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I have always wanted to visit the wide northern plains, and 希拉穆仁草原Xilamuren Grassland is the nearest one on my itinerary. And for this reason I took the bus to 呼和浩特市Huhehaote (Hohhot) city, the provincial capital of 内蒙古Neimenggu (Inner Mongolia). The grassland is about 80 kilometers or so from the city center, but the route goes through so many rocky mountains that it feels like twice the distance. The bus ride took about 3 hours: the first two hours went through mostly large rocky mountains; the next hour we entered wonderland — an endless vista of greens and reds with low rolling hills.   (See pictures taken on the road to 希拉穆仁草原Xilamuren grassland, as well as more travel information)

Once in the grassland, the bus will normally stop at the tourist gers area, but the administrative town, 召河镇Zhaohe, is twice an arrow shot away. As always I got to my destination late. I rented one of the hundred gers here, and without further fuss I went straight to the horses. There were a few families owning horses here, and their horses were simply tied to poles. Here in the grassland there was really nothing to do but to ride horses. So I hopped on one short stocky Mongolian horse for 2 hours. The Mongolian owner taught me a few tricks on how to ride his horses, and in half an hour I was galloping with him. He told me of dried-up lake about 40 minutes of horse ride away and we rode there. The immense grassland was beautiful, and the sky was so low that I felt the clouds brushing on my hair. Once we got to the lake area, we climbed a fence and walked on its grassy lake bed. In the distance was a few mobile gers and some horses, a few of these loose horses were grazing on the lake bed. 

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NEW -- July 21, 2010

The beautiful city of Suzhou crisscrossed with narrow water canals

希拉穆仁草原图片Xilamuren Grassland Pictures

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image of a group of houses across a lake in hongcun villageimage of buildings in xidi village

Walk through anhui's pleasant villages that has over 400 years of history. See the idyllic villages of 西递Xidi, 宏村Hongcun, 南屏Nanping, and 关麓Guanlu.

clay figure of 钟馗 Zhong Kui

Arts and Crafts that I bought along my travels.

image of Pingyao streetimage of the main gate tower to the Chang family's compound and gardern

The compounds and manors of the extreme wealthy in 山西Shanxi's small towns and villages. See the old town of 平遥Pingyao with well-preserved Ming and Qing city wall and street layout.

Travelogues and travel notes.

image of stone lion

The stone lions, chimeras, toistoises and unicorns that guarded the royal tombs of the 六朝Six Dynasties Era for the past 1600 years.

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Later at night, I walked to the small town, but there was not much to do there. I soon returned to the gers to have dinner. The famous dish here was boiled lamb steak, so I tried it. I had the whole ger to myself while I ate, and as I stared at the curtained doorway, I heard music and the sounds of dancing on the next ger. Earlier I had seen a pair of musician and dancer (performing traditional Mongolian music and dance) coming out of a ger. And my neighbors got hold of them tonight to rouse their party.  Ah! I wish they were playing in my ger instead. Watch my short video clip of Xilamuren Grassland.

My proprietress was in her early forties and had the surname Yuan. Like many of the business people here, she rented space for her five gers, all grouped together. I was her first customer that day, and another one was still a possibilty. But it was not the peak season yet. " Most people come here on their cars and just stay for a few hours, then leave. Sometimes they stay overnight," she told me. Still, she was able to make money and paid her annual rent of two thousand yuan to the town. I asked if she live in one of the gers. She shook her head, "we all live in the town's 平房子flat houses."

My tourist ger is unlike the traditional mobile gers. It has a concrete foundation with a low circular concrete wall reaching about half the ger's height, and imbedded in this concrete wall are the metal rods that formed the upper wall and the dome roof. Outside, the round wall is wrapped and bound with a thick skin of coarse white wool. Inside, the interior wall is entirely lined with fine red silk. At night, as I was writing my journal, I was faced with the framed picture of a gallantly posed horseman. Undoubtly, this man is 成吉恩汗Genghis Klan, or 铁木真Temujin. His normadic lifestyle is largely all gone now — but lucky for us there is a bubbling tourist industry that keeps the gers around.   Because of all this I was able to sleep on a carpeted platform in a cold ger under the incredible Inner Mongolian sky, and with some strange insects chirping under my ears all night long.  

trucks on the desert road

Pictures I took while on a bus traveling through the sandy deserts of 甘肃Gansu on my way to 嘉峪关Jiayuguan.

Travelogues and travel notes.

Travel Information

Detail. Click for Full Map and for more information.

Getting There:

At the time I was at 包头市东河区Baotou city's Donghe district in its south. There I found out two ways to get to 希拉穆仁草原Xilamuren Grassland. The easiest way is to leave from 呼和浩特市Huhehaote (Hohhot) City, the provincial capital of 内蒙古Neimenggu (Inner Mongolia). The ride(Y30) from Donghe's 长途汽车站Long Distance Bus Station, located across from the 东站East Railway Station, to Huhehaote is about 2 hours.  Huhehaote is commonly called 呼市Hushi (Hu city) for short, and the grassland is located just outside of its borders on the north. (see map above)  From Hushi's bus station get the ticket (Y19) to 召河镇Zhaohe, the administrative town within the grassland.    It is less than 100 kilometers from the city center, but the ride will take about 3 hours due to the numerous mountains it needs to pass through. You will not regret the long ride because the landscape along the way is stunning.

If you are in Baotou, there is another way to get to Xilamuren (click on the above detail map for the full map): From the long distance bus station of its southern district, Donghe, get the ticket (Y10, 1.75 hr) to 固阳县Guyang county. Then transfer to another bus to 白灵庙县Bailingmiao County. At this county's station, there is a bus to the grassland. The entire route probably takes 6 hours, which is about 2 hours longer than going first to Hushi, then to the Inner Mongolian plains.  If you have plans to visit sites along this route, such as the 秦长城Qin Great Wall, it can be interesting. I got to Xilamuren using the first route, by leaving from Hushi; but I knew that the second route is possible because a Bailingmiao bus stopped at my ger. Also, at the Guyang bus station, I had noted down some of the destinations — one of which is Bailingmiao. See some pictures I photographed on the road from 包头市至希拉穆仁草原Baotou City to Xilamuren Grassland.

Entrance Ticket:

None that I know of. (summer 2006).

Accomodations:

There are many tourist gers or yurts on the grassland that can be rented, and some of these are large enough to accomodate a large family or group. The gers here are not the traditional mobile yurts: The lower half of the struction are concrete, and its frames are metal rods. Nonetheless, you won't mistaken it for anything other than a ger. Prices go from Y25 and up per person depending on the season and the number of tenants. (summer 2006) I had not checked whether the town itself has hotels, but who wants to come all the way here and stay in the town. The town is about a 15 - 20 minutes walk from the gers.

Food:

Boiled lamp steaks with bread. About Y40 per jin (half a kilogram). The meat will be brought to your ger. While I was there, I saw a pair of Mongolian musician and dancer going around the gers offering their skills. So you may enjoy Mongolian music and dance while you eat. I wish I can tell you more about them, but they did not come round to me. I ought to demand it. Still, it's probably no fun for them to perform for a lone traveler.

Miscellaneous:

Each ger gets a bucket of water for whatever use you like. There are no toilets inside the gers, of course; but lucky for the less wild folks, there is a bathroom in the shape of a ger. Use it early though, because it won't be open when the moon is out. Bring plastic bags just in case. The fee was Y1 per use. Also note: the northern nights are chilly, so bring a jacket.