"City in the steppes" Xilin Hot by mke1963
Xilin Hot Travel Guide: 2 reviews and 5 photos
One of the most isolated cities in China, Xilinhot lies 600km north of Beijing, but it seems so much further than this.
It is in the heart of the Mongolian steppe, but in a hilly area. The city is surrounded by ranges of escarpments, sitting on the Xilin Gol (the Xilin river), which flows north then dries up in the hot semi-arid plains north of the city.
Xilinhot is an outpost, and there are no other cities and very few settlements nearby, save for the occasional farm. It has been precariously connected to the rest of the world by a single-track railway since 2001, and by two sealed roads (to Zhangjiakou and Chifeng).
The area is richly endowed with natural resources, both ecological and industrial. Ultimately, it is the former which promise new sources of income from those laid off by the big factories and old mines, but there is little sense that much is being done to create the new jobs or develop the infrastructure to earn this income.
Sadly, even the railway line may be a white elephant: no-one seems to wat Xilinhot coal, and until a special power station is built, the coal trains may not run. For now, much of the coal is mined in small mines which can be seen just 10km south-east of the town: a scary, bleak industrial world of people, blackened with soot, labouring under a hot sun.
The area around Xilinhot is grassland, but rarely flat until you get to the large plain around Dalai Nur to the south.
The hills are aparent all around, although it is a land largely devoid of trees, except those recently planted as an attempt to reduce the desertification and consequent dust storms that plague Beijing in the spring.
The countryside is far from sterile though: the grassland is coverd in wild flowers and wildlife abounds. On any drive into the countryside - pick a direction, any direction - you will come across furry marmots (think fatter, slower meerkats or prairie dogs), and a huge range of birdlife.
The famed desert sands cannot be seen from the road between Jingpeng and Xilinhot (G303), although immediately north-east of Jingpeng, you see, to the west, the start of high scrubby dunes.
In the city, which is mainly modern, an older town can be found in the north-west quadrant, north of Xilin Dajie, the principal east-west street, and also in the alleyways of the western parts, close to the river.
The People's Square in the southern part of the city is landscaped, and on one side is the huge exhibition centre for the city (I think this is what it is!) along side the Xilinhot Dasha.
There is little of historical interest in Xilinhot, except for the Beizi Temple, in the north-east of the city centre. Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit this temple, and I really wish I had done now!
As is often (almost always?) the case in China, it is impossible to find out the charms of cities and areas until you actually arrive there, and even then it takes a lot of time and effort to discover maps, leaflets and brochures.
- Pros:Beautiful surrounding countryside; friendly people
- Cons:Little/no information; poor infrastructure
- In a nutshell:An isolated oasis in the steppe
There is only one train to and from Xilinhot. It leaves at 20.12 in the evening, arriving in Hohhot the following... more travel advice
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