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Dalian Blogs, Nature, Travel, Weekend Trips

Camping in the Baogutu Desert, Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region in North China- to the north it borders with Mongolia and the north east tip borders with Russia. The region is a home to the most scorching dry deserts in China, but also (ironically) to the most beautiful lush grassland sceneries.  Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, is popular among tourists for grassland tours. Another popular place is Xiangshawan, or “singing sands gorge” which is located in the Gobi Desert. It was a region I did not hear a lot about before I came to China, but I came across a local advertisement about a trip to Baogutu Desert in Inner Mongolia.
When I heard that a travel company named Local Ren organises a trip to Baogutu desert (宝古图沙漠), which is the biggest desert in Northeast China, I signed up immediately with my fellow colleague from InternChina. The Local Ren travel agency is actually a student start-up. Although they were not always professional, they seemed very easy-going and were making jokes all the time! In the end, 80 people signed up, who were for the most part international students from all over the world.

On our first date, we left Dalian, Liaoning province and travelled to Fuxin, a town located on the border between Liaoning province and Inner Mongolia. The more we approached the town, the more the scenery changed to endless rice fields. Also, the temperature kept on rising, reaching 32 degrees! Quite a difference from what I was used to in the UK. After six hours of travelling, our local Chinese guide told us that we had reached Fuxin, a rather small town of just 2 million! What I noticed while I was passing through was that there were lots of Mongolian BBQ restaurants, whose signs were written both in Mandarin Chinese and Mongolian. Apparently, both languages co-exist in the region, however Inner Mongolia uses the traditional Mongolian script for their alphabet, whereas the Republic of Mongolia uses the Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet, which they adopted due to Soviet influence.

When we arrived in Fuxin, the receptionist had to take a photo of our passport front page and visa. This is a standard procedure in China, that’s why a foreigner must carry their passport all the time when visiting new places. After that, we found a Mongolian hot pot with lamb meat. As the locals were not used to see foreigners, they were buying us more things to try and the servers were very kind and sweet.

On the next day we left for Baogutu desert. On the way, I saw that there were many tree plantations. The guide told me that the government is trying to claim back the land from the spreading desert. There were many trees planted and workers watering them. It would be interesting to see in a decade if their plan is successful.

The road to the desert was narrow and the condition of the road was bad. When we arrived at the tourist centre everything seemed under construction. There were several skeletons of hotels, but there were public bathrooms with plumbing and 3G! The organisers gave us our tents and other students showed us how to build one. In one hour, 50 tents were laid out proudly over a vacant field. After we secured them, we were divided into teams. The travel agency gave us ankle protectors and masks and we set off into the desert.

Setting up camp in the desert isn’t always easy!

In the beginning of our hiking, I was not impressed. There were newly planted trees everywhere and I thought it did not look like a real desert. The camel guides saw us and approached us- each of them showing off their animals. They had dressed them in traditional Mongolian colours and were following us along the way like shadows.

A very happy camel

The deeper we went into the desert, the more the heat was becoming unbearable. After 30 minutes, a landscape of endless sand dunes spread in front of our eyes. The white sands stretched out over the horizon unevenly and lazily.  There were spots where the wind was unsettling the dunes, but did not impede our breathing.

As we were the only tourists there we had plenty of camels to choose from. It cost only 30 RMB for a camel ride. Also, we could sand board if we wanted to, but most of us were taking photos with the camels which were idly laying in the sand and were not scared by being touched.

In three hours’ time, we head back to our camping site. Due to the strong wind, we couldn’t have had a bonfire, so we had only a BBQ. The meat was halal and there were plenty of vegetables. The BBQ was like an organised chaos- although no one assigned jobs, everyone just picked what they are good at and stuck with the task. But as the night advanced, the wind grew stronger. Eventually, the organisers asked us to return to our tents as the wind was blowing them away and they were literally people chasing them after. As a result, we returned to our tents, but found a unique way to continue to have fun. A group of Thai people played the guitar and sang from their tent. We connected a microphone to a big portable speaker so everyone could enjoy the music. At the same time, people were sharing what food and drink they had left, despite the hordes of sand that the wind was blowing against us. It was a night to remember!

In the morning, most of us woke up to see the sunrise after the sandstorm. We all helped each other to pack up the tents and travelled 12 hours by bus back to Dalian. Overall, this experience was worth every penny and every minute. If you are looking for an adventure – Inner Mongolia is the place for it!

To have the chance to embark on a similar adventure with InternChina, apply now!

 

Cultural, Discover Chinese culture, Learn about China, Nature, Travel, Weekend Trips

Facettenreiches China- ein Ausflug nach Jiuzhaigou

In ganz China und sogar über die Grenzen der Volksrepublik hinaus, ist das UNESCO Weltkulturerbe Jiuzhaigou bekannt. Besondes zur Herbstzeit pilgern täglich mehrere Tausend Chinesen in das von Chengdu 9 Fahrtstunden entfernte Naturschutzgebiet. Aus diesem Grund hat sich auch InternChina entschlossen die Reise dorthin anzutreten. 24 Interns ließen sich weder von der langen Fahrt noch von den dortigen Temperaturen abschrecken.
Die Fahrt war trotz der 9 Stunden alles andere als langweilig! Nach ungefähr 2 Stunden ließen wir die graue Hochhäuser Metropole Chengdu hinter uns und fuhren ins Gebirge. Der Weg führte uns durch Täler mit riesigen Seen, vorbei an kleinen Dörfern und durch Kilometerlange Tunnel. Wir folgten einer Serpentinenstraße bis wir am Abend das Friendship Hostel erreichten.

