After the sun had set, I tried to explain a special event that was about to take place: a total lunar eclipse, where the sun's rays would be refracted upon hitting the Earth, turning the moon red. I took out my phone and showed my new friends the Chinese character for “eclipse.” Then I showed them the character for “blood,” since this type of eclipse is known as a “blood moon” in English. One of the men immediately understood and explained it to his friends. Some people sitting near us overheard the discussion and started making comments about the eclipse. Soon everyone in our car was looking for the blood moon.
The hotel’s front desk was on the third floor. The manager, a middle-aged man with a comb-over and a leather jacket, held a cigarette between the index and middle fingers of his right hand while clicking his ancient computer’s mouse. He was playing solitaire. When he saw me walk up with my huge backpack, he took one last drag from his cigarette and stubbed it out in an ashtray, next to its brethren. To my relief, he told me that there were vacancies, and rooms were only 50 rmb. I had been prepared to spend many times that amount on this holiday weekend.
It was unlikely that I would visit this part of Inner Mongolia again, so I wanted to see a few more places before heading home. The problem was buying train tickets. I had discovered on this trip that you can't just show up and expect to get a ticket for a long distance train. If you don't want to stand for thirty hours straight, you need to book your tickets online, days or weeks in advance.
Now I would have to improvise my way to my next destination, without any idea of how to get there, or what I might do once I arrived. Ah yes, one of the greatest pleasures of travel...