The vast grasslands of Mongolia has always been something intriguing to me and has remained one of the several places that I wanted to visit while I am here in China, the other being able to hike some parts of the `wild’ Great Wall of China and to spent a night, camping and enjoying the stars.
But the nearest grassland is at least 5 to 6 hours away from
Beijing and the trip had to be
carefully planned, especially when you are travelling with two little children.
So, when someone told us that there is a vast grassland called the Kangxi
Grassland only about an hour away from Beijing, we were hopeful that at least
we could do something over the weekend, and the kids or me get to ride some
horses, running wild on the vast rolling grassland and under some stunning
clouds formation with blue skies.
My expectations were high. With my camera gear all cleaned up and filters ready, I was even expecting to stay till evening, hoping to get some stunning sunset shots. We engaged a driver and set off on a lazy Sunday. The journey was uneventful and the highway choked with traffic since the particular place is located relatively near to the Badaling Great Wall, the most crowded section of the Great Wall where most overseas and local tourists go on weekends.
The signboards were relatively clear pointing the direction of the Kangxi Grassland. After being on the road for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, we finally arrived. What greeted us was a small ticketing office with no car park in sight. I was told that the car park is inside the entrance and entrance fee is RMB30 each. Not exactly expensive, I thought considering that we have paid much higher entrance fees for other locations in
Tickets were issued and we drove towards the entrance, where there was a booth to collect our tickets. To our surprise, the guys at the entrance took our tickets and did not even bother to give us back the stub. When our driver asked for it, he told us that that was it. (The auditor part of me tells me that I smell a rat somewhere but then again, I could not care less. All I wanted was the grassland).
The moment we entered the entrance, there was an empty piece of land, supposedly the car park and a building with stadium like seats.
We were immediately approached by a man who quickly ushered us to this building, telling us that that is the place to get horses to go into the grassland. Since, my mother in law and two children came along, we were advised that we need to get a horse cart which will cost us RMB200 for one hour without the HORSES! Two horses for one hour would cost us a further RMB200 and we were still expected to tip the driver after the trip. All I could smell then was horse shit and horse pee. Well, since cars can’t go in (or so we were told initially) and there is no way we could walk into a 5,200 acres of grasslands, we agreed with the horse cart but were told that we have to wait at least 30 minutes for the next cart to come back.
Just as we were waiting, a bald man that I have noticed sitting at one corner since we walked in, drinking his Yanjing beer, stood up and came over and told me that he could let us drive our car in for RMB200. That was indeed a tempting offer considering that we would have to pay RMB400 an hour besides tips to the driver for the horse cart. We agreed and he led us to a dirt road blocked by some man made metal barrier. We paid him the RMB200 and he lifted the barrier to allow us to drive through. Well, I thought that I am on my way to see the vast rolling grasslands! Yipppeeee!
What I saw was disappointing to say the least. What greeted me was a huge and vast piece of flat land, overgrown with weeds and shrubs. I got down to take some pictures and every which way I turned, I could see horse shit. It was far from what I have expected. The day was hot with temperature touching 34 degrees. On the internet, I saw pictures of herds of sheep and rolling hills. Where have they gone to?
Since we have paid the RMB200, we drove on and finally the road ended after 15 minutes drive by a pond or a lake so they claimed. There is a patch of land planted with sun flowers and some old row boats where one could hire to row out (chargeable of course). By this time, I was too hot and too disappointed to bother.
We got down to grab some pictures and headed back.
Is the type of grasslands that I would encounter in
I don’t know but I still intend to find out. But for now, I would strongly
advise anyone thinking of spending a day here, riding horses especially with
kids to give this place a miss.
Kangxi grasslands were reported to be as vast as 5,260 acres and are supposed to be teaming with sheep and cattle with mild temperatures even in summer. What I have experienced was totally the opposite. Maybe I have not ventured deep enough from the main road to see the wild side of her but whatever I saw from the outside including the experience from the people manning this facility does not impress me.
This is definitely a grassland that is NOT! And oh yes…I also found out later that you could drive your car in for as little as RMB100!