Hulun Lu Road Trip

Nicholas Quirke was feeling inspired on 12 July 2021 after the adventures of the previous day. The breakfast in the hostel was 15 yuan but they already decided to find p e of the many restaurants offering breakfast and ones that advertised specific menus. A congee was a must, as wasl spring onion Bing and twisted dough and on their exploration of the town in the evening they had sourced a few likely candidates. They settled on a large establishment with parking out front and went into the spacious dining hall. The owner was ferociously Russian looking and the food when it came was amazing. It was the first time he had spring onion Bing and he was from now on a passionate advocate for the savoury dish. They ate heartily as they had a 5 hour drive ahead of them and then checked out of the hotel. Nicholas had mourned the lack of driving he could do but Peng relented and let him drive away from their accommodation. It was a short lived treat though and Peng took the wheel as they said goodby to Enhe. It was another beaut start to the day with blue skies and a moderate temperature. They were meandering their way to the border town of Manzhouli. Formerly called Manchuria. They had to retrace some familiar roads before they were on a new road heading towards the border road . Mercifully the roads were fairly empty and they could stop to photo some cows and sheep without fear of caught in any traffic, or so they thought they had stopped to take some photos of the Russian border in the distance and were just about to pull back onto the road when from nowhere a plethora of cars sweeper by. They found a gap and got back onto the road and discovered that the cars all had numbers on them and they were clearly part of some tour or rally. It took a while but eventually they passed the number 1 car at the head and were able to leave the posse behind them they were far ahead and stopped for a comfort break and Nicholas thought he had lost his phone and they found it under the car seat. This was infuriating to Peng and they drove in an unhappy atmosphere of silence for a while. As Hulun Lake was approaching they were able to resume cordial relations and by the time they were on the shore and discussing a boat trip the spat was forgotten. As always he stood out like a sore thumb attracting the attention of the fellow passengers and he was somewhat pleased with himself that he could answer some of their more basic enquiries in mandarin though there was always a point where he had to shrug and say “Wo bu mungbai’ The attention didn’t stop when they got back on dry land and having found a bench where they prepared another Hot pot for their late lunch people either stared, or asked him for a photograph with them. He was happy to oblige particularly when he later discovered from Peng who had kept his eyes shut throughout the cavalcade that one group of ladies who had taken a shine to his shirt had rhapsodised about what a handsome foreigner he was. It was always good to have ones ego soothed in this way and his spirits were high as they got back on the road to Manzhouli. The city is the junction of Chinese, Russian and Mongolian cultures and famous for its Russian influences and is situated on the border opposite the Russian town of Zabaykalsk. As they followed the road the border was apparent and to photograph the fences that divided the two countries they made a final stop. On reaching the city he observed that the streets and alleys were lined with Russian style buildings and Russian style signs could be seen everywhere and formerly when walking on the street you could see blond and blue eyed Russians walking next to you but the population had all but been expunged following the pandemic. On arriving at the hotel which, was flamboyantly Russian he spotted a pasty, somewhat sad looking Russian girl but she was the only Russian he spotted during his stay. When they walked out to explore some of the city, a Sino-Russian trading centre , it looked like it was seriously in decline. Impressive buildings were shut and empty of personnel. They planned to visit the Wanda Mall but on arrival it was disappointingly empty of anything worth looking at but It transpired they were relatively close to the college that Peng’s uncle Jingxue was chief administrator of so they walked an extra kilometre to take a look. There really was nowhere to eat and the evening was rounded off with an iced tea and a take away before retiring for the nights sleep.

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