Due to a visa issue, I had to travel to Erenhot, China in Inner Mongolia on the border with the country of Mongolia, located in the middle of the Gobi Desert. It is a flat, hot, and sunny city of about 100,000. Like other adventures I've had in the region it was both harrowing and relaxing. Fortunately, my boss's daughter, Miki, and her friend Erka came with me. Erka's sister lives in Erenhot with her Chinese Mongolian husband and showed us around town. The city is undergoing an economic boom as a major trading center. The wide boulevards have spare traffic, but plenty of rickshaws. The markets were a sight for sore eyes with so many fruits and vegetables. The food was delicious.
I thought we could just take the train from Erenhot back to Ulaanbaatar, but no! We had to hire a jeep. The five-person jeep carried all nine of us--with me holding the front passenger door closed with a strap through two border crossings and one health inspection stop. After some miscommunications and the purchase of 'VIP' train tickets (a.k.a. a small bribe) Miki and I made it onto the Zamin-Uud to UB train. On the train we shared our cabin with a Mongolian business man who was both a great Mongolian teacher (he spoke slowly and clearly with a basic vocabulary so I could understand) and very generous.
Although it was a fascinating place, with signs in Chinese and Mongolian (Cyrillic and the older script) and Mongolians speaking with an accent even I could hear, I was happy to get back home to UB and prepare for my trip to the countryside (photos to be posted soon).