Xilinhot is an industrial city about an hours flight due north from Beijing up and over the mountains. It's main industry is coal and there is a large coal mine just outside of town with trains and trucks loaded with coal departing every few minutes. Most of the city population is Han Chinese, but once you leave the city and start exploring the surrounding grasslands, the people are Mongolian.
The central city in dominated by a Buddhist temple high on a hill with colorful prayer flags flying. The older sections of town, mostly made of brick, are being torn down wholesale and being replaced with modern high-rise apartment buildings. The whole western section of the city is brand new municipal buildings, train station, and an enormous cultural center with multiple theater spaces and a central plaza. There are many parks, playground, and sport centers for folks to recreate in. Genghis Khan is everywhere in statuary, tapestry, and paintings. Xilinhot is an excellent base camp for exploring eastern Inner Mongolia.
In the hills surrounding Xilinhot there are yurt, or ger in Mongolian, resorts where one can stay in a yurt much like a motel. There are yurt banquet halls associated with the resorts as well. Expect lots of mutton on the menu as well as spicy fish, beef, lots of different forms of cabbage, and milk tea. The Mongolian Hot Pot is not to be missed.
Upon visiting a Mongolian farm, one finds brick homesteads and farm buildings and, in the summer, they live in yurts. They have horses, sheep, goats and a few cattle. And although there is no centrally provided power, each has a small wind generator that powers the TV and satellite dish. Everyone has a cellphone.
One unexpected find was an enormous wind generating farm located 15-30 kilometres south of Xilinhot. There are currently 200 wind generators 30 metres tall with another 200 to be completed by 2010. All of the electricity generated by the farm goes directly to Beijing. This farm is part of the larger scheme to make China greener.
Wangba (联网) means internet bar in Chinese. Almost every town will have an internet bar or gaming center. The best way to spot an internet bar is to look for the 网(ba) character, which means net, and large digitized images of computer game characters. Often, there will be a sign saying Green Power in English at the entrance. Most gaming centers cost about RMB3 an hour. You prepay at the main desk and are then given a plastic card or a piece of paper. Once you are done you return the card or piece of paper and get reimbursed for the money you didn't spend. Be prepared for a place that might be dingy, basic and messy. Internet bars in China tend to get crowded starting in the late afternoon to the late evenings.
Some hotels provide access from the rooms that may or may not be free; others may provide a wireless service or a few desktops in the lounge area.
Also, quite a few cafes provide free wireless Internet service. Some cafes, even provide a machine for customer use.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to China is 86. To make an international call from China, the code is 00.
When making international phone calls it is best to buy an IP card. They typically have a value of ¥100 but sometimes can be had for as little as ¥25. The cards have printed Chinese instructions, but after dialing the number listed on the card English-spoken instructions are available. As a general indication of price, a call from China to Europe lasts around 22 minutes with a ¥100 card. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are advertised to be another 20% cheaper. There is no warning before the card runs out of minutes.
If you already have a GSM 900/1800 cellphone, you can roam onto Chinese networks, but calls will be very expensive (¥12-35/minute is typical). If you're staying for more than a few days, it will usually be cheaper to buy a prepaid Chinese SIM card; this gives you a Chinese phone number with a certain amount of money preloaded. Chinese tend to avoid phone numbers with the bad-luck digit '4', and vendors will often be happy to offload these "unsellable" SIM-cards to foreigners at a discount. If you need a phone as well, prices start around ¥100/200 used/new. Chinese phones, unlike those sold in many Western countries, are never "locked" and will work with any SIM card you put in them. China's two big operators are China Mobile and China Unicom. Most SIMs sold by the two work nationwide, with Unicom allowing Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan usage as well. There is usually a surcharge of about ¥1/min when roaming outside the province you bought the SIM, and there are some cards that work only in a single province, so check when buying.
China Post (中国邮政) is the official postal service of the People's Republic of China, operated by the State Postal Bureau of the People's Republic of China (website in Chinese only), and has more details about price to send letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. The Chinese postal service is very good. Remember that in more remote places usually only one post office in a city can handle sending international boxes or letters. Also many times it might be worth having the name of the country you are trying to send to in Chinese characters, because small town people might not know what Estonia is in English. Post offices have a striking green logo and can easily be found everywhere in the cities. They are mostly open every day (including weekends!) from 8:00am to 6:00pm, though small offices might have shorter opening times, while the bigger ones in central and touristic areas are sometimes open during evenings as well.
as well as Lavafalls (8%)
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