Sept 17th – 19th
The final leg of our journey together, Dan and I went to Hohhot in Inner Mongolia. We went on a tour to see the grasslands and slept in a yurt (as they are called in Turkey) or a gir (as they are called in China) or a gurt (a combination of the previous two words and as it is called by no one but me). On the grasslands tour, we saw sheep, camels, bulls jostling each other in the sun and horses running about freely (there wasn’t a single fence anywhere). At night we sang songs and learned traditional Mongolia games played with sheep’s elbows (pretty disgusting). Dan tamed the sheep herder’s “ferocious” dog, which I think he was immensely proud of because he kept telling us that only he was able to touch it and that it would be dangerous for anyone else to approach it. The next morning we went horse riding (which even though it is non vegan is pretty fun just the same.) We tried to master it like the Mongolians but we just ended up with a bruised ass. Dan’s horse we named Obama because of its colour and its willingness to lead, while mine we called Fabio, who at first we named Lady Gaga but then because we thought it was a boy the name had to be changed (but I guess there is some debate about her gender as well.)
But my favourite thing about Inner Mongolia was the friendliness of the people. One morning, on the day before our grassland tour, Dan and I walked around the city to get a feel for the place. We went to a park and in one park we saw senior citizens doing taichi, singing in a choir and playing music, playing with strange yo-yo like toys and some even dancing around. It was amazing how kind people were too. When we walked up to the yo-yo guys they showed us how to use them and the toys make a strange whizzing sound when you whip them around. When we joined the dancers on the other side of the park, they started to dance with us enthusiastically and show us some Mongolian dance moves. In Wuhan, if a foreigner started to dance, people would get shy and you would quickly become the spectacle. But in Mongolia the people danced with us and everyone was laughing with us and not at us. It was a great feeling.
But perhaps most surprisingly in that same park we asked a woman to take a photo of us and she invited us back to her house with her to meet her daughter and have lunch. When we got to her house, we discovered that her neighbour’s son was getting married and she invited us to go watch the procession. We went outside and saw the groom carrying the bride in a wheelbarrow. Everyone was laughing uproariously because he was wearing ladies underwear outside his suit, they were nice too, red and silky. We thought it was going to end there but then somehow we were ushered inside the house where we got to see more of the behind the scenes action. I watched the couple share a bowl of noodles and the photographer nearly took as many photos of me as he did the bride, while Dan kept getting candy shoved at him from the family members.
When we went back to our hosts’ house, the lady of the house, who I just called Ayi or auntie, had lunch ready. She was startled to find we didn’t eat meat but did her best. She even offered us baijiu, which I refused (I hate the stuff.) But Dan and she then began what seemed like a drinking contest with her continually egging Dan on to drink more and her ending up bright eyed and red faced. It was pretty hilarious.
So that was Mongolia, surprises at every turn but each one fully enjoyable.