Well I’m back. On August 31, I crossed the border from Mongolia back into China. And…Mongolia worked like a charm. Its big sky, pure nature and hospitality cured me of the China Blues.
This time around, China isn’t trying to rip me off. It’s not 100 degrees and oppressively humid. The people are helpful and friendly and curious.
Of course, the Internet is still unpredictable. Getting around the Chinese restrictions only seems to work sometimes, and never for Facebook. But I guess there’s no easy cure for the Chinese government. At least not in Mongolia.
Anyway, what of the Gobi? In the end, the so-called sights were a disappointment. The exception was Khongoryn Els, 300-meter-high sand dunes that sprout from out of nowhere. We got caught in a sand storm, made an unscheduled stop in a dusty provincial town to see a concert by Haranga (“Mongolia’s greatest rock band!” according to our tattooed interpreter), ate a ridiculous amount of mutton, and drove a *lot*.
I need to write more, but at the moment I’m, trying to type quietly while the other three people in my dorm try to sleep.
So, where am I, who am I with and where am I going?
At the moment I’m in Hohhot, the provincial capital of Inner Mongolia. I’m here with Karly, the Austrialian I met in Russia and happened to run into again in Ulaan Baatar. We did the Gobi trip together, and in a few hours we catch a train west.
Today we’ll go to Xiahe, a town with a Tibetan monastery. Then we’ll continue west go to Turpan, a leafy grape-growing city. It’s nearly harvest time, so it should be lovely. Then it’s Urumqi, the provincial capital, and finally Kashgar, the farthest west you can get in China, and a famous Silk Road town. Then we head back east, following the so-called “southern Silk Road” along the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert, skirting Tibet. We’ll end in Xi’an, see the Terracotta Warriors, and then make our way to Vietnam. We imagine all this will take about 6 weeks, depending on the number of bus breakdowns.
I’ll try to write more on the train an post from Xiahe. Happy September, everyone!