Introduction and Itinerary: a Sino-Mongolian Slideshow
While 12:00 AM January 1 is referred to as New Years in numerous countries throughout the world, many others celebrate a more auspicious holiday called the Lunar New Year — the timing of which is based on the cycles of the moon. It is known as ‘Chun Jie’ in China, ‘Tsaagan Sar’ in Mongolia, and ‘Seollal’ in Korea. Kind of like Thanksgiving, it is intended for time with family.
In China, the result is the largest human migration on the face of the planet, with an estimated 3.6 billion trips taken over the course of 40 days. Millions of people stuff themselves into every nook and cranny of every bus or train headed west, for a hectic week over food and drink.
Naturally, it seemed like the right time to go.
A friend and fellow graduate from the Duke University Mathematics department joined me on this particular adventure, the itinerary of which was intended to be something as follows: Erlian, Beijing, Xi’an, Nanjing, Suzhou/Hangzhou, and Shanghai. On average we stayed the course minus one major screw-up on my part, but only to the extent of what is expected, or even given on a trip of this nature.
The journey began in the the feisty -40 degree Mongolian weather, accordingly, during the coldest week of the year. Several days were warmed with whiskey as we split the wintry chill on horseback and snowboard.
After our Mongolia adventures, an overnight train would first take us to the Chinese Border town named Erlian. At the edge of some postmodern world we would have to source some type of transportation with twisted fingers — 700 km south to Beijing.