Join YPT for full-on exploration of one of China’s wildest province, the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia.
This tour was conceived as a prequel to our summer tour of Mongolia for the Naadam Festival. It allows you to connect from Beijing to Ulan Bator while taking in the most interesting sites of Inner Mongolia before you enter the Republic of Mongolia.
Our tour starts in Beijing before we take the overnight train to Ordos, China’s most infamous ghost town.
If you’ve ever spent any time in a Chinese city you’ll be well used to the throng, walking the night markets where it seems like every conceivable snack is on offer or pushing your way through people trying to sell you things outside train stations. Kangbashi is different, and it is almost a welcome novelty having almost a whole city square, a hospital, train station or apartment complex to ourselves.
You can explore half finished mansion complexes and residential buildings, empty hospitals and museums as well as the huge 80,000-seater stadium with not a soul inside. You can climb the sand dunes with empty apartment blocks looming behind and go from an actual yurt where we have a Mongolian style lunch to the huge yurt-like airport which connects to Beijing.
Kangbashi is not an abandoned city but a new city waiting for people to come, and you can have the freedom to explore the city as you like, with our YPT guide and local driver ready to check out any new places that catch the eye.
Group members meet your YPT tour guide and fellow travellers at the McDonald’s located in front of Beijing West Railway Station at 6:00pm to collect your train tickets, and to stock up on food and drinks.
Board the overnight K573 sleeper train departing at 8:35pm
Overnight on sleeper train
Wednesday 5th July – Ordos
Arrival just before lunch at Dongsheng West station, Ordos main train station, usually always empty!
On the drive to Wulan International Hotel, one of the few hotels allowed to accept foreigners in the town, we catch our first glimpse of Kangbashi ghost city and pass numerous vacant residential blocks.
After checking into our hotel, we head to Ordos 100, a construction project curated by Swiss architects and controversial artist Ai Weiwei
Check into the hotel and go for some food and night-time exploration, grabbing a few beers in an empty bar
Thursday 6th July – Kangbashi
After an early breakfast we go out for a walking tour of Kangbashi city centre, from Genghis Khan Square with its giant Mongol statues past the museum built in the shape of a beret and the library built to resemble three books on a shelf and on to the skyscrapers on the riverfront.
Visit the 80,000-seater Kangbashi stadium, gymnasium and swimming pool on the way from Ordos, built to hold the 2015 Chinese Ethnic Minority Olympic Games but usually empty.
Check out the ‘Athletes Village’ from the Ethnic Olympics – this huge residential area was built specially for the athletes and now lies completely empty in the middle of nowhere
Grab a quick lunch and drive out to Dongsheng People’s Hospital – a newly built but incredibly empty hospital where you wouldn’t want to be going to in an emergency!
Swing past the mosque – built for three local Muslim families and with the idea that more Muslims might come in the future
Head over to a huge abandoned mansion complex – this would have been a gated area for millionaires, but the money ran out half way through the project and the mansions stand as hollow shells in a development gone wrong
Dinner at the bizarre North Korean restaurant – mainly bizarre for the North Koreans who end up working here, but who are happy to supply Taedonggang and soju (when a new shipment has come in), chat with us and on occasion sing a few songs!
Head back to the hotel or find a drinking spot/karaoke house
Overnight in Kangbashi
Friday 7th July – Kangbashi – Hohhot
Get up slightly later but still head out early to the giant sand dune to the southeast of the city with a great view of the whole city, unfinished residential tower blocks and a family of camels roaming around!
Head out to the area around the Genghis Khan Mausoleum. The mausoleum is an optional extra at 150RMB, but the area around it is full of riches. We pass by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty film set before exploring the seemingly random abandoned buildings dotted around the countryside.
Head for a late lunch at a traditional Mongolian yurt camp in the countryside where we can do some archery, ride a horse or a camel (extra charge) or enjoy the views as our Mongolian feast is prepared – if we’re lucky the main owner will be around to welcome us with a traditional Mongolian ‘nada’ ceremony where we will be presented with a scarf, serenaded and given a shot of milk alcohol!
Make our way to Dongsheng West train station, where we might well be amongst the very few catching the train K574 to Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, departing at 18:36.
On the train, we should be able to see the sunset as the scenery changes drastically from the desert of Ordos to the grasslands of Hohhot.
Arrival at Hohhot train station. We’ll check in at the hotel and then head out the explore the city’s nightlife.
Overnight in Hohhot
Saturday 8th July – Hohhot
Today is a city tour of Hohhot. Hohhot is an interesting city which claims its Mongolian identity while being very Chinese at the same time.
We’ll first head out to Dazhao Temple, the most famous Mongolian style temple of all Inner-Mongolia
Then, we’ll head to the old city of Hohhot, there, we’ll have time to explore the old Mongolian style buildings and temples but also try some Mongolian delicacies for lunch.
After lunch, we will head to the Inner Mongolia Museum, this massive museum is dedicated to grassland culture as well as the Mongolian heritage of China.
Dinner of Mongolian sheep hotpot.
Sleepy from the hotpot and Mongolian wine, we board the overnight train T4202 to Erlian, leaving Inner Mongolia’s capital for China’s dinosaur capital.
Sunday 9th July – Erlian – Ulan Bator
Early morning arrival in Erlian, a weird border town of Inner Mongolia which tried to become a tourist attraction by promoting dinosaurs. Fossils have been found here.
After leaving our luggage at the station, we’ll head by taxi just outside of town to visit the kissing dinosaurs of Erlian. They are the biggest dinosaur statues in the world.
Head back to Erlian for some exploration of the city
Lunch of Mongolian fare in Erlian
In the afternoon, we will head to the Dinosaur park of Erlian
End of tour, with YPT able to arrange further transportation, accommodation and activities all around China and Mongolia.