I fell in love with Mohe. The northernmost actual city, and an apparently new city at that, it has a disney-like charm and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met in the world. The downtown is just a large square, with a lovely public park on one side. It’s brimming with newness. New buildings, new shops, the very center of the city taken up by a monstrous shopping mall (where we found those lovely spicy noodles for 10yuan a bowl).
I’m curious about what brought on the boom of development in the city. If there’s something they have to sell to the region, besides the gallons of dried mushrooms we saw for sale in the street market. I’m really curious about who got hired to design the new development in the city. I’m telling you, it reeked of Disney.
Finding the hostel we had booked when we got back to Mohe was a feat in miscommunication. No one had heard of this place. We knew the general direction, but started to think maybe it just didn’t exist. We were told it was near some giant convention center. People kept assuming we were trying to find the hotel that was inside the convention center, at $160 (yes, US dollars) a night. The women who worked the reception desk called her husband, who spoke fluent, gorgeous, very business-like English. He was absolutely adamant that we didn’t want to stay in the hostel we had booked. We stood our ground, and finally the reception lady walked us partly way there, and then basically told us she expected to see us soon after we saw the conditions.
We get to BeiBei youth hostel (100 yuan for a double room), and even though we had a friend who speaks Chinese call the day before, they had no idea who we were. Using the very slow computer, we typed messages back and forth in google translate to attempt to get a room. They set us up on this lovely wood-heated bench in the lobby, and told us to wait. And wait. And when the lady walked out to the room with cleaning supplies, it was apparent we were going to have to wait a while more. At this point we hadn’t seen the rooms, and were started to get really, really suspicious.
And then we started to feel held hostage. We are waiting on this bench. Basically told not to move, while they are going about their day. Cooking dinner. Using the computer. Just when we were thinking about making a run for it and finding someplace else, we insist again on seeing the room before we’ll pay. It turned out they just hadn’t had guests in a while, and they didn’t want us to have to be in a cold room. It was a lovely space, with what I can only describe as a table bed, basically a brick box that you pile blankets on top of, and then stoke the fireplace underneath.
Outside of the planned, constructed, and almost oddly colorful downtown, lie the type of neighborhoods I more expected. There is a great village at the top of the stairs of a statue park. The whole time I was walking around I was thinking that this is a place I’d love to spend three or four months trying to learn some Mandarin and maybe teaching English if the opportunity arose. As I was walking around and taking pictures of the neighborhood, Pablo was taking a quick nap with our bags on a bench in the park. When he woke up, a giggly young woman was snapping photos of him with her phone.
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