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Inner Mongolia: where mystery meets magic


Mighty Man of Conquest

Lord cemetery was our next site explored during the last few days of our organized tour of Inner Mongolia. Genghis Khan’s mausoleum attracted many tourists to this place. Khan was the founder and emperor of the Mongol empire, which spanned most of Asia during and after his life. According to information provided by the tour guide, the mausoleum “was built between 1954 [and] 1956 by the government of the PRC in the traditional Mongol style. The Mausoleum is in a rectangular cemetery; within it, which appears like three Mongolian yurts externally, there are four chambers and two halls.” We had so much to encounter in this grand historical space that it took hours to take it all in. A robust stone statue of Khan on horseback greeted sightseers at the entranceway. The sound effects we heard as we moved through the outdoor museum area made the experience more authentic, reliving the conquest that shaped world history. Then we reached this humongous, pulsating drum that we took turns playing, using our creative musical skill to invent rhythmic beats.

As I entered a yurt infused with people, I saw pictures of what Khan may have looked like. Our tour guide explained that he never wanted anyone to paint him so his actual appearance remains a mystery. Children remained the center of attention as they tried on ethnic Mongol attire while their families eagerly photographed them. Eventually we reached the museum that housed numerous artifacts about Mongolian history. The Mongolian script engraved on the building’s exterior looked very inscrutable, a language that required masterful study with slight resemblance to Thai script. I took my time perusing the many areas of the museum in hopes of finding postcards but, to my displeasure, did not succeed.

Ready for Return

When the final day of our nomadic trip arrived, we felt the jadedness that accompanies days of busy traveling. Most of us were ready to head home to Beijing. We still had a smattering of sightseeing left after our lunch: best preserved Buddhas of Lamaism monastery and the affairs agencies of the General Office. From my viewpoint, once you’ve seen one Buddhist temple you’ve seen them all. I have encountered numerous ones as a sojourner in Asia. The General Office visit accounted for our least favorite part of the trip; it didn’t strike us as a needful tourist attraction, given its nondescript political nature. Our last few hours in Inner Mongolia included a stroll through bustling Hohhot, Inner Mongolia’s capital, and a Western style dinner before going to the train station to catch our night train to Beijing. The authenticity of conforming to Mongolian life during this excursion made for a magical experience. Every facet of it from the breathtakingly beautiful landscape views to the camaraderie of letting loose at KTV to the genuine warmth displayed to us by the locals during our stay has deeply enriched me, a globetrotter in the making. Sometime soon I would like to explore the rest of vast and versatile China. If you don’t appreciate the journey, then how will you appreciate the destination?

By Charles McKinney

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