Community plays such a big part in our lives. We are all part of a community in some way – the neighbourhood that we live in; the schools that we or our children attend; church; work; different clubs that we belong to; and then, of course, there is social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, and so many more.
Yesterday my assignment was to comment on at least four different blogs that I’ve not commented on before. It was not at all difficult, since there are so many great blogs out there, and with this monthly challenge, I’ve been exposed to so many, all I had to do was choose four. Well, I could have actually commented on a lot more, which I did. Today’s assignment follows on from that of yesterday’s with us connecting within our community.
The four blogs that I chose to comment on, are:
Further on today’s assignment, the reason I chose Tastetalks is because of my own ‘unique’ experience. Both of us have travelled to Man Zhouli, in Inner Mongolia, and in the same year, although not at the same time.
We both had different, yet similar experiences. Man Zhouli is a remote city, that is not often visited by foreigners, other than the many, many Russians who cross the border for a shopping spree.
When I happened to be there, it was the festive season, and everyone was doing their Christmas shopping. Everyone being the Russian tourists, of course. The shops, hotels and restaurants were filled with people, all speaking Russian. Even the local Chinese inhabitants were speaking Russian rather than the familiar Mandarin which you’ll hear in most parts of China.
The city of Man Zhouli, or ‘Little Russia’, as I refer to it, is divided into two sections. Near the border crossing, are buildings in Russian architecture, and there are cars aggressively rushing around, with Russian license plates on them. They do not adhere to the speed limit, or the typical traffic rules, so one needs to be weary of them.
The city is very modern, with plenty of free (yes, FREE) parking spaces, which are almost all occupied. Although it was -30C during the day, and snowing, there were still plenty of people out on the streets, shopping, and going to restaurants.
We decided to stay at a Russian-friendly hotel, for the experience, and I was so excited that they had underfloor heating. It was sooo toasty! I really didn’t want to leave the room, but we bundled up, in almost all our winter clothing, (which for me, still wasn’t enough), and ventured out onto the icy, slippery pavements, looking for food. We followed the crowds, since we really weren’t sure where to eat. They led us into a basement, where there was a huge dining area, and vendors selling all different types of Chinese cuisine. We ate, then followed more crowds, upstairs, into a big shopping mall. Everywhere we went, I was greeted in Russian.
That evening, I asked the receptionist at the hotel we were staying at where to find Russian restaurants to eat, since we didn’t want to have to hunt for one, in the bitter cold. She looked at me very confused, and then, when she realised that I was speaking Mandarin to her, and not Russian, she had a ‘light-bulb’ moment, and replied to me in Mandarin. It was so funny! She naturally presumed that I was Russian.
We walked down the street, as directed by the receptionist, to the many restaurants, with brightly lit Russian Cyrillic letters on them, and no Chinese characters. We felt lost.
We ate a strange combination of Asian and Russian food at a restaurant nearby. We decided to give that particular one a try, since there were Russians eating there, which meant that it couldn’t have been too bad. The menu was also all in Russian, so we had to call the owner over to ask her for prices and recommendations.
After a very warm night’s sleep, we left Man Zhouli early the next morning, driving out through the old section, which is where all the locals live. It is literally like day and night. The ‘Russian’ section is all sparkly and ornate, with new high-rises, and the Chinese section is just – well, nondescript. We saw a few people braving the cold, going about their business, as usual, and nothing really to see.
Although it is one of the coldest places I have ever been to, it was certainly a memorable experience, and I’d recommend it to other travellers.
I had thought that I was the only crazy person to have travelled to Man Zhouli in the winter, not for shopping, but as a traveller, and then was excited to discover that Tastetalks had also been there.