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6. Inner Mongolia - Tourism

6.1 How to travel to Inner Mongolia?

Inner Mongolia can be reached by train and by aircraft. The Transmongolian Railway which leads from Beijing via Ulaanbaatar to Ulan Ude crosses the Mongolian-Chinese border at Erenhot (Erlian[haote]) / China and Zamyn Üüd / Mongolia. North of Datong it connects to the Chinese Railway, Inner Mongolian branch leading to Baotou and eventually to Ningxia and Gansu which implies that one can also travel to Inner Mongolia when coming from Lanzhou and Yinchuan. It takes about 10 hours to travel from Beijing to Huhhot and the night train which leaves Beijing in the evening is very convenient as one arrives at Huhhot early in the next morning. Trains go on a regular basis (usually every day, sometimes every second day depending on the line) and are fairly reliable. Prices are reliable, too, but the foreign traveller is forced to pay about twice as much as the Chinese citizen. Due to frequent depreciation of the Chinese Yuan no fixed number can be given here but a one-way trip (second class sleeper) from Beijing to Huhhot should be around USD 40.--.

Flights between Huhhot and Beijing go several times a week and last less than one hour. The ticket prices are not very much higher than those of the railway (considering prices for foreigners). Other destinations in Inner Mongolia are also served from Beijing. Up-to-date information on schedules should be available at travel agencies dealing China Airlines tickets.

6.2 What kind of accommodation is available in Inner Mongolia?

The traveller's situation is governed by more rules here than in Mongolia. Basically, when staying in the cities (like Huhhot etc.) the traveller has no choice but to stay in huge hotels. In the countryside the situation is similar to that in Mongolia but is more difficult to get to the countryside.

6.3 What kind of transport is available in Inner Mongolia?

In addition to railway (from and to Beijing, Huhhot, Baotou, Hailar etc.) there are flights between regional centres and long-distance busses within the regions. For local excursions you can also rent cars with drivers.

6.4 Which season is recommended for travelling?

See the answer about Mongolia above. Generally speaking, travelling is difficult in winter. The grasslands show their beauty only in summer, and in winter there is ``nothing to see'' in the conventional sense. On the other hand, since there is ``nothing to see'' in winter, winter is a good time to go there if you want to see temples, monasteries etc., because at that time you most certainly do not have to compete with other tourists for resources like accommodation, transport e.a. In addition, the places you're interested in will most probably be fairly empty.

6.5 What are the points of sightseeing, museums etc.?

Inner Mongolia deserves a better coverage in literature and in this FAQ than it finds at present. A few points of interest may be mentioned here (indicating that this is a *very* preliminary list).

The Inner Mongolia Museum in Huhhot has an enormous collection of archaeological findings from the times of the Xiong Nu on. The gold crowns on display there are virtually identical in design with the ones unearthed in Japan and dated to Japan's Kofun period. These findings contain some of the strongest hints that early Japan (before the nation state emerged) may have been part of a unified culture stretching from Central Asia over Korea to Japan.

Not so many temples and monasteries survived in Huhhot. One of the most intering ones is the ``Five Pagoda Temple'' (tabun suburGan sumu - wu ta si) the walls of which are covered with thousands of Buddha sculptures. Its most fascinating object is a stellar map cut in stone (more than two meters in diameter) which is the eldest map with Mongolian zodiacal names in the world. The stone carving is protected by thick layers of glass which make it practically impossible to take pictures but the site is well worth the visit.

Of the two main temples (``Big'' and ``Small'' temple: yeke zuu, baG-a zuu; da zhao, xiao zhao) only the big one remains as the small one was replaced by a school during the 1960s. The quarter of town where these temples are located is pittoresque and offers an insight into Chinese life (Huhhot by overwhelming majority is a city with Han-Chinese population) as it might have been `before Revolution', i.e. before 1949. The streets and lanes are so narrow that no automobile can pass, and rare enough for a Chinese city, much of the old architecture is preserved. Huhhot also has a mosque for its Hui nationality.

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