Life in a Mongolian yurt can be hard work, but those at Meng Gu Ren Shengdi resort in Xilamuren ease the pain considerably.[Photo by Matt Hodges/shanghaistar]
You're not going to be dancing with wolves, but frontier traditions live on in the Inner Mongolian grasslands, even if some are just for tourists. Matt Hodges saddles up for some close encounters.
Walt Disney would never have approved of honggeerbao, a tourist park that is being built around a wooden fortress in the Inner Mongolian grasslands. The structure is fortified with wooden spikes, presumably to impale the heads of enemies on, and Uncle Walt definitely would have put the kibosh on that.
But this is the story of Genghis Khan, not Mickey Mouse. At the amphitheater inside, ancient Mongolian war ceremonies play out to the twin soundtrack of analog-era marching music and the sound of drills and hammers. When the complex triples in size over the next three years, and if they tweak the show by adding some blood and carnage, expect this to be really, really good.
"We decided to build this because we felt there wasn't enough for tourists to do," said one of the female guides as the actors handed out candy.
But many city slickers will be satisfied at just getting to play cowboy for a day, or walking through an emerald sea of grass on vistas where the horizon meets the sky rather than skyscrapers and exorbitantly priced apartment blocks.
You can cover a lot of ground during four days in Inner Mongolia — geographical, cultural and spiritual. My personal odyssey taught me that I'm not really cowboy material, but it was a lot of fun playing the part.
So I adjusted my cowboy hat, galloped over the rolling Xilamuren Grasslands some 90 km north of the capital Hohhot, marveled at the fractal-patterned cloud formations, and lassoed ponies.