Learning your way around the city-part one
My first recommendation is to buy a map of Hohhot. Maps are 4 RMB at any local bookstore. It seems even the small bookstores have them. Also, last time we flew in to Hohhot, they were giving them away to everyone who came out of baggage claim.
The map will have the four districts of Hohhot colored separately. This not only helps with learning the city and the lay of the land, but it will also help you when you register with the police or in the unfortunate event of an emergency as you will need to first register or report with your local pai chu suo, then the district police station (xin cheng/sai han/hui min/yu chuan fen ju). My point is that it is helpful, important even, to know what district you reside in.
The maps are also helpful even if you can’t read Chinese because the bus routes are numbered along the roads. If you can figure out which road is which by figuring out major landmarks, the numbers written on the roads are the bus numbers that travel along that particular street.
Next, learn the basic boundaries of the city.
North: You could say it’s the north second ring road (bei er huan) or you could say the mountains. (da qing shan)
If you don’t have an innate sense of direction, you should know the mountains are to the north. (Technically, there are mountains (hills?) on all sides of Hohhot, but the ones to the north are the most visible and can generally be seen even on very hazy days). So, the mountains you can see on a daily basis are the ones that direct you to which direction is north.
South: The largest part of the city ends at the second ring road (nan er huan) but you could also put the boundary as the Xiao Hei He. (Small Black River). But even Jin Qiao Development Zone is further south than that and some of the universities (notably Nei Da) have campuses even further south than the river.
East: Most of the city stops at the Dong He (East River) but a few developments are further out and more development is moving that direction. The airport is further east than the river.
West: I would say the Western border is Jin Chuan Development Zone.
Next, a helpful clue for directions are the road names themselves. For the most part, the main streets in Hohhot are named “jie” (street) if they run east/west and “lu”(road) if they run north/south. For example xin hua da jie runs east/west and xing an lu runs north south. (There are some exceptions to this rule, the main one being zhong shan lu, but it runs a bit diagonal anyway).
Once you know your directions, you should learn where the districts and development zones are. You can check out http://www.hohhotinfo.com/around-the-city.html for explanations.
That’s all for today, but expect to learn more about the geography of our fine city in the coming days!