Nicholas Quirke was starting a new journey on 10 July 2021 to the autonomous prefecture of Inner Mongolia. Their first stop was Hailar and the city of Hulunbuir. When he had celebrated Chinese New Year he had been urged by Peng’s uncle and aunt to visit the grasslands of their homeland. The best time to visit was in July and now that he had made it this far he was going to what is officially the coldest city on the planet which, in winter can reach minus forty degrees. The province borders Russia and Mongolia and Hailar District, formerly a county-level city, serves as the seat of the prefecture-level city Hulunbuir in northeastern Inner Mongolia, China. Hulunbuir, due to its massive size, is a city in administrative terms only, being mainly grassland and rural. This was Peng’s mother’s homeland and he had heard much about how beautiful it was and he had high expectations. They left home for their flight at 5 am and arrived for their check in Daxing with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately Nicholas had packed his GoPro batteries in his case which was going in the hold and Peng had to go back to security to get them. He had boarded, was seated and chatting with a charming lady in seat C when a furious and out of breath Peng finally got on to the plane. By the time the plane landed the frosty atmosphere had been dispelled and they while they waited for the hire car to be delivered he was treated to the sight of some guides dressed in traditional costume. He was looking nforward to freshening up at the hotel, but as soon as they arrived and had checked in Peng’s aunt Hayyan had afrrived to take them out for lunch in a Yurt. This was an unexpected treat but it did not give him time to make himself presentable particularly as he discovered that Peng’s other relatives, his uncle Donghui and aunt Huiyuan and his cousin Cherry and her daughter April were eating with them too. Its was a very hospitable welcome and the food very tasty, though he was limited to the purely vegan options. It was fascinating to meet everyone and learn a little bit more about life in China. He was disappointed that Jingxue, Jieyu’s father wasn’t there as he could speak English, but he was at work in the college in Manzhouli where they would go in a couple of days. After lunch they went back to the hotel before setting off to explore the city. The Genghis Khan Park was opposite the hotel and that was the first stop on their walk. There were really wonderful large sculptures in the park, depicting a wedding party, a march of triumph and a magnificent colour atop which Genghis himself on horse was portrayed. There were some out of tune singers using microphones in the park who were really terrible and Peng said they should climb the small ‘Holy mount’ which he remembered as being really colourful but in the light of the temples and colour as they had seen on their travels and in particular Shangri -La seemed disappointingly small. It was a slightly unnerving experience too as a small collective of teenager seemed fascinated by him and followed him around that part of the park staring and taking o photographs. The sun blazed but to his relief the humidity he had felt he supported under in Beijing was virtually non existent and their walk was pleasuraurably unstick. They walked along the river and he was surprised to see a hoard of swimmers enjoying the sum and swimming against the strong current of the river to little effect and they watched them be swept down stream. His presence was noted and many of them all said hello to him. They went for a tea in a nearby coffee bar and then went to meet Peng’s aunt again for supper in a barbecue restaurant. Once again it was a delicious meal and the elderly waitress spent a lot of time flirting with him and trying to insist that as good as the food was, the meat was better. He was really touched by her kindness and hospitality and was very appreciative of the values of welcoming visitors that seemed predominant in Chinese culture. He had lost count of the number of times he met someone and they said welcome to our country. They said goodbye and walked back to the city taking in the river where they took a rouge path under the bridge and encountered dancing and singing as was typical across China. Apparently river split the city into the right and wrong side of the river, surprisingly he found his hotel was in the wrong side though as they walked through streets back to their lodgings Peng pointed out that the lower quality buildings were how he remembered the city as a child when visiting his grandparents and relatives. They were beset by midges along the walk and the noticed that the locals had horse hair and raffia fans to flick the mite away and it wasn’t long before he was equipped with his own. They watched children play in the fountains and finally went back to the hotel. As he often experienced outside of Beijing he struggled with the internet and publishing his blog and seemed unable to add his film or photos. Frustrated he went to sleep later than he had hoped after the early morning start.
Gallery to be updated