Thursday, August 28, 2008

Inner Mongolia (or how it all started)

For me, summer started on July 1 and I couldn't have been more excited and more eager to travel. Jon and I had out whole summer laid out in front of us and we were ready to start exploring. After a day in Beijing (which I already blogged about) we headed off to Inner Mongolia where we kicked things off in the desert (again, I already blogged about that). Reminiscing now, I can say that riding a camel through the desert was one of those rare, random, wonderful things that I did during this summer and I'm glad I had the chance to try it, though I don't think it will become a regular hobby for me. Here's a pic of me and Fergie:

The following day we made our mini voyage to the grasslands, which sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is. In plain English, the grasslands are Iowa. There were animals and poop and crops ... all it was really missing was food on a stick and a caucus.

The best part about our trip to the grasslands was that we got to meet a traditional Mongolian family and chill out in yurt drinking milk tea, eating gross cheese and relaxing while they prepared a traditional (read: delicious) meal for us.

After lunch and some relaxing it was time for the main event, horseback riding through the grasslands. Before we arrived our guide asked if we had all been horseback riding before to which all of my farming/ranching/crazy friends replied, "yes." I had been horseback riding before, but it was in like the 4th grade and my horse was basically being dragged around the ring by a leader. So, I said "no" and asked for a more mild-mannered horse since I had no idea what I was doing.

Obviously in Inner Mongolia this translates to, "please give me the most uncontrollable horse you have." And they did. My horse wasn't too bad, but for a first time rider it was pretty scary. Before the guide had even handed me the reins my horse took off at a nice trot leaving all the other horses behind. This continued to happen throughout the trek ... my horse seemed to get bored with the slow, take-in-the-scenery approach that I wanted and would just start to run through the grasslands instead. I would post pictures but I was so absolutely terrified that I didn't take any.

This is why I know that I need to live in a city and not in the country. I can handle traffic and weaving between cars and taxis, I cannot handle horses running wild.

After an eventful day in Iowa, I mean Inner Mongolia, we headed back into the city and had one last meal with our fellow travelers before they made their way to the train station to head back to Shijiazhuang.

Jon and I had one more night in Hohhot before an early train ride the next morning so we went and had a drink at an expensive bar and then walked around for a while. We encountered a huge fight on our way home and we tried to help the guys up/break it up without actually getting involved since we had no idea who these people were and if they would come after us or anything. Things got a little too exciting on the street so we decided to stay out of trouble, head back to our hostel and call it a night.

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