.

travel ideas for kids

An old chip container with holes punched in the lid…The kids can feed pipe cleaners in the holes. Keeps little fingers busy and doubles as storage for other toys inside which makes for easy packing.

I should also say at this point that we are not always so prepared. Sometimes we just throw some toys in a bag and hope for the best.

 

Other thoughts

Breastfeeding/Diaper changing

China’s airports are some of the most nursing friendly places I’ve encountered on the planet. Especially in Beijing’s airport there are nursing rooms available at almost every gate. They are clean, private, and equipped with a sink, changing table, chair, and electrical outlet.

nursing room Beijing airport

Nursing room in Beijing Airport

They also have family bathrooms and small playgrounds throughout most airports which make travel nice and gives the kids a proper place to run off some energy.

That said, things get much more difficult after you leave the airport. Other than airports I haven’t seen nursing rooms or family bathrooms. Public bathrooms generally have no decent place for changing diapers and no place at all for nursing.

Strollers

I know most most families love them, but we don’t always travel with them and here’s why: Sometimes it seems like more of a hassle to lug it when it can’t be pushed and to get it in and out of a taxi. Also, we have had exactly 0 successful attempts with gate-checking our stroller from or into the Hohhot airport. No matter who we ask or what they say, it ALWAYS doesn’t show up until the baggage carousel. EVERY TIME it just gets checked with the baggage and not gate-checked so when you have to carry the kid from the gate to baggage claim anyway, that was half of the reason for the stroller anyway. Also, carts are free for use in Chinese airports and kids can sit in/on those just as easily.

 

Other parents in Hohhot….what are your best travel tips for kids? Leave us a comment.

 

because it’s almost Christmas…

…and because we have small kids. There has been quite a bit of talk about reindeer in our house. Are they real? do they fly? Can we have one?

To stop the questions for a few brief moments, I found this video on youtube about China’s “reindeer herders, the Ewenki/Evenki/Ewenke ethnic minority. If you don’t know, this minority group calls Inner Mongolia home and are known historically for herding and hunting reindeer. They are one of the smallest minority groups in China. You can see displays about them and learn more at the Inner Mongolia Museum.

The documentary below is in four parts (Only part one is linked). It’s a bit slow-moving (especially if you are 2 and 4 years old) and gets a PG rating for language (again, because the kids were watching). If you watch in its entirety you can piece together quite a bit about the history and current state of this group.

If you’re watching just to showcase the reindeer to your preschoolers, speed ahead to the 10, 16, and 20 minute marks. Watch the last 2-3 minutes for the baby reindeer, which was indeed the highlight 🙂

Also, the link below is from youtube so you’ll need a VPN to watch, but if you notice in the top right corner the video must also be available on youku.

 

If you need a VPN check out the sidebar on the right for a link to Express VPN!

Da Qing Shan Tai Wei Ski Area

All you need to know about the 2015-2016 Ski Season is right here!

mmexport1447743497349

This could be you!

The slopes at Da Qing Shan Tai Wei Ski Area open on November 28th!

mmexport1448158100803

map of the slopes

mmexport1447743504929

Skiing at Da Qing Shan Tai Wei Ski Area

Da Qing Shan Tai Wei Ski Area is located north of Hohhot on highway S101. See this map:

map to tai wei

the green area near the arrow is the ski and golf resort

 

Here is the price list for the 2015-2016 season:

Da Qing Shan Tai Wei Ski and Golf Resort Skiing Prices

If the image doesn’t display correctly, use this link: Da Qing Shan Tai Wei Ski and Golf Resort Skiing Prices

 

mmexport1447743470031

snow sledding

mmexport1447743477481

skiing

mmexport1448158191890

ski lift

 

 

You can follow the public account on wechat for information about skiing at wechat ID: twhxjlb and for information about their other activities at wechat ID: nmgtw_djc.

 

If you need service in English, contact Sanny at 13674814130.

 

Get a group of your friends together and make some cool memories!

 

TO GET THERE:

Shuttle service is provided from Inner Mongolia Exhibition Center to Tai Wei at 9:30 am, 11:30 am, and 3:00 pm.
Shuttle service is provided from Tai Wei to Inner Mongolia Exhibition Center at 10:30 am, 2:00 pm, and 5:30 pm.

 

Inner Mongolia Exhibition Center is located on the south side of Xinhua Road, east of City Mall (Mo Er Cheng)

 

*photos are property of Da Qing Shan Tai Wei Golf and Skiing Marketing Department, used with permission

 

 

Skiing in Inner Mongolia

Today’s post comes at a reader’s request via email. Here’s what I know about ski resorts in Inner Mongolia. It’s not much so please leave a comment if you have additional information.

Da Qing Shan Tai Wei Golf Resort

Golf, Skiing and Giant Luxury Single Family Homes (clearly, the subtitle is of my own rendering)

Located north of Hohhot this resort has one slope. They operate the ski slope in the winter months and the golf course in the summer months.

You can follow their wechat account at:  nmgtw_djc

IMG_2365

ski slope

IMG_2374

luxury homes

IMG_2375

reception/hotel/activity center

 

If you want to get out of Hohhot, Chifeng is home to a large ski resort called Mei Lin Valley (My Lin Valley). Their website appears to be down, but you can follow them on wechat at: mylin_valley. I’ve never been there, but it’s rumored to be Asia’s largest ski resort.

You can get information by phone at:   0476-3962888

 

Have you been skiing in Hohhot? In China? Tell us about it in the comments.

« Older Entries