Trip from Beijing to Inner Mongolia
July 17, 2008, I escort a tourist group of 14 American students studying at Tsinghua University, organized by our own travel agency. Every July is the best season to visit Inner Mongolia, frolicking on the grasslands, horseback riding, sand sliding and more, a nice place to rewind ourselves.
The peak season also attracts a great number of travelers from all parts of China as well as international tourists. The train ticekts are hard to get, especially the soft sleepers. There are many daily flights between Beijing and Hohhot. But the train remains the foremost choice of transport in terms of time saving, money saving and the safety.
The fast overnight train K89 is on the top list of the trains wanted by holiday-makers. For this group, due to the short notice we have only got the hard berths instead of the soft berths demanded by the group. What's worse is that for the 14 tickets, we have 8 upper berths and 7 middle berths and no lower births. You know, in the hard birth compartment in each carriage car, there are 6 berths - two upper, two middle and two lower. Of course the lower birth is the best. But the group people are quite understandable and happy to receive what has happened. There is a world of difference in terms of people' attitude toward life - some understandable, some picky, and some complain all their life. Below is the train K89 timetable ( from Beijing to Hohhot ):
Beijing West Train Station
K89 1 Beijing 21:00
K89 2 South Zhangjiakou 00:12 00:20
K89 3 Datong 02:58 03:06
K89 4 South Jining 05:00 05:09
K89 5 Hohhot 07:20
From Tsinghua University to Beijing West Station
All the 14 American students study at Tsinghua University. So we arrange the coach parking at the Northeat Gate to Tsinghua University, the gate near which most of the foreign studens'dorms are located. They are board the bus on time for Beijing West Station.
Going through the security check, we enter the big hall of the station. We are supposed to wait in the lounge for the hard sleepers or hard seats. But the"Hard" lounge is too crowded. Suddenly I have an idea of"money works". I paid RMB 10 per person to have the group wait in the lounge for soft train ticket holders. The students are happy with my arrangement.
On the way from Tsinghua University to Beijing West Station
On the parking lot of Beijing West Station
Through the security check at the station
Take a rest at the lounge before departure
On the overnight train K89
All the American students on the group seem happy, even excited when they are on board the train though we have failed to get the soft berth tickets. They kindly accept what they get - 8 upper berths and 6 middle berths. It looks the hard berth car is better than they expect.
Arriving at Hohhot and having breakfast
We arrive at Hohhot as scheduled at 7:20am. Our tour guide - Suan is all smiles welcoming us by the train door on the platform. It is the peak season for the tourism in Inner Mongolia. The train is fully packed. The square in front of the train station is a little bit at mess - people coming out, buses leaving, taxis running out, making bottle necks here and there. But at last we charge out of the mess and get to the nearby hotel for buffet breakfast. The buffet breakfast is more Chinese than international, but it is acceptable.
On the way to Gegentala Grassland
After breakfast, we start for Gegentala Grassland, one of the highlights on the tour of Inner Mongolia. It is about 140 km away from Hohhot. The drive takes about 2-3 hours. On the way, there happens a small problem - no clean public toilets. The girls have to hold till the destination. Of course, the boys use the field to relax. We pass a county called Siziwangqi ( four kings' place - a place bestowed by Genghis Khan to his four sons ).
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