Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Stroll Through Yinchuan

After seeing the Genghis Khan Mausoleum, I left Inner Mongolia for Ninxia Hui, a small autonomous region in north-central China. My first stop was Yinchuan, Ninxia Hui's small capital, with a population of 800,000. Being a Chinese city, everything there seemed interesting to me, from a lake on the city's northwest side, to a smallish mosque, to a pedestrian shopping street. Here are a few photos from my stroll through Yinchuan:

Picture of train station.

The Yinchuan train station.

Picture of statue.

The things you see when you ride trains. In this case, a giant statue in the middle of nowhere.

Picture of Coliseum.

First stop in Yinchuan: A tribute to the Roman Coliseum.

Picture of Aloha.

Aloha, my new Taiwanese friend. That's his name; I'm not just saying hello.

Picture of lumberjack.

A sexy lumberjack.

Picture of Bell Tower.

Yinchuan's ancient Bell Tower.

Picture of cleaner.

This friendly street sweeper gave us directions to the Nanguan Mosque. But first, we had a long street to walk down.

Picture of family.

Proud parents of the coolest kid in the world.

Picture of man.

An old man playing a traditional Chinese instrument.

Picture of vendor.

This guy was selling hand-cut pop-up cards on the street.

Picture of man.

This man had no arms, yet he was painting beautiful calligraphy with his feet. What an inspiration he was.

Picture of artist.

This sketch artist had a whole crowd of people captivated.

Picture of yam vendor.

Sweet potatoes have to be one of the best bargain foods available in Chinese cities. For less than one dollar, you can get a large, delicious and nutritious meal.

Picture of cook.

This guy cooked us some “Chinese hamburgers” over an open flame.

Picture of kid.

Learning to ride with training wheels, under the watchful gaze of Chairman Mao.

Picture of game.

A ring toss game. You could win a rabbit, a chipmunk, a small bird or even a goldfish. Test your luck!

Picture of mosque.

After a lot of walking, we reached the Nanguan Mosque.

Picture of girls.

My new friends and tour guides.

Picture of mosque.

The ornate interior of the mosque.

Picture of mosque.

The mosque after sunset.

And here are some more photos from Ningxia Hui.

The Mausoleum of Genghis Khan

Picture of stupas.

Tibetan Buddhist Stupas

During my first few months in China, I traveled with Katie to northern Inner Mongolia, where we learned a lot about Genghis Khan and his legacy. I couldn't get enough, so a year later, when I heard about a giant memorial to Genghis Khan in the middle of nowhere, I decided that I couldn't miss out on the opportunity to see it.

For the first leg of my journey, I hopped on a train from Beijing to Hohhot, capital of Inner Mongolia. Despite it being fall, the weather was hot and sunny, and I spent a couple of days checking out this interesting city.

Picture of park.

Fall colors in Hohhot.

Picture of calligraphy.

This guy was working on his calligraphy skills in the park. He used water for “paint”, so all of that effort would soon evaporate.

Picture of park.

A beautiful park in Hohhot.

Picture of river.

The river that runs through the park.

Picture of stew.

Hands down, the best mutton stew I have had in China. It would be worth traveling back to Hohhot just to get another bowl.

Picture of grains.

Nuts and grains for sale.

Lots of people were walking and cycling around Hohhot's Muslim district. Here are a few of them:

Picture of man with bike. Picture of couple on scooter. Picture of curious man. Picture of old man. Picture of biking man. Picture of Muslim couple. Picture of guy with glasses. Picture of bread vendors.
Picture of market.

One of the city's main Muslim markets.

Picture of mosque.

The Great Mosque has mini-palms outside, despite the fact that it is in a cold part of China.

Picture of gate.

This is your gateway to fun.

Picture of woman.

This woman is carving wooden beads for a necklace.

After Hohhot, I went for the highlight of this short journey: Genghis Khan's mausoleum. It was in the middle of nowhere in Inner Mongolia, so it was kind of hard to get to. And it rained all day. And this was a cenotaph, where there is a coffin but no actual body, because nobody knows where the Great Khan is buried. It's said that in order to keep the location a secret, all of the priests who participated in the burial were killed by guards, and then those guards were killed by another set of guards. But even lacking Khan's actual remains, the compound was interesting, with lots of ancient(-ish) artifacts.

Picture of mausoleum.

This is the main building. No photography was allowed inside. The walls were painted with giant murals depicting Mongolian history, and there was a large altar dedicated to the Great Kahn himself.

Picture of mound.

Here is one of the memorial mounds outside of the main building.

Picture of stupas.
Picture of group.

I'm the one in the back, with the red jacket.

Picture of shirt.

Ancient Mongolian kid's shirt.

Picture of chalice.

A dragon chalice.

Picture of dog.

A bronze dog from the Yuan dynasty.

Picture of painting.

A figure wall painting from the Qing dynasty.

Picture of ger.

A modern ger for the modern Mongolian family.

Picture of spoon.

Dongsheng, the nearest city to the mausoleum, had some interesting sculptures in its parks.

Picture of statue.

Genghis Kahn's legacy is inescapable in this region.

To be honest, the mausoleum left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. Not that it wasn't impressive, because it was. I think what kept me from loving it was the crappy weather, the lack of public transportation and the high entrance fee. I spent a lot of money going there, and I think that unless you're an absolute Mongolian buff, it's probably not worth the long journey.

Has anyone else out there been to this mausoleum? What did you think?

Here are some more of my pictures from Inner Mongolia.

Summer in Berlin

Picture of memorial.

Berlin's Holocaust Memorial is full of symbolism.

Last summer, Katie and I traveled to Berlin, where she lived for two years. Katie was a great tour guide, taking me to her old haunts and to the city's many parks and tourism attractions. I had a great time getting to know this world-class city for two full weeks. Many thanks to Maor, Christina and Liese for hosting us. I hope to see you again in the next few years.

Here are a few of my pictures from our trip:

Picture of Katie.

You can swing in front of the Berlin Wall.

Picture of Waldo.

Can you spot him?

Did you know I recorded a podcast with Liese, who grew up in West Berlin before the wall came down? You can listen to her story here.

Picture of former wall.

The places where the wall was torn down are clearly marked.

Picture of spikes.

These spikes used to sit between the walls to discourage jumpers.

Picture of walls.

There were actually two Berlin Walls, controlled by opposing forces.

Picture of hotel.

There's more to Berlin than the wall. For example, you can see where Michael Jackson dangled his baby outside a hotel window.

Picture of gate.

And there's the famous Brandenburg Gate.

Picture of Grunewald.

Grunewald is a giant forest park, west of Berlin.

Picture of locks.

Couples secure these locks to symbolize their everlasting love.

Picture of church.

Berlin serves as a living monument to the ravages of war. Kaiser Vilhelm church was partly destroyed in World War II.

Picture of church.

A new church is next to it, with blue stained glass windows lining the interior.

Picture of subway.

The U-Bahn is Berlin's utilitarian subway system.

Picture of subway car.

The cars are clean and you can usually find a seat.

Picture of garlic.

At Winterfeldplatz market, foodies can find lots of great deals.

Picture of f.

There's always plenty of fruit for sale.

Picture of salesman.

This guy was selling natural pillows, stuffed with grains.

Picture of women.

Hanging out.

Picture of parade.

Berlin is known for its festivals. This one was in remembrance of the 2010 Love Parade disaster, during which 21 people died from suffocation.

Picture of alcohol.

You can drink alcohol freely on the street in Berlin.

Picture of passed out man.

A common sight in Berlin.

Picture of Charlie.

Checkpoint Charlie, the former division between East and West, is now a tourist attraction.

Picture of market.

There are many Turkish markets in the city.

Picture of industrial wasteland.

Train tracks, abandoned buildings, graffiti.

Picture of Tempelhof Field.

Tempelhof Field used to be the airport. It has been decommissioned and is currently a giant park.

Picture of wire.

Barbed wire still exists in many places.

Picture of Reichstag.

The Reichstag is the futuristic building where the federal government meets.

Picture of building.

The main building is old.

Picture of friends.

Old friends reunited: Dan, Katie and Kevin.

Did you know I recorded a podcast with Kevin? He talked about bicycling across America, in the shape of a mustache. You can listen to it here.

Picture of Moar, Katie, Christina.

Thanks to Maor, Christina and Liese for hosting us!

Click here for more of my photos from Berlin.

AtW Podcast, Episode 13: Fei and Tapani

Picture of guests.

Tapani, Fei, Dan

Fei (菲) is from China. Tapani is from Finland. They met in New Zealand. They almost lived together in England. How did they end up in getting married and moving to Beijing? I got their story for this podcast.

Here's where you can download it, or listen directly:

[Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher] []

Show notes:

  • Tapani mentioned Japanese Manga and I didn't know what it was. Here's an article explaining it.
  • Tapani also talked about Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a classic of Chinese literature. You can buy Part I and Part II from Amazon, but unfortunately they are quite expensive ($31.54 for the Kindle editions). My own book, 1000 Days Between, isn't quite a classic yet. It's not even Chinese. But it is substantially cheaper. And that alone makes it work buying.

Northern Thailand Highlights

Picture of Katie.

Katie stands over Chiang Mai.

As many of you know, last year Katie tore her Achilles' tendon while playing frisbee in China. During her lengthy recovery, we managed to squeeze in a trip to northern Thailand. Chiang Mai and Pai were beautiful places; I'd love to go back some day. For us, one of the highlights of Chiang Mai was renting a scooter and driving to a temple above the city. Here are some photos:

Picture of Katie.

Katie is the coolest crutch-wielding scooter rider in town.

Picture of stairs.

The stairs leading to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Picture of gong.

You can ring my bell.

Picture of Buddhas.

Golden Buddhas.

Picture of green Buddha.

Mean and green.

Picture of umbrella.

A golden umbrella.

Picture of Buddhas.

A line of golden Buddhas.

Picture of temple.

Even the back of the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple is beautiful.

Picture of tiles.

Love tags.

Picture of stairs.

The serpentine stairs to the bottom.

Picture of dude.

A meditating dude.

Later, we went to the small town of Pai, which had another temple with an amazing view. Crutch-walking up the stairs was a huge accomplishment in Katie's recovery. Here's a little video I made:

Picture of Buddha.

Wat Phra That Mae Yen

Picture of scaffolding.

Behind every great Buddha, there's great scaffolding.

Picture of Katie.

Katie looks out over Pai.

Picture of river.

The Pai River runs through – you guessed it – Pai!

Picture of wall.

The Great Wall of Yunnan.

We also made a journey to a re-creation of the Great Wall:

Picture of wall.

The courtyard of the Great Wall (complete with ying-yang).

Picture of wall.

Behold the Wall!

Picture of palms.

Those are Beijing palms.

Finally, we caught the train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. The journey was long, but once again beautiful.

Picture of train.

The train to Bangkok (don't miss it!).

During the train to Bangkok.

I would recommend Thailand for travelers with any level of experience. It's laid-back and safe, and the scenery is gorgeous. I can't wait to get back and explore the southern half of the country!