Posted by: schmivian | November 16, 2009

Road Tripping

A mere 431 miles from Beijing lies a gateway into Mongolia, a country in which I spent a total of 4 bizarre hours before driving all the way back to Beijing. You know as they say, its the journey and not the destination.
We left Friday morning stocked with the makings of ham and cheese sandwiches. Ran into two completely full stop traffic jams on that first day, probably losing us a few hours, but gaining us so much in knowledge of chain smoking, “sui bian” peeing Chinese truck drivers.
We stop at a town on the way up. Check out the shopping scene. I have to say Chinese supermarkets have a leg up on US ones because instead of leaving out sample tastes of silly things like fruit and cheese, they leave out sample shots of “bai jiu” – a common Chinese 80-120 proof grain alcohol.
Approaching Eren Hot, the border town, we discover the region’s affinity for…dinosaur sculptures. In fact, at the entrance to Eren Hot is a massive gate made of two brontosauruses (sauri?), necks reaching across the road, and licking each others tongues. Apparently this is how they made out in the Jurassic.
In the morning, we discover that we are forbidden to drive this rented car out of the country. Fair enough, but still a minor setback. We ponder walking across the border, but after going through customs etc find out that there is a brisk trade in driving people back and forth across the border and easily find a Jeep to zip us over to the Mongolian border town.
Things about Mongolia, from my very limited experience. Being in Mongolia makes you feel like a baller, one US dollar is worth 1420 Mongolian Tögrögs. So you can go around saying things like “Hey man. I just dropped 20 G’s on lunch, NBD.” Mongolia is unbelievably sparsely populated especially in contrast to China. I think that in the few hours we were in town, we ran into everyone in town at least twice. Also at one in the afternoon, it appeared that everyone was drunk. Not hard to see why as, after lunch, we couldn’t really figure what else to do but stay warm in the restaurant and have several beers. We witnessed a street fight in which a short drunk man beaned a really huge drunk man in the head with a brick. We ran into the taller man later at the convenience store and he seemed quite happy despite the recent brawl and introduced himself to us. Also found out that Mongolian men do not shake hands with gloves on and it is really cool to have vicious wolf decals on your car, which should not actually be a car, but a rad Jeep.
On the way back we take some lesser traveled roads in search of some hot springs. The drive is incredible. The snow is completely untouched and incredibly dry so that it blows across the road and into drifts much as sand would. Unfortunately this leads to total white out at times and its slow going. After maybe 5 or 6 hours of driving we get to a town which supposedly has hot springs according to one map which in retrospect had no legend and was completely unreliable. We stop in for a late lunch and ask the waitress if there are hot springs nearby. She looks incredulous, “You came here to play? There is not one thing worth doing in this place!” The whole restaurant overhears and cracks up. I am reminded of a certain spring break conversation in Page, Arizona.
Defeated but not down, we cruise back to Beijing, playing games and slingshotting pebbles out the window. Thanks to the flat landscape get to see both ends of a rainbow, resembling a halo around the sun, and get home in time for a good nights sleep in my own bed. Sometimes it is amazing what you can fit into 60 hours.

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Responses

  1. Spring break and your going to PAGE?!?! Well, we always knew how to pick ’em. Sounds like another winner. Reason #4284 I’m sad I’m not still in Beijing.

  2. And I misspelled “your”. That’s what I get for being over-excited about Page.


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