Our annual trip to Inner Mongolia departed Beijing for the wilder regions of China. Fully prepared for all weathers, 51 of us travelled by overnight train to the capital of the autonomous region, Hohhot.

The train would prove to be the first in a variety of transportation methods that day. We arrived in Hohhot bright and early at 7.30am and headed straight for our tour bus which would take us for the day to the Xilamuren Grasslands, around an hour and a half from the city.

We had plenty planned for the day and by 10.00am, most of the group ventured on their 3rd method of transport for the day, a horse! This was after being greeted by a lovely cup of Mongolian Baijiu (rice wine) as we exited our bus of course.

The trek took just under two hours and spanned as far as you could see onto the grasslands, there was also a brief stop at a yurt to have some tea and to try some traditional Mongolian foods. Lunchtime then came upon us and I enlisted the help of two TTC interns, Anna Lissborg and Edward Chechlinski to ‘help us with something’.

These two ‘volunteers’ would soon find themselves wearing Mongolian King and Queen costumes (after some laughs in the changing area!) and heading towards the banquet hall. It was here that they were formally introduced and each had to consume 4 cups of Baijiu before cutting the whole Mongolian lamb. ‘King Ed’ and ‘Queen Anna’ were then lucky enough to take a 4th method of transport, a piggy-back ride circling the room!

After a lengthy and enjoyable ceremony, we tucked into the delicious Mongolian lamb and each person was given a Hada (a traditional silk scarf given by Mongolian people on a first meeting) and a much bigger cup of Baijiu. But the day was far from over, we headed back outside to watch the professionals at work as they raced their horses against each other and then we watched as two local men engaged in a wrestling match.

Our group was then instructed to challenge the champion which resulted in defeat for Dave, Ben and Samantha (who put up a good fight!). We then were invited to try between ourselves which gave us all plenty of laughs. We departed the grasslands for the town of Baotou to stay the night, not before stopping at a local home for a taste of their lifestyle and see their beautiful surroundings. After a long but entertaining day we checked into our hotel and settled down for the task ahead tomorrow, which is certain to add to our methods of transport, the Inner Mongolian desert!

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