In October 2019, I visited to the quiet village of Kulun Yinshawan, located in northeastern China. Although the name is deceiving, Inner Mongolia is actually in China.
Inner Mongolia Tours
My trip to the Taminchagan Desert reminded me that, once again, you shouldn’t overlook rural places like Inner Mongolia. Compared to urbanized Chinese counterpart, the native Inner Mongolians live humbly, where the culture, the language, the landscape, and the economy resemble nothing of Eastern China.
My trip was organized by Mika, a plucky Chinese gal I met from Dalian, China. She manages an expat adventure group called Local Ren, which can be found on Instagram. Her trips are generally based in and around Dalian, which is why I jumped up and down when I saw that she was planning taking a six-hour bus ride to Inner Mongolia.
If you’re entertaining the idea of visiting Inner Mongolia, I recommend setting up a tour. It’s such a vast landscape that one could easily get lost. Even our own Chinese bus driver got lost! Thankfully, he was able to find his way, but we took many detours. Moreover, as you get deeper into Inner Mongolia, the more rural and primitive it can be. I noticed the language on the road signs changed from Mandarin to Mongolian, so the likelihood that you find an English speaker in rural Inner Mongolia diminishes exponentially. Even if the planned activities are “too touristy” for your taste, you’d be saving a lot of time and stress. You can always skip the camel rides and opt for a more authentic activity if you talk to your tour guide ahead of time.
The sand dunes, the camels, the exotic meats–these are what defined my trip. The landscape here, though not grassland, still felt extraordinary. Desert backdrops never disappoint.
Up-Close with Bactrian Camels
Two-humped camels, like those in my picture below, are called Bactrian camels. While standing beside them, I quickly realized how much smaller they are in comparison to their Arabian cousins. I could almost see over their backs. Not only are they smaller, but they have woollier coats and beards.
Learning the Mongolian Language
Again, Inner Mongolia’s primary language is Mongolian, so while many Mongols can also speak Mandarin, I got the impression that Mongolian was the default, due to its cultural significance.
I was also happy to learn the word “ger” in Mongolian. What westerners know as the “yurt,” is actually called “ger” by the Mongols. It’s the traditional dwelling of nomadic families with the mesh, curved walls inside. I was excited to spend the night in a ger! However, on my first day, the temperature dropped down to 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Brr! But sometimes, it’s the spirit of adventure that carries you through the those tough moments. Just knowing I was sleeping in a ger under the stars was enough to get me through a bone-chilling night.
Trying Mongolian BBQ
The next day, we spent exploring the desert dunes. By sundown, we were served an all-meat dinner, which to my surprise, included no vegetables, side dishes, or spices on the meat. Chicken, lamb, and who knows what, were carefully skewered and laid across a rusty grill. I didn’t realize it until I bit into one skewer that the fat and gristle were kept on. A neat opportunity to try Mongolian BBQ!
Why Not Go to Inner Mongolia?
To anyone working or studying abroad in China, I definitely recommend visiting Inner Mongolia. It’s a cheap destination with a rich history and drastically different landscape and feel than Eastern China.
Enjoy this Read? Comment below!
For those who enjoy travel, let me know what you think about Inner Mongolia. What are some of your favorite desert destinations?