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Am nächsten Morgen sind wir bereits früh morgens, im dicken Zwiebelook zum Park aufgebrochen. Die Eintrittstickets hatten wir bereits am Abend zuvor im Hostel erstanden, weswegen wir uns eine Wartezeit an den Ticketschaltern ersparen konnten. Um möglichst viel von der Schönheit des Parks zu sehen, entschieden wir uns die Hälfte des 72.000 Hektar großen Parks zu Fuß zu erkunden. Vor uns lagen rund 20km entlang eines kleines Pfades bis zur Touristeninformation von wo wir die Erkundungstour mit dem Bus fortführen wollten. Die 5 Stunden lange Wanderung bei frischen 9°C war jede Minute wert, da waren sich alle einig! Wir wurden mit atemberaubenden Naturbildern belohnt! Riesige Wasserfälle, kristallblaue Seen, imposante Berge mit schneebedeckten Gipfeln und Wälder in herbstlichen Farben.

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Das wohl Beste an dieser Art der Parkbesichtigung war wohl, dass wir nur vereinzelt auf andere Touristen getroffen sind und uns nicht in vollbepackte Busse drängen mussten.

Nachdem wir die Touristeninformation erreicht hatten, entschied sich eine Hälfte der Gruppe dafür die mehreren, kleineren Seen zu besichtigen, währen die andere Hälfte die wenigen großen bevorzugte. Für beides hatten wir leider keine Zeit. Ich schloss mich der Gruppe an, welche zu den kleineren Seen aufbrechen wollte. Was soll ich sagen? Enttäuscht wurde keiner! Besonders der 5-Flower-Lake war von atemberaubender Schönheit! So schön, dass auch mehrere Brautpaare dort ihre Hochzeitsfotos machen ließen.

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Noch nie habe ich einen See von dieser Farbe gesehen! Das einzigartige Blau des Sees in dem sich die Gebirgsketten spiegelten war ein Anblick den ich wohl mein Leben nicht vergessen werde. Das Farbenspiel ist wirklich einmalig und die Szenerie die sich einem bietet unglaublich.

Gegen 18Uhr sammelte sich die Gruppe erschöpft, aber überglücklich, wieder im Hostel um den eindrucksreichen Tag mit Tibetischen Essen und bei dem ein oder anderen Tsingtao ausklingen zu lassen.

Insgesamt hatten wir 9 Stunden in dem Park verbracht, waren umgerechnet 72 Stockwerke erklommen und haben über 20km zu Fuß zurückgelegt.

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Würde ich nochmal so lange mit dem Bus fahren und einen derartig lange Fußmarsch auf mich nehmen um Jiuzhaigou zu besichtigen? Auf jeden Fall!!!Ich kann nur jedem, der bereits von Jiuzhaigou gehört und mit dem Gedanken gespielt hat, einmal dorthin zu reisen, aufs wärmste ermutigen dies zu tun-besonders im Herbst!

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Goodbye China

No way, I’ve been in Qingdao for three months already… Time flies as we say. Three months completely disconnected from western countries, entirely immerged in the Chinese culture. Now after three months I will leave China with my head full of memories and amazing experiences!
Since the day I arrived, I was looking forward to go to Laoshan, the famous mountain near Qingdao. Sadly, in January, February and March, the weather was still too cold to consider climbing that mountain, and I was feeling desperate to never be able to climb that mountain. And finally, as the end of my stay drew closer and I resigned to not climbing it, I took part in a Laoshan trip organized by InternChina. After an early wake up at 5 am to get to the bus – Laoshan here we are! Even though the weather wasn’t that sunny, I think it was the perfect week end to go to Laoshan (and not because it was my last week end in Qingdao). The temperature was warm enough to take off our sweaters to climb the stairs!

     

We went through unofficial trails, in the wild part of the mountain. Thankfully we had a Chinese guide who seemed to know exactly where we were and where we went, he was amazing! And once he even took me by the hand and helped me to climb the stairs (not that I couldn’t have done it myself but it was far easier this way). Mid-April is cherry blossom time! A lot of flowers everywhere which gave me the feeling that spring was finally here. After a lot of stairs, I can say that I managed to reach the top of the mountain (or at least the top of the peak our guide led us to), and I am so glad that I was able to do it!

   

When I wrote my first blog, I still couldn’t believe I was in China, and now I can’t believe I am about to leave it. Three months, it’s short, but I used all the time I had to discover most of the places that have to be seen in Qingdao and to meet a lot of incredible people. I am so grateful towards all those people who made my stay in Qingdao unforgettable. Thank you especially to the InternChina team in Qingdao, for giving me this great opportunity. And of course, many thanks to my host family who has been so nice with me!

 

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