G Adventures launched a new 12-day tour in China called ‘Hidden China & Inner Mongolia’ to give travellers a taste of the country’s lesser-known jewels. I, along with nine other journalists, descended on Beijing from different corners of North America to take the tour and report back on our experience. And what an experience it was!
The tour started and ended in Beijing, taking us thousands of kilometres in between to places like Inner Mongolia and Pingyao, which are significantly off the well-worn tourist track in China. G Adventures is well known for its adventurous, backpack-style holidays that give travellers a more immersive and authentic experience, but you never really know how fun these trips can be until you strap on your own pack and hit the open road!
After a day of sightseeing in Beijing and enjoying such impressive historical sites as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, it was time to leave behind the comforts of the big city to explore the more rural lifestyles of Inner Mongolia. We took an overnight train and arrived in the morning in the Chinese grasslands and headed for the Ger, a Mongolian portable dwelling used by nomads.
We pulled up at Yin Shan Yan Hua Gers situated in the beautiful Inner Mongolian grasslands, situated amid rolling hills and the big open sky. The Ger was a round, multi-coloured tent with no furniture, containing only a platform for our sleeping bags and a power outlet for our phones. There we no toilets or showers, but we welcomed the chance to reconnect with nature for one evening.
That night, which proved to be as authentic of an experience you can have in Inner Mongolia, was absolutely hilarious. We all gathered in a bigger Ger with three large tables, one for our group and two for other groups of Chinese holidayers. We had two Mongolians provide the vocal entertainment and throat singing, plus one man who played both the keyboard and horse headed fiddle. The home brew rice wine was flowing, which certainly added to the festive atmosphere.
The proprietors wheeled in a fully cooked lamb complete with a red bow on its head and we all paid our respects and celebrated the feast. The other Chinese guests wanted so badly to show that we were welcome, but there was a language barrier that was as wide as The Great Wall of China. That didn’t stop them from trying, however, periodically stopping by our table to offer cheers, wine, scarves and smiles. Luckily for us, we had no trouble understanding one Harvard-educated local who gave an impassioned welcome speech before wishing us well on our journey.
Despite the language barrier, the night ended with everyone holding hands, dancing in circles around the fire under the stars in the Mongolian grasslands. There was some karaoke involved, but let’s just say that it’s one pastime best left in the Orient. Definitely an experience to remember! Thanks G Adventures.
For more photos from the trip, visit https://www.travelweek.ca/media/photos/?id=124.