Hohot is the capital of Inner Mongolia. It is nothing like I pictured it would be and definitely not pronounced anywhere close to how it looks. The locals refer to the place as How-her-who-te, and when you picture Inner Mongolia you hear of the vast grasslands and traditional Mongols living in their round tents called Yurts. But as soon as you walk up the stairs of the train station at night, you are blinded by the glow of a bazillion neon signs. Its like Times Square with barrage of advertisements for restraints and stores, yet none of them are legible. In fact, their is a new language introduced on top of the Chinese. It is made of one solid vertical stem with a bunch of different sized and shaped stems coming off at all different angles. Its Mongolian. Welcome to the capital of Inner Mongolia, a huge city at the base of the mountains boasting over a million people.
After the huge bustle of Beijing with over 40 million people, this is a ‘small’ town, but by no means a cozy little walkable village. From the train station we have about a 15 minute cab ride across town to our well hidden, back street Anda Guesthouse. Looking nothing like the pictures seen on their advertisements of horseback riding and archery, this backstreet urban residence offers many tours to visit the not too distant grasslands of Inner Mongolia. However our first order of business was to find food. Fortunately, right across the street from our back alley was restaurant street, a glowing metropolis of smokey, delicious barbecue!!
When we first turned the corner, I knew we were in Asia!! I always pictured Asia to have these dark laneways glowing with tall neon signs. All of the restraints were cooking there meat in the streets with huge industrial fans blowing the smokey air into the faces of passersby trying to lure them into their establishment. With so many wonderful smelling options, it is very difficult to choose which place to commit your whole meal to! I wish you could just stroll down the lane picking up samples and small orders along the way to taste test them all, but I guess the smells are the only sample you get. Upon finally choosing a place to eat, I meet the coal man. To fuel all of these fires to cook all of this meat to feed all of these hungry people, there has got to be someone running up and down the lane delivering coal where needed. This is the man that does that job! Looked like a happy chap to me!