Originally posted November 2nd, 2009
On the second day we dragged ourselves up and on to the coach for the 3-4 hours it would take to get to the dessert. Luckily we had pen and paper so played pictionary to pass the time, we’re sad I know… Eventually we arrived at the dessert and after a 20 minute walk down a hill we all got our lunch and were given the plan for the day. We would have about 2 hours at the dessert to partake in various activities such as camel riding and buggy trips. First though we had to climb a huge sand dune, which left pretty much everyone knackered! A load of us decided to go on an ex army vehicle tour of the area which was recommended by our tour guide. The buggy/truck thing would take us to see some sand sculptures and an oasis, which sounded pretty cool. We were all somewhat disappointed however by the ride, it definitely didn’t have the fun and excitement I had been lead to believe it had, it was pretty damn slow actually. The sand sculptures were pretty cool but the oasis was hardly more than a glorified puddle!
So after the largely disappointing dune ride most of us got ourselves in the queue for a camel ride, though only the shorter version as we didn’t have the time for the longer ride. But considering the state of our backsides, after the 3 hours of horse riding the day before, we were all glad to be doing the shorter trip! The camel ride was cool, though they are, quite possibly, the oddest and definitely the ugliest creatures I have ever encountered!
With the end of the camel ride we headed of back to the giant sand dune, thankfully getting down was much easier than getting up and actually quite fun. We sat on; well a tea tray is possibly the closest description as a sledge would be pushing the definition somewhat… Then it was back onto the coach for another few hours. That night we enjoyed a buffet at a KTV (karaoke) bar and then settled ourselves into a night of beers and singing very loudly and, to be honest, quite badly! By twelve o’clock we got turfed out but we were just hitting our stride and decided to move on to another KTV bar, about 15 of us bundled into taxi’s and headed for the ‘bar street’ by this time they were all deserted so we just chose one at random. They had a room that could fit us all in and had pretty cheap beer. We drank and sung into the wee hours but by 5:30 I decided I to go back to the hotel to at least get a couple hours of kip!
At 8:20 my roommate bounded in (still drunk and having not slept at all) and woke me up with a start, thank god he did though as we had to be in the lobby at 8:30 fully packed and ready to leave. It actually took me 9 minutes to do the fastest pack and face wash of my life and I arrived downstairs at 8:29, result! The last day we stayed around Hohhot and so didn’t have to travel far at all on the bus (hurray!). Our first port of call was a newly built museum that holds the largest fossil in China, it was pretty damn impressive! There were about 4 floors to the museum with exhibits ranging from China’s space programme to ancient warfare. It was cool to see loads of Chinese and Mongolian history and the museum was really modern. The next port of call was a hot-pot restaurant which was especially important for me having slept-in and missed breakfast! The hot pot was fantastic, there was a pot in the middle of the table with two separate stocks; one was hot, very hot, and the other was a simpler flavoured and non-spicy. We were given plates of raw beef sliced wafer thin and loads of vegetables and noodles which we could just throw in ourselves, great stuff! The two sides of the hotpot were both fantastic though the hot side was just too much, I had to eat about four mouthfuls of the normal side for every one of the hot side just so my mouth wouldn’t mutiny and leave my face to find an ice box!
Fully fueled after one of the nicest meals I’ve experienced in China we went to a factory that produced loads of different Mongolian products. We wandered through the factory and then spent about half an hour walking through the gift shop, which was as big as the factory, at all the random things on offer. (You could buy a fake penknife, a sword, a cashmere sweater or some milk sweets and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg!) After most people had had a look round and with generally lighter wallets we got back onto the bus for our final excursion to a Buddhist temple. It was a very good way of ending the trip as we all slowly sauntered about taking pictures and feeling all cultural. Then we were back to the hotel for our farewell meal. Then for myself and two other lads, who are based in Shanghai, it was time to leave the group to their train journey back to Beijing whilst we went to catch a plane direct to Shanghai. It was great to see people from our quarantine week in Beijing as nearly everyone went, for some it was just too far to travel. And I can now say that I’ve ridden a horse, a camel, eaten spicy intestines for breakfast and even wrestled a Mongolian! Not bad for a long weekend!