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The Original Hot Pot

We woke up the next morning to find it still raining in Hohhot. Either it did not rain much here, which would make the flooding and torrents of muck filling the streets much more forgivable, it was that whenever it rained in this city everything just became a shockingly filthy mess. The streets turn to mud pits and each puddle seems a lurking disease vector. Just our kind of place.

Meanwhile, we’d been hard at work in our hotel room, churning away on correspondence for you, dear reader. When we spotted a break in the rain, we headed out with the goal of catching something easy and quick near the hotel, but as happens so often in China, we became fascinated with our surroundings and started strolling, which was worth it if for nothing else than to get to see a little girl wheeling around on an amazing device, something like a cross between a bicycle and a rollerblade.

We also found lunch, in a very crowded restaurant a few blocks over from our hotel.

We ordered a savage feast of boiled dumplings, fried eggplant, and Inner Mongolian meat and potatoes.

While we were eating, it began pouring outside, so we ran back to the hotel to wait out the rain.

When it looked like it might have let up for a bit we headed out again on the bicycles. As soon as we started wheeling, though, the skies open up once again. There was only one choice here: rain gear. And so we called a waypoint at a corner shop and purchased two large cyclist’s ponchos.

The Chinese have really mastered the cyclist’s poncho by designing a product which can be worn not just by the human being, but also by the cycle itself. You see, the front and back flaps of the Chinese cyclists poncho are enlarged so as to allow the user to place the front part over the handlebars of his cycle, turning he or she into a kind of waterproof bullet train on two wheels with a head sticking out the top.

Now armed with rain gear, we commenced some really serious wheeling, which sent us all over the city, getting completely lost, in the back alleys and muck filled streets of Hohhot.

The rain did let up by the time we were finishing the wheel, though, and allowed us to get out the camera once again here in a giant park dedicated to Chengis Khan, who unsurprisingly is also quite popular here.

From there, we wheeled on into the night, taking advantage of our new Chinese headlights, which were startlingly bright. We realized that we were hungry right outside of a very popular looking hot pot restaurant. Inner Mongolia is rumored to be the original home of hot pot, so we decided to give it a try.

The restaurant turned out to be absolutely jaw dropping, Each order hot pot was brought out with a variety of dipping sauces including chili pastes and thick sesame butter based condiments. After that the hot pot proceeds more or less as normal. Here however, the hot pot itself was particularly old school. It was a kind of all in one hot pot vessel, consisting of a round, hammered copper, exterior bowl, and a large cylindrical interior chamber which was filled with hot coals. The coals then boiled the water, and also heated up the edges of the chimney which could be taken advantage of by power users to fry little bits of meat.

As good as the hot pot were the people with whom we shared the restaurant. We were surrounded by some serious Hohhot ballers, most of whom seemed to be out to dinner on the company’s dime and determined to go for the wall.


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