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Erdos, a desert city mixing tradition and luxury

Yuan Hui
Updated: Jul 11,2015 11:29 AM     China Daily

The rituals and ceremony of the Wedding of Erdos is an attraction to many travelers.[Photo/China Daily]

If you want to experience both China’s ancient nomadic traditions and the modernization that has followed by the country’s rapid economic development, Erdos is the city that you should not miss.

Erdos, whose name literally means “numerous palaces”, is a megacity known in China for its wealth and historical sites. It is also known as a “ghost city” because there are many vacant skyscrapers and dark residential communities with few lights on at night because of the real estate bubble and the once prosperous coal economy.

The city, which is located in Inner Mongolia autonomous region, has spent more than 20 years in controlling sand and managed to create an oasis out of the desert. It has also preserved well the Mongol nomadic culture and the mausoleum of Genghis Khan, the 13th-century conqueror.

The Mausoleum, which was established in 1956, lies 185 kilometers from Baotou, the capital of the autonomous region. This holiest place for the Mongolian people covers an area of 55,000 square meters and is one of the historical sites under strict state protection.

The mausoleum consists mainly of four magnificent palaces in the shape of Mongolian yurts that are linked by corridors. A huge sculpture of Genghis Khan dwells in the 26-meter-high Main Palace, where multiple ceremonial rituals to worship the conqueror are held every year. The rituals are protected as a state intangible cultural heritage.

Genghis Khan’s tomb lies in the Back Palace. No one knows exactly where he was buried. According to Mongol culture researchers, the burial sites of Mongolian rulers were kept secret.

Rebuilt on the original site of Khan’s tomb, the mausoleum houses many historic relics that remind people of the ancient Mongol civilization.

The conqueror, born in 1162, was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire that became the largest contiguous empire in history. His grandson, Kublai Khan (1215-94), was the founder of the Yuan Dynasty that ruled China from 1271 to 1368.

Xiangshawan, or Resounding Sand Bay, is the other top attraction of the autonomous region. Located to the east of the Kubuqi desert, it is China’s largest desert tourism resort. It attracts many travelers, both from the rest of the country and abroad, with its sand that can “sing”, the imposing views of the desert and various kinds of recreational facilities.

Xiangshawan, or Resounding Sand Bay is China’s largest desert tourism resort.[Photo/China Daily]

When people climb down the 110-meter-high Xiangshawan or go down by cable car, they will hear sounds that range from as light as a frog croaking to as high as planes taking off.

There are many theories about how the sound is made. But so far, researchers have not reached an agreement.

Travelers can also experience nearly 100 kinds of recreational programs in the nearby resorts, including camel riding, desert motor and circus. The rituals and ceremony of the Wedding of Erdos is also an attraction to many travelers.

In the evening, after spending a day in the places of interests, travelers can sing and dance with new friends in a circle around a bonfire, or just sit and enjoy watching beautiful Inner Mongolian girls dance while sipping milk tea.

The Mongolian food is exotic. Many people like to have tender mutton boiled quickly in a hot pot. The potato stew, cheese and handmade horse milk tea are specialties that travelers should never miss.

Xibei Oat Noodle Village, though having established branches in Beijing, offers food that tastes totally different in Erdos. Many local people say they miss the food the most when they leave their hometown to live in other cities.

Also in Erdos, people can enjoy the seven-star luxury hotel in the desert of the Qixinghu resort, taking trains to the deeper parts of the desert and riding horses in the endless grassland.

June to September is the best time of the year to experience Erdos. It takes less than two hours to fly to Erdos from Beijing and many airlines provide flights to the city.

Travelers should stay in its Dongsheng district or the Kangbashi new district, where there is fresh air, a quiet environment and rabbits in the supersized parks. The city’s traffic is always good, and it is safe to wander the city by oneself.

Cashmere products are the best souvenirs for the tourists to take back home. Cashmere is known as “soft gold” here and various kinds of products, such as scarves, sweaters and gloves, are provided in the city’s many stores. The Mongol knives, carpets and jewelry are also good souvenirs for friends.

Cang Wei and Yang Fang contributed to this story.

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