In my next installment of On the Road in Inner Mongolia, I am taking you through my day in Baotou and the surrounding area. As I mentioned in my last On the Road in Inner Mongolia post, Shirley and I awoke in Baotou early Tuesday morning to begin our trip after our trip on an overnight train from Beijing.
After getting off the train, we headed to a local hotel. A hot breakfast was an excellent start today after a long (though comfortable) night on the train. Fed and energetic, we went to learn traditional Mongolian dancing.
At 10 am, we watched eagerly as a group of four Mongolian women gave us and our group a personal demonstration, which entailed dividing us into four smaller groups to practice the moves shown to us. The dance sequence was characterized by slow and methodical but sharp shoulder movements, sways and leans from side to side, and delicate hand gestures. The dancers donned long blue and red dresses with silver accents, as well as elegant traditional Mongolian headpieces. While our level of Mongolian dancing proficiency was far from that of our instructors, we nevertheless enjoyed practicing and performing a small slice of Mongolian tradition.
Dancing and a homestyle Chinese lunch was proceeded by an afternoon at Kubuqi Desert (库布其沙漠), the third largest in Inner Mongolia, which is situated in the northern part of the province. After a 1.5 hour drive, we arrived at Xiang Sha Wan (响沙湾), one of the few areas of the desert that is accessible to visitors. Taking a cable car across the desert’s canyon that was formerly a river bed (it has since dried up), Shirley and I enjoyed a panoramic view of the (seemingly) endless expanse of sand.
After traversing the river bed, Shirley, our local tour guides Charity and Iris, and I took our group to ride camels. I had never ridden a camel before, and it was certainly an adrenaline rush. While the ride was bumpy at first, I eventually got used to the rhythm of the camel’s stride.
Besides the trail of us riding camels in the sand, the desert exuded an incredible sense of calm. Though we were in a tourist-friendly spot, the perspective atop a camel was one of stillness and isolation. It was a time during the trip that we could access, in some way, a sense of nomadic life in Inner Mongolia.
A full day of activity and exploration left us satisfied but tired. We retired early to bed, in anticipation of the next day’s activities